What did it take to become a knight?

Jun 2007
Leeds, Yorkshire, England
I seem to recall reading that if lad was born of noble family he went and trained under a Lord that was already a knight, as a squire to become a knight. Once he was trained well he was then granted his kinghtship by the King. This was around the time of King John I think. Does that sound right?
true, this is the most likely route to knighthood, although the King didn't neccessarily have to do the knighting. Knights could be knighted by other knights. Around this time William Marshal, later Regent of England, who had been himself knighted by his own uncle had apparantly knighted Prince Henry, Henry II's son
Jul 2007
Becoming a knight was a bit alike a modern day apprenticeship. You had to complete certain "levels" before achieving your knighthood.

Training, serving as a page, serving as a squire, etc.
Jun 2007
Rarely, I tend to think that a knight would be granted for his important military contribution to his king.

Also be careful with historical fiction, knighthood has become a romantic topic for many writters in Medieval as well as Modern time.
Jul 2007
Here is an article that was posted in another "forum" that I am a member of - however, I think that the article may be pertinent to this question:

Source: About Medieval History
Posted 13th June 2006 by BroDenis (aka: Lee)

"Richard Barber in his The Knight and Chivalry, recounts the knighting ceremony performed by Henry I at Rouen in 1128, from John Marmoutier's life of Geoffrey of Anjou:

On the great day, as was required by the custom for making knights, baths were prepared for use. The king had learned from his chamderlains that the Angevin and those who came with him had come for the purification ceremony. He commanded that they be summoned before him. After having cleansed his body, and come from the purification of bathing, the noble offspring of the count of Anjou dressed in a linen undershirt, putting on a robe woven with gold and a surcoat of a rich purple hue: his stockings were of silk, and on his feet he wore shoes with little gold lions on them. His companions, who were to be knighted with him, were all clothed in linen and purple. He left his privy chamber and paraded in public, accompanied by his noble retinue. Their horses were led, arms carried to be distributed to each in turn, according to their need. The Angevin led a wonderfully ornamented Spanish horse, whose speed was said to be so great that birds in flight were far slower. He wore a matching hauberk made of double mail, in which no hole had been pierced by spear or dart. He was shod in iron shoes, also made from double mail. To his ankles were fastened gold spurs. A shield hung from his neck, on which were golden images of lioncels. On his head was placed a helmet, reflecting the lights of many precious gems, tempered in such a way that no sword could break or pierce it. He carried an ash spear with a point of Poitevin iron, and finaly a sword from the royal treasure, bearing an ancient inscription over which the superlative Wayland had sweated wiith much labour and application in the forge of the smiths. (pp. 31-32)

In 1204, king John ordered the sheriff of Southampton to provide "a scarlet robe with a hood of deerskin, another green or brown robe, a saddle, a harness, a rain-cape, a mattress and a pair of linen shirts" for the occasion of the knighting of a squire. (p. 32)

Barber believes the above ceremony from 1204 was very similar to one described in L'Ordene de Chevalerie, an anonymous poem dating from 1220-1225, in which Hue de Tabarie is offered his freedom if he will explain the mysteries of knighthood to Saracen leader Saladin. Recluctant to do so because Saladin is a "pagan" and thus cannot be a true knight, Hue begins by trimming Saladin's hair and beard, and leads him to a bath, explaining that it symbolizes the cleansing of sins by baptism in water. Next a splendid bed is prepared, foreshadowing the place in paradise each knight should win for himself. After Saladin has rested he is dressed in white linen and a scarlet robe, which symbolizes the knight's readiness to shed blood, with a white belt. Hue then girds on Saladin's sword, but refuses to give him the blow or colee', alleging that as he's Saladin's prisoner he cannot do so.

Barber also describes ceremonies in which Frederick II of Austria was knighted in 1232 by the bishop of Passau at Vienna after Candlemas; and at the turn of the century counts Otto and Stefan of Bavaria were knighted by the archbishop of Salzburg with 200 companions. A service from 1295, appears in the pontifical of Guillaume Durand, Bishop of Mende. Here the sword is first blessed, followed by other pieces of armour, a prayer is said, then the naked sword given to the knight. It is sheathed and girded on, the knight then takes it out and brandishes it three times. The kiss of peace is exchanged, and the bishop gives him a light blow, saying "Awake from evil dreams and keep watch, faithful in Christ and praiseworthy in fame." The nobles standing by then put on his spurs, and if he was entitled to a banner, this was presented with a final blessing. The phrases of this service repeat the idea of protection:"O Lord . . . who didst wish to institute the order of knighthood for the safeguard of Thy people . . ."; and there is a warning against the misuse of power, "that he may not unjustly harm anyone with his sword or any other." (p.34)

A ritual such as this one was for use only on great occasions such as the knighting of Edward II in 1306, when 276 squires accompanied the 22 year-old prince. Because the royal palace was so small, the grounds of London Temple were commandeered, and tents pitched there. All expenses were paid, save those of horses and armour, and the richest garments wre provided. The night before Whitsun the prince and a few dozen other companions kept vigil in Westminster, the rest at the Temple. The prince was then knighted at the palace by his father, then returned to Westminster to knight the other candidates. (p. 34)

Maybe this helps. Check out Barber's book if you can find it (your local library might have it, or you can order it used from Amazon.com); also, Frances Gies' The Knight in History is a nice little overview of knighthood."

I have some more info I will tract down and post.

~~~ Mel


Forum Staff
Aug 2006
also, Frances Gies' The Knight in History is a nice little overview of knighthood."
This is a good book on knighthood and its history. Also, the book about William Marshal is pretty good...I will have to check my library to see who it's by. By the way...Good post Mel :)