We find in
several manuscript an illumination of a devil sitting on a tree. Every branch
of the tree reads one of his Ten Commandments. Additionally, a wild boar at the
bottom of the tree looks up at the devil and his commandments.
1 ~ Here is my
first Commandment: swear upon God’s name as often as you can.
2 ~ Grant
your body with as much delights as possible; there isn’t any other heaven.
3 ~ Come by
my house anytime: it is the pub and the brothel.
4 ~ If you
wish me to remember you, cover yourself with vain glory.
5 ~ Despise
all poor people and love nothing but gold and silver.
6 ~ If you
have nothing for yourself, take it from another, and give nothing back.
7 ~ Should
you father argue with you make him fear you.
8 ~ Use wine
for gambling instead of holy mass.
9 ~ Believe
and witchcraft and violence: your will shall be fulfilled.
10 ~ Would
you be short of money you shall take if from the Church.
Those