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  • A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch or other political

  • leader for service to the Monarch or country, especially in a military capacity. Historically,

  • in Europe, knighthood has been conferred upon mounted warriors. During the High Middle Ages,

  • knighthood was considered a class of lower nobility. By the Late Middle Ages, the rank

  • had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly

  • Christian warrior. Often, a knight was a vassal who served as a fighter for a lord, with payment

  • in the form of land holdings. The lords trusted the knights, who were skilled in battle on

  • horseback. Since the early modern period, the title of knight is purely honorific, usually

  • bestowed by a monarch, as in the British honours system, often for non-military service to

  • the country. Historically, the ideals of chivalry were

  • popularized in medieval literature, especially the Matter of Britain and Matter of France,

  • the former based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written in the

  • 1130s. Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, written in 1485, was important in defining

  • the ideal of chivalry which is essential to the modern concept of the knight as an elite

  • warrior sworn to uphold the values of faith, loyalty, courage, and honour. During the Renaissance,

  • the genre of chivalric romance became popular in literature, growing ever more idealistic

  • and eventually giving rise to a new form of realism in literature popularised by Miguel

  • de Cervantes' Don Quixote. This novel explored the ideals of knighthood and their incongruity

  • with the reality of Cervantes' world. In the late medieval period, new methods of warfare

  • began to render classical knights in armour obsolete, but the titles remained in many

  • nations. Some orders of knighthood, such as the Knights

  • Templar, have become the subject of legend; others have disappeared into obscurity. Today,

  • a number of orders of knighthood continue to exist in several countries, such as the

  • English Order of the Garter, the Swedish Royal Order of the Seraphim, and the Royal Norwegian

  • Order of St. Olav. Each of these orders has its own criteria for eligibility, but knighthood

  • is generally granted by a head of state to selected persons to recognise some meritorious

  • achievement. Knighthood in the Middle Ages was closely

  • linked with horsemanship from its origins in the 12th century until its final flowering

  • as a fashion among the high nobility in the Duchy of Burgundy in the 15th century. This

  • linkage is reflected in the etymology of chivalry, cavalier and related terms. The special prestige

  • given to mounted warriors finds a parallel in the furusiyya in the Muslim world, and

  • the Greek hippeus and the Roman eques of Classical Antiquity.

  • Etymology The word knight, from Old English cniht, is

  • a cognate of the German word Knecht. This meaning, of unknown origin, is common among

  • West Germanic languages. Anglo-Saxon cniht had no particular connection to horsemanship,

  • referring to any servant. A rādcniht was a servant delivering messages or patrolling

  • coastlines on horseback. Old English cnihthād had the meaning of adolescence by 1300.

  • A narrowing of the generic meaning \"servant\" to \"military follower of a king or other superior\"

  • is visible by 1100. The specific military sense of a knight being a mounted warrior

  • in the heavy cavalry emerges only in the Hundred Years' War. The verb \"to knight\" appears around

  • 1300, and from the same time, the word \"knighthood\" shifted from \"adolescence\" to \"rank or dignity

  • of a knight\". In this respect English differs from most

  • other European languages, where the equivalent word emphasizes the status and prosperity

  • of war horse ownership. Linguistically, the association of horse ownership with social

  • status extends back at least as far as ancient Greece, where many aristocratic names incorporated

  • the Greek word for horse, like Hipparchus and Xanthippe; the character Pheidippides

  • in Aristophanes' Clouds has his grandfather's name with hipp- inserted to sound more aristocratic.

  • Similarly, the Greek ἱππεύς is commonly translated \"knight\"; at least in its sense

  • of the highest of the four Athenian social classes, those who could afford to maintain

  • a warhorse in the state service. An Equestrian was a member of the second highest

  • social class in the Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. This class is often translated

  • as \"knight\"; the medieval knight, however, was called miles in Latin,. Both Greek hippos

  • and Latin equus are derived from the Proto-Indo-European word root ekwo- meaning \"horse\".

