Term Paper: Knight Was "A Mounted Warrior

Pages: 6 (2396 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] The French epic poem, the Song of Roland epitomized the life of a Knight. (Price, 1997)

Chivalry helped lessen the harshness of the warfare. For emphasis was laid on the courteous treatment of prisoners. Even so, kings, and nobles were held for ransom when captured, and the code of chivalry applied only between members of the noble, ruling class. They did not have to apply this code to the common people under them. The chief occupation of the nobles was warfare, so they seem to have thought nothing of the violence and bloodshed that accompanied it. A warrior was supposed to fight as hard as he could, and it was perfectly proper to burn the homes of the enemy and seize his possessions. The whole idea of chivalry in warfare implied nothing more than the respect of one warrior for another. In fact, warfare between nobles became so fierce that at one time in the Middle Ages the church attempted to limit such private battles. Fighting was prohibited from Wednesday or Thursday evening until Monday morning and on certain religious holidays. Excommunication from the church was the punishment for those who violated the truce. This was called the Truce of God.

As time went on there came to be more knights than there were castles or fiefs for them to rule and to get a living from. A noble might have several sons who became knights, but usually only the eldest inherited the land or became the next vassal to hold the fief. The castle was a fine symbol of the age of chivalry and knighthood. The word used for the part of the castle comes from the French, donjon. The word donjon is derived from the Latin dominum, which expresses lordship (dominion). The holder of the castle was a member of the aristocracy, which was a purely military class. The castle was both a home and a fortress for the ruling lord. From it, with his own retainers and knights who owed service to him, he could rule his territory. The farm lands around the castle provided him with food and clothing. The castles, by the way they were situated on high ground or overlooking river crossings, and by the people dependent on them, determined who ruled a particular part of a country. (Oakeshott, 1966)

At the same time, though, if a noble became strong and controlled one or more great castles, he might be tempted to turn against the king and defy him. In part, then, the Middle Ages was a constant struggle between the king, representing a central government, and nobles who wanted to do as they pleased in their own territories. In all such struggles, castles played key parts as the only great military defenses of the period.

As part as the pomp and splendor of knighthood, was the idea of heraldry. Heraldic symbols ranged from simple geometric shapes such as chevrons, to more elaborate drawings of real or mythological animals. As with the honor of becoming a knight, heraldic insignia became hereditary, being passed on from father to son, or with the family name. Eventually heraldic symbols also came to signify kingdoms, duchies, or provinces as a medieval forerunner to our modern national flags. Heraldic symbols were often worn on the knight's surcoat (thus the term "coat of arms"), shield, helmet, or on a banner (standard) that could serve as a rallying point for knights and others scattered in the chaos of battle. The standard was always to be elevated as long as the battle continued, and therefore was guarded well. A standard taken down would signal the allied combatants that the cause was lost and it was time to flee the field of combat. (Brault, 1972)

Looking back, knighthood lasted a fleeting time in history, but the coda of knighthood, which came to symbolize all that is good about man hood, needs to be revisited. To this day, Renaissance festivals all over the world relive the pageantry of the feudal system and the knights who were part of it.

Bibliography

Bacon, Leonard. The Song of Roland, Dover Thrift Editions. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002.

Brault, Gerard J. Early Blazon: Heraldic Terminology in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, with Special Reference to Arthurian Literature. Oxford,: Clarendon Press, 1972.

Gies, Frances. The Knight in History. London: R. Hale, 1986.

Hopkins, Andrea. Knights. 1st American ed. New York: Artabras, 1990.

Oakeshott, R. Ewart. A Knight and His Castle. Philadelphia,: Dufour Editions, 1966.

Price, Brian R. A Code of Chivalry Chronique.com, 1997 [cited July 21, 2003]. Available at http://www.chronique.com/Library/Chivalry/code.htm.

Tappan, Eva March. In Feudal Times; Social Life in the Middle Ages. London,: G.G. Harrap & Company, 1913.

Turnbull, Stephen R. The Book… [END OF PREVIEW]

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