On becoming a Knight


Chevalier Lehman Smith, KGOTJ
Scottish Knights Templar

“GOD WILLS IT!” The decree made by Pope Urban II’s speech at Clermont Cathedral less than a millennium ago sparked one of eight crusades in 1095 taken up by the Christian church and its followers who were set upon freeing the land, now in the hands of the Muslims, where Jesus Christ once preached.

The Crusades would ignite dreams of glory and chivalric spirit, throwing peasants, farmers, and children alike into frenzy. They would soon after organize themselves as crusaders, leaving behind families and jobs for the sake of saving God’s Kingdom. Some Crusaders would never make it to the Holy Land; some would never return home.

Knighthood was initially established as a military profession both in England and the rest of Europe around the 10th Century and had become a feudal system by the 11th Century. A Knight holding land for his overlord was required to lend military service to his lord for at least 40 days a year. If an individual did not want to enter into the military profession, they were allowed to render payment to the lord in the form of taxes.

Training to become a knight usually began at the age of seven, when a boy was sent to live in the overlord’s castle to be educated in general scholastics and etiquette. The Knights-in-training were introduced to horsemanship as well as sword play due to the importance of land protection. The continuous building of an army and the dexterity required for heavy cavalry in combat also required these skills. However, the main focus at that age of seven was servitude.

When the child reached the age of thirteen years, he was then assigned to a Knight in the capacity of apprentice or squire. The young apprentice would undergo “Basic Military Training,” learning tactics, weaponry (lance, sword) and horsemanship. Mock battles would be fought between squires, and during other times, squires would assist their mentors with dressing for battles or caring for their horses.

Squires were also expected to follow their mentor into battle and often to defend them if injured in conflict. It wasn’t uncommon for a squire to be knighted after such heroism for bravery on the field. But more common, the squire usually had to wait until he reached his 21st birthday, and even at that point, his mentor had to feel that his young apprentice was ready to assume the responsibilities of being a Knight.

As a military institution, Knighthoods were on the decline and the old feudal system of providing military service to one’s immediate lord was giving way to the sovereigns who began to monopolize the institution of war. Although Knights were still used in warfare, the utilization of mercenaries became more popular and the preferred method of developing an Army. However, the ideals of chivalry and Knighthood would continue to live on and flourish.

The Crusades, however, gave rise to a new type of Knight that incorporated religious vows to the Knightly codes of Courage, Piety, Honor, Loyalty and Respect for Womanhood, and to aid those in need.

Living under a strict quasi-monastic rule, these new knights would make their cause the protection of pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land and undertaking the task of rescuing the Holy Land from the Muslims. Aligning themselves in Military and Religious orders under the Pope’s protection, special privileges were afforded the Crusader as an incentive to fight for the church’s causes.

After the conquest of Jerusalem, the need for a standing army was required to protect the Holy Land from the remaining Muslim threat. Therefore a confraternity of brothers organized and combined the symbols of Knighthood (Sword) and the privileges of a monk, and had both State and Church recognition under the Pope’s confirmation. This special privilege meant that the Knight could wear the sword of the Knight without Sovereign authorization.

The most popular of the orders organized for this special mission were: Knights Templar (oldest of the orders), who became acclaimed for their bravery in battle and the development of a chit system for pilgrims traveling to and from the Holy Land. This order was eventually oppressed by the Catholic Church under the influence of Phillip the Fair, King of France, who was determined to take the Temple’s wealth and lands. Remnants of the order of the Temple fled persecution by seeking refuge and offering their services to Spain, Portugal and Scotland, where the Catholic Church was unable to persuade those nations to arrest the Templars on site.The Hospitallers, the most famous being the Hospitallers of St.John of Jerusalem, the Knights of Malta and the Teutonic Knights, are both still in existence.

The Knighthood’s importance declined when mounted cavalry in warfare became obsolete. And with the new development of gunpowder and stronger bow construction, the Knighthood’s value became non-existent.

By the 16th Century, becoming a Knight was a civil honor rather than a military one.

Today, Chivalry is divided into three main categories: Religious orders (Templar, Order of St.John), Princely orders, founded by various sovereigns, and Orders of Merit, founded in the 18th and 19th century as a means of honoring individuals for either community service or recognition for life achievement.

Though Knighthoods have diminished over time, the chivalric spirit remains strong, with contributions to the poor and aid to those who are in most need of it. Modern day Scottish Knights Templar

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