Knighthood in both a modern and medieval contexts, both in romance and in history

Brian R. Price


Romances Reading List
Guy of Warwick Intro.
Guy of Warwick Chapter 1

From the editor

Last update 6.19.2001

What does it mean to be a knight, then or now? Who is or was a knight? How does one go about learning to be a knight? What does it take to be a knight? These are questions we hope to answer in this section by presenting material from a variety of helpful sources. 

First, there is the basic question of knighthood itself. What is it? We already have some general articles speaking to this point, and will be adding more as we fill holes in the content. 

Knighthood exists in two places simultaneously–in the world and in our imagination. We can speak of ideals versus realities, probably the central problem with knighthood and the chivalric ideals. We will be examining this question from several perspectives–from actual documents pertaining to knightly conduct in the Middle Ages and in the romances that described their ideals. Both are important to the idea of knighthood, so these sections should fill out rapidly. 

Lastly, what is knighthood in the modern day? Does one need to fight to become a knight? What sort of ceremonies are practiced and what are the symbols used? 

I hope you find this section helpful, and that you will not hesitate to drop us a note of praise, thoughtfulness or complaint–we’d like to help these ideas continue to grow as we think knighthood can be valuable mechnism for personal achievement.

Brian R. Price
Company of Saint George

General Articles

Becoming a Knight

Chivalric Ideals

The Knighting Ceremony

Romance and Knighthood

Orders and Societies

Knights in History

Knighthood Today



General Articles

On Knighthood (Essay) Brian R. Price, 1996
Who is a Knight? (Essay) Brian R. Price, 1998

Top 5 “Knights” Pages
1. On Knighthood
2. Training of a Squire
3. Who is a Knight?
4. A Modern Code of Chivlary
5. What is a Grail?

Becoming a Knight

Training of a Squire John Harding (Middle English, date uncertain) 

Favorite Links
Randall Parr
Online Froissart

The Chivalric Ideals

The chivalric ideals–the code by which a knight was supposed to live–was hardly a fixed template of ideas; rather, it was a shifting kaliedescope of competing ideas put forward primarily by three main groups–the chuch, the court (and the ladies), and the knights themselves. 

The church sought to harness the knight’s energy and martial skills–his prowess–primarily by forumulating a role for him in the church’s structure of society–the protector. Clerks provided the rules under which “just bellum–just war–could be fought, enlisted the knights to fight for them in the Crusades, organized some of them into orders reminiscent of monastic ideals (the Templars, Hospitallars and Teutonic knights are just three of the better known) and tried to add components of piety, faith, humility and chastity. 

The court–both the upper nobility (themselves knights) and the ladies–sought to civilize the rough warrior and to imbue him with virtues they held in high esteem; fidelity, largesse, and duty to their liege lord as well as respect for ladies. The ideals put forward in the romances largely reflected these views so they are valuable sources of information on how knights were supposed to behave. 

The knights themselves had their own ideas. They conducted themselves in the realm of the real, rather than in the relative isolation of literature or the pulpit. Out of their customs came the modern rules of war, the basis of international law, and knightly orders such as the Order of the Garter and the Golden Fleece. The knights of the Middle Ages were rough soldiers, often crude, with a perpensity for justifying actions they deemed expedient. But some wrote of reform–knights such as Ramon Lull, Geoffrey de Charny and Thomas Malory put forward more civilized visions. 

The ideals themselves are treated in more detail in the KCT Chivalry Index and the copious content contained there. There is much to read and much to consider–

A Modern Code of Chivalry by Brian Price
KCT Chivalry & Philosophy Index

The Knighting Ceremony

Symbols in Vigils by Steen Jensen 
Knighting of Uriens ap Taliesen Carl Leidor, 1997 

Romance & Knighthood

Romances, Chivalry & Knighthood 
What should I read first? (short reading list of romance literature)
Guy of Warwick online (in progress)
What is a Grail? (technical discussion) by Dr. Linda Malcor 

Orders & Societies

Company of the Swan Charter  (in French, c. 1350) 

Knighthood in History

Mss. of Misc. Chivalry tracts from the 15th C. by Viscount Dillon, 1899 

Knighthood Today


Geoffrey de Charny’s Book of Chivalry, trans. Elspeth Kennedy & Richard Kaeuper
Ramon Lull’s Book of Knighthood and Chivalry, modern English version by Brian Price
Christine de Pisan’s Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry, trans. Willard & WillardChretien de Troyes (Erec & Enide, Yvain, Lancelot, Perceval)
Wolfram von Eshenbach’s PARSIFAL
Sir Thomas Malory’s MORTE d’ARTHUR

Chivalry by Maurice Keen
Chivalry & Violence in Medieval Europe by Richard Kaeuper
Daily life in Chaucer’s England by Signman and Mclean
Daily life in Medieval Europe  by Signman