Knights, Squires and Chivalry

by Sir Alastair Saunders

The rank of Knight is awarded by a Knight to his Squire when he deems the Squire ready. He will normally seek the opinions of his Brother Knights in this matter. As well as skill with weapons a Knight should espouse the chivalric ideal, and possess suitable arms and armour for his preferred combat style. He should be an ornament and shield to the Realm.

Any Knight may take a Squire. Any combatant who is neither Knighted nor Squired to another Knight can be chosen. This is a very personal matter and there are no hard and fast rules. A Knight will not take a Squire unless he and the potential Squire are willing - neither party should be pressurised. Canvassing of the Knights should be done very subtly, if seeking to be taken as a Squire. All my Squires were friends before they were Squires. Being taken as a Squire is an honour in itself, (It means that the Knight believes you to be a worthwhile and trustworthy person.) which is why the title is recognised at court.

There is no guarantee that a Squire will ever be Knighted as this depends on many factors. There are precedents for remaining as a Squire indefinitely and this is fine if both Knight and Squire are satisfied with the relationship. It can just be a formalisation of someone joining the Knight's Household. The Squire should, however, practice with weapons on a reasonably regular basis. The Knight will oversee the training of his squire, trying to pass on his skills and also ensure that he has the chance to learn from others with complementary skills. He will also help with the development of the Squire's arms and armour, and possibly with costume and persona also. The Squire, in return, will serve the Knight in various ways. The traditional ones include helping him in and out of armour, attending him at events and watching his back in battles. The limits depend on the particular case. A Squire is not expected to spend every moment hanging around the Knight. Things should even out so that each party benefits and neither feels taken advantage of. The Knight aims to guide the Squires development until he is worthy to be knighted, and meanwhile has a trusty retainer to make his life a little easier.

Knighthood is one goal to work towards for those whose persona is a warrior. There are other, equally valid, ones. As I have said, striving to be a good (or at least entertaining) Squire is perfectly valid. Those who wish to develop a non-noble persona (or a renegade noble!) may not wish to fight in a chivalrous fashion. They will not, of course, win glory in tournaments but they can still gain great skill and be recognised by induction into the Order of the Scarlet Wyrm. It should be pointed out, however, that most of the cultures which existed in our period produced warriors with a strong sense of honour and the truly unprincipled are usually ostracised. Since we mostly recreate the ideal of High Mediaeval society this means that chivalrous behaviour is expected and non-conformists suffer certain sanctions. Remember, in period there was a clear difference between what was done in battle (when winning is all that matters) and how people behaved during duels and tournaments, when they were often judged as much on their chivalry as their prowess. Kings famous as flowers of chivalry committed atrocities on campaign, and non-nobles don't count anyway. Also bear in mind that we all have an obligation to maintain the atmosphere at events and especially during court when unchivalrous behaviour rapidly brings us back to the real world. This applies to non-combatants just as strongly!

Please feel free to discuss any matters arising from this article with me. If you are interested in becoming a Squire let me know and I'll give you my advice on how to proceed.

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Calligraphy of the Oath of the Chivalry of Albion
Knights and Ladies of the Realm