The perceived persona of the knight, as carried into the twenty first century is one of valor and strength. It brings to mind two chivalrous figures on horseback galloping towards each other during a jousting match. It is also one of a handsome figure clad in full armor, rescuing the fair maiden. In reality the knights of the Middle Ages in England were professional soldiers. They were impressive, trained from the age of seven in the ways of battle. They rode the best horses and fought with the best weapons. They eventually were elevated to noble stature, unless they perished in battle.
Yes that romanticized figure of a knight in full armor astride a powerful horse is symbolic of the Middle Ages. Sad to say he might be more of a misconception than an historical figure. It would appear that the warriors on horseback had an advantage over the infantrymen on foot. The dull reality is that the infantrymen were more successful than the mounted knights. Further disillusionment includes the fact that the knights themselves often dismounted and fought on the ground. The nature of horses is such that they won't charge into a group of people (the enemy) no matter how well trained and skillfully ridden. At the last moment they will inevitably rear up throwing the knight to the ground among the enemy.
From 1066 in England, in response to an invading army, knights filled the need for brave soldiers to do the hand to hand combat that was the norm in those times. By the sixteenth century the position was winnowed out. Unable to exist happily without the challenges of combat, knights began to engage in such contests as jousting. These events are often reenacted at Renaissance Fairs. Two horses thundering towards each other - two riders in armor each hoping to unseat the other from his mount. Often these modern knights/actors wear a silk scarf in a bright color, supposedly given to them by their "lady fair." The jousting match is filled with romance and danger.
Back in the olden days many knights died in battle in spite of their heavy suits of armor. Training began at the age of seven. The boy served as a "Page" for seven years followed by seven years of training as a "Squire." Put through rigorous training for that second seven years as a squire, he learned to bear the heavy armor and use a lance for battle purposes. Then at the age of twenty one if he had met all the challenges, he finally was dubbed a "Knight."
A sequence of rituals accompanied his achievement. After a vigil which lasted all night there was a bath at dawn, mass and a breakfast shared with family and friends. He wore white clothing for this "graduation celebration." The actual "dubbing" consisted of a gentle blow on the shoulder with the flat side of a sword. All the public were invited to watch this part of the ceremony. His acceptance into knighthood was a momentous occasion.
His wages were high and his future good. He was to serve forty days per year. He could be sent to battle in times of war or become one of the castle guards. This was a necessary position in those times when a castle was in danger of attack or siege by various enemies. A brave and competent knight who survived could expect to inherit land and secure a position of service as a high official. He might also "win" the fair maiden by marrying a wealthy heiress. That is what he could look forward to providing he wasn't killed in battle.
Sir John Cornwall, a prime example of the successful and surviving knight, was later able to build a castle. He was born at sea in 1364. His parents were Sir John Cornwall and his wife, who was the niece of a Duke. Sir John (the elder) had been in service to the Duke of Brittany during his training. He (Sir John the younger) was jokingly awarded the nicknames "Green Knight" and "Green of Cornwall" because he had been born at sea in St. Michael's Bay, near Cornwall.
Medieval warfare included serving as protectors of the castle assigned to them. They were ready at all times to defend the lord and his castle. A typical retinue guarding the castle included the knights, squires, a porter, guards and watchmen. The strategy of the times was very complex. Each had his particular place in battle. The weapons of the time included swords, lances and bows. Each soldier was skilled in the use of his own weapon as well as others.
Sir John Cornwall lived in the fifteenth century. His career included many deeds of valor. First he joined forces with
Richard II. in Scotland. He next fought for the Duke of Lancaster in Brittany. Richard II. rewarded his service by giving
him the manor of Chipping Norton. Then he served King Henry IV. His rewards were being made a Knight of The Garter, receiving the manor of Fanhope, a baronetcy in 1433 and another in 1443. He was a brave and faithful knight and was generously rewarded as such.
Time passed and he was bestowed with the additional title of Lord Fanhope. He married Elizabeth of Lancaster, Duchess of Exeter who was a sister of King Henry IV. There was a bounteous celebration of his marriage to that fair maiden of royal blood. The King gifted them with six manors. Of course they became the property of Sir John (Lord Fanhope) as women could not own property in the olden days.
Sir John's valor in the Battle of Agincourt was applauded. There was a ransom he received for two French noblemen which is said to have been a large enough amount to pay for the building of Ampthill castle, his residence. His successes on the battlefield were noted in a poem by Michael Drayton. It was aptly titled "The Battle of Agincourt."
At the end of a life filled with success in battle and the construction of Ampthill castle and his marriage to a lady of noble
blood, the reading of Sir John's will was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He generously left money to more than 120 persons including his servants at the castle. His request to be buried at the Dominican chapel at Ludgate was honored. This became the final resting place of Sir John Cornwall, Lord Fanhope, a noble Knight of the fifteenth century.