  • In the later Roman Empire the classical Latin word for horse, equus, was replaced in common

  • parlance by vulgar Latin caballus, sometimes thought to derive from Gaulish caballos. From

  • caballus arose terms in the various Romance languages cognate to the English cavalier:

  • Old Italian cavaliere, Italian cavallo, Spanish caballero, French chevalier, Portuguese cavaleiro,

  • Romanian cavaler. The Germanic languages feature terms cognate to the English rider: German

  • Ritter, and Dutch and Scandinavian ridder. These words are cognates derived from Germanic

  • dan \"to ride\", derived from the Proto-Indo-European root reidh-.

  • Origins of medieval knighthood

  • In Ancient Rome there was a knightly class Ordo Equestris from which European knighthood

  • may have been derived. Knighthood as known in Europe was characterized

  • by the combination of two elements, feudalism and service as a mounted warrior. Both arose

  • under the reign of the Frankish emperor Charlemagne, from which the knighthood of the Middle Ages

  • can be seen to have had its genesis.

  • Some portions of the armies of Germanic peoples who occupied Europe from the 3rd century CE,

  • had always been mounted, and some armies, such as those of the Ostrogoths, comprised

  • mainly cavalry. However it was the Franks who came to dominate Western and Central Europe

  • after the fall of Rome, and they generally fielded armies composed of large masses of

  • infantry, with an infantry elite, the comitatus, which often rode to battle on horseback rather

  • than marching on foot. Riding to battle had two key advantages: it reduced fatigue, particularly

  • when the elite soldiers wore armour; and it gave the soldiers more mobility to react to

  • the raids of the enemy, particularly the Muslim invasions which reached Europe in 711. So

  • it was that the armies of the Frankish ruler and warlord Charles Martel, which defeated

  • the Umayyad Arab invasion at the Battle of Tours in 732, were still largely infantry

  • armies, the elites riding to battle but dismounting to fight, providing a hard core for the levy

  • of the infantry warbands. As the 8th century progressed into the Carolingian

  • Age, the Franks were generally on the attack, and larger numbers of warriors took to their

  • horses to ride with the Emperor in his wide-ranging campaigns of conquest. At about this time

  • the Franks increasingly remained on horseback to fight on the battlefield as true cavalry

  • rather than as mounted infantry, and would continue to do so for centuries thereafter.

  • Although in some nations the knight returned to foot combat in the 14th century, the association

  • of the knight with mounted combat with a spear, and later a lance, remained a strong one.

  • These mobile mounted warriors made Charlemagne's far-flung conquests possible, and to secure

  • their service he rewarded them with grants of land called benefices. These were given

  • to the captains directly by the Emperor to reward their efforts in the conquests, and

  • they in turn were to grant benefices to their warrior contingents, who were a mix of free

  • and unfree men. In the century or so following Charlemagne's death, his newly empowered

  • warrior class grew stronger still, and Charles the Bald declared their fiefs to be hereditary.

  • The period of chaos in the 9th and 10th centuries, between the fall of the Carolingian central

  • authority and the rise of separate Western and Eastern Frankish kingdoms, only entrenched

  • this newly landed warrior class. This was because governing power, and defence against

  • Viking, Magyar and Saracen attack, became an essentially local affair which revolved

  • around these new hereditary local lords and their demesnes.

  • In the Early Medieval period any well-equipped horseman could be described as a 'knight,'

  • or miles in Latin. In the course of the 12th century knighthood became a social rank with

  • a distinction being made between 'milites gregarii' and milites nobiles. As the term

  • 'knight' became increasingly confined to denoting a social rank, the military role of fully

  • armoured cavalryman gained a separate term, 'man-at-arms'. Although any Medieval knight

  • going to war would automatically serve as a man-at-arms, not all men-at-arms were knights.

  • The first military orders of knighthood were of Knights Hospitaller and of the Holy Sepulchre,

  • both founded at the First Crusade of 1099, followed by the Knights Templar and the Order

  • of Saint Lazarus. At the time of their foundation, these were intended as monastic orders, whose

  • members would act as simple soldiers protecting pilgrims. It was only over the following century,

  • with the successful conquest of the Holy Land and the rise of the crusader states, that

  • these orders became powerful and prestigious. The ideal of chivalry as the ethos of the

  • Christian warrior, and the transmutation of the term knight from the meaning \"servant,

  • soldier\", and of chevalier \"mounted soldier\", to refer to a member of this ideal class,

  • is significantly influenced by the Crusades, on one hand inspired by the military orders

  • of monastic warriors, as seen retrospectively from the point of view of the beginning Late

  • Middle Ages, and on the other hand influenced by Islamic ideals of furusiyya.

  • Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor is often referred to as the last true knight. He was

  • the last Holy Roman emperor to lead his troops onto the battlefield.

  • Chivalric code

  • Knights were expected, above all, to fight bravely and to display military professionalism

  • and courtesy. When knights were taken as prisoners of war, they were customarily held for ransom

  • in somewhat comfortable surroundings. This same standard of conduct did not apply to

  • non-knights who were often slaughtered after capture, and who were viewed during battle

  • as mere impediments to knights' getting to other knights to fight them.

  • Chivalry developed as an early standard of professional ethics for knights, who were

  • relatively affluent horse owners and were expected to provide military services in exchange

  • for landed property. Early notions of chivalry entailed loyalty to one's liege lord and bravery

  • in battle, similar to the values of the Heroic Age. During the Middle Ages, this grew from

  • simple military professionalism into a social code including the values of gentility, nobility

  • and treating others reasonably. In The Song of Roland, Roland is portrayed as the ideal

  • knight, demonstrating unwavering loyalty, military prowess and social fellowship. In

  • Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, chivalry had become a blend of religious duties, love

  • and military service. Ramon Llull's Book of the Order of Chivalry demonstrates that by

  • the end of the 13th century, chivalry entailed a litany of very specific duties, including

  • riding warhorses, jousting, attending tournaments, holding Round Tables and hunting, as well

  • as aspiring to the more æthereal virtues of \"faith, hope, charity, justice, strength,

  • moderation and loyalty.\" Knights of the late medieval era were expected

  • by society to maintain all these skills and many more, as outlined in Baldassare Castiglione's

  • The Book of the Courtier, though the book's protagonist, Count Ludovico, states the \"first

  • and true profession\" of the ideal courtier \"must be that of arms.\" Chivalry, derived

  • from the French word chevalier, simultaneously denoted skilled horsemanship and military

  • service, and these remained the primary occupations of knighthood throughout the Middle Ages.

  • Chivalry and religion were mutually influenced during the period of the Crusades. The early

  • Crusades helped to clarify the moral code of chivalry as it related to religion. As

  • a result, Christian armies began to devote their efforts to sacred purposes. As time

  • passed, clergy instituted religious vows which required knights to use their weapons chiefly

  • for the protection of the weak and defenseless, especially women and orphans, and of churches.

  • With the rise of Renaissance humanism and moral relativism, the knightand chivalry

  • along with himlost much of his relevance to society, and the idealism of chivalric

  • romance was fundamentally rejected in Niccolò Machiavelli's Il Principe and more directly

  • derided in Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote. The medieval literary genre of chivalric romance

  • had been the high-water mark of idealism and romanticism in literature, but in the 16th

  • century Machiavelli instructed aspiring political rulers to be ruthlessly pragmatic and to apply

  • the principle that the ends justify the means, directly counter to the high-flown idealism

  • of late medieval chivalry. Later, the high-flown values of chivalric romance were heavily satirized

  • in Cervantes's Don Quixote, which portrayed the charmingly idealistic protagonist as a

  • lovable but hopelessly delusional imbecile. Medieval and Renaissance literature

  • Knights and the ideals of knighthood featured largely in medieval and Renaissance literature,

  • and have secured a permanent place in literary romance. While chivalric romances abound,

  • particularly notable literary portrayals of knighthood include The Song of Roland, Geoffrey

  • Chaucer's The Knight's Tale, Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, and Miguel de Cervantes'

  • Don Quixote, as well as Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and other Arthurian tales.

  • The ideal courtierthe chivalrous knightof Baldassarre Castiglione's The Book of the

  • Courtier became a model of the ideal virtues of nobility. Castiglione's tale took the form

  • of a discussion among the nobility of the court of the Duke of Urbino, in which the

  • characters determine that the ideal knight should be renowned not only for his bravery

  • and prowess in battle, but also as a skilled dancer, athlete, singer and orator, and he

  • should also be well-read in the Humanities and classical Greek and Latin literature.

