Chivalry, the order of knighthood, and especially, the code of knightly
behavior, comes from many origins. In Middle English, the word "chevalrie"
meant "mounted horseman". In Old french, the word "chevalrie" meant
knightliness or "chevalier" meaning knight. (Microft, Encarta) Almost all
origins of the word meant horseman.
Warfare was not an option in the medieval period and the knight was the
most crutial part. The knight's ability, and the military strength of the lord
or king were nessesary for their survival. A knight was loyal to his king even
though he was not always a member of his personal court. He was also loyal to
his lord or landowner. Most of all, he was loyal to God, as all Christian
knights were. A Christian knight had virtues of fidelity, piety, loyalty and
devotion to God. However, some knights did not live this ideal lifestyle.
A young boy in training to be a knight spent the first few years of his
life in care of the women in his family. At the age of 7 years old, a child of
noble birth would be placed in the castle of a lord or govenor. This is where
the training for knighthood began. As a page, the boy would be tutored in
Latin and French, but he devoted most of his time to physical exersice, and
duties. A page was educated in wrestling, tilting with spears, and military
exercises that were done on horseback. He was also taught dancing and playing
of musical instruments in their leisure time. As a page, a boy was taught how
to carve and serve food as a waiter, and other services around the castle. It
was his duty to help the master of the castle in anyway needed. These tasks
were not hard labor, but simply prepared him for what was yet to come.
By the time a page was 14, he was expected to qualify as a competent
squire. Now with the more laborious course, his real training began. He must
vault on his horse in armor, run and scale walls, and spring over ditches in
armor. He must be able to maneuver a battle-ax without raising the visor of his
helmet or taking a breathe. He must have mastered horsemanship. A squire must
have acquired courtesy and have chosen a mistress of his heart. A lady of the
court whose service to her was the glory and occupation of a knight. Her smiles
of gratitude were his repayment for his work. A squire, having received serious
training as a mounted soldier, rode into battle and helped his master in many
ways. In battle a squire wore silver spurs to distinguish him from a knight.
In this way, he was a lesser target than a knight. He also helped his assigned
knight dress in armor and care for his arms. He would clean and polish his
knight armor after every use. This period usually lasted about five or six
years, then a squire was ready for knighthood, around age twenty.
The earliest knighting ceremonies were very simple. A knight just
buckled the armor on the squire to be knighted. However, it became a more
complex ceremony as time went on. One man would buckle the sword while another
fastened the spurs. The squire knelt before the man knighting him. The knight
gave the squire a tap on the back of the neck with his hand. Another knight, or
King would confirm these actions in the ceremony. This tap, called the
"accolade" from the French word "col", meaning neck, was followed by the words,
"I dub you knight." (Gies) When Christianity became more closely linked with
knighthood, religious ceremonies became part of the knighting process. Before a
squire was knighted he confessed with many nights of prayer. The night before
knighting, a squire underwent a strict fast and received the sacrament. The
next day he washed and put on pure white clothing for the ceremony with a sword
suspended from his neck. At dawn, the chaplain came to hear confession and
celebrate mass. Then gifts such as a coat of mail, a sword or spurs were
girdled on. Then came the accolade. It consisted of three strokes with the
flat of the sword on the shoulder and neck followed by, "in the name of God, of
St. Michael, of St. George, I make thee knight; be valiant, courteous, and
loyal". When this exercise was complete, he received his helmet, spear, and
shield. After the knighting was accomplished, the newly made knight placed his
gifts on the altar and took part in the festivities. He now would be accepted
as a member of the order of knighthood and chivalry.