  • Later Renaissance literature, such as Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote, rejected the code

  • of chivalry as unrealistic idealism. The rise of Christian humanism in Renaissance literature

  • demonstrated a marked departure from the chivalric romance of late medieval literature, and the

  • chivalric ideal ceased to influence literature over successive centuries until it saw some

  • pockets of revival in post-Victorian literature.

  • Heraldry and other attributes

  • One of the greatest distinguishing marks of the knightly class was the flying of coloured

  • banners, to display power and to distinguish knights in battle and in tournaments.

  • Knights are generally armigerous, and indeed they played an essential role in the development

  • of heraldry. As heavier armour, including enlarged shields and enclosed helmets, developed

  • in the Middle Ages, the need for marks of identification arose, and with coloured shields

  • and surcoats, coat armory was born. Armorial rolls were created to record the knights of

  • various regions or those who participated in various tournaments.

  • Additionally, knights adopted certain forms of regalia which became closely associated

  • with the status of knighthood. At the Battle of Crécy, Edward III of England sent his

  • son, Edward, the Black Prince, to lead the charge into battle and when pressed to send

  • reinforcements, the king replied, \"say to them that they suffer him this day to win

  • his spurs.\" Clearly, by this time, spurs had already become emblematic of knighthood. The

  • livery collar is also specifically associated with knighthood.

  • Types of knighthood Militarymonastic orders of knighthood

  • Knights Hospitaller, founded during the First Crusade, 1099

  • Order of the Holy Sepulchre, also founded during the First Crusade in circa 1099

  • Order of Saint Lazarus established about 1100 Knights Templar, founded 1118, disbanded 1307

  • Teutonic Knights, established about 1190, and ruled the Monastic State of the Teutonic

  • Knights in Prussia until 1525 Other orders were established in the Iberian

  • peninsula, under the influence of the orders in the Holy Land and the Crusader movement

  • of the Reconquista: the Order of Aviz, established in Avis in

  • 1143 the Order of Alcántara, established in Alcántara

  • in 1156 the Order of Calatrava, established in Calatrava

  • in 1158 the Order of Santiago, established in Santiago

  • in 1164. Chivalric orders

  • After the Crusades, the military orders became idealized and romanticized, resulting in the

  • late medieval notion of chivalry, as reflected in the Arthurian romances of the time. The

  • creation of chivalric orders was fashionable among the nobility in the 14th and 15th centuries,

  • and this is still reflected in contemporary honours systems, including the term order

  • itself. Examples of notable orders of chivalry are:

  • the Order of Saint George, founded by Charles I of Hungary in 1325/6

  • the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation, founded by count Amadeus VI in 1346

  • the Order of the Garter, founded by Edward III of England around 1348

  • the Order of the Dragon, founded by King Sigismund of Luxemburg in 1408

  • the Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430

  • the Order of Saint Michael, founded by Louis XI of France in 1469

  • the Order of the Thistle, founded by King James VII of Scotland in 1687

  • the Order of the Elephant, which may have been first founded by Christian I of Denmark,

  • but was founded in its current form by King Christian V in 1693

  • the Order of the Bath, founded by George I in 1725

  • Honorific orders of knighthood From roughly 1560, purely honorific orders

  • were established, as a way to confer prestige and distinction, unrelated to military service

  • and chivalry in the more narrow sense. Such orders were particularly popular in the 17th

  • and 18th centuries, and knighthood continues to be conferred in various countries:

  • The United Kingdom and some Commonwealth of Nations countries such as Australia;

  • Some European countries, such as The Netherlands and Belgium.

  • The Holy Seesee Papal Orders of Chivalry.

  • There are other monarchies and also republics that also follow this practice. Modern knighthoods

  • are typically awarded in recognition for services rendered to society, which are not necessarily

  • martial in nature. The British musician Elton John, for example, is a Knight Bachelor, thus

  • entitled to be called Sir Elton. The female equivalent is a Dame.

  • In the United Kingdom, honorary knighthood may be awarded in two different ways.

  • The first is the membership of one of the pure Orders of Chivalry such as the Order

  • of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle and the dormant Order of Saint Patrick, of which

  • all members are knighted. In addition, many British Orders of Merit, namely the Order

  • of the Bath, the Order of St Michael and St George, the Royal Victorian Order and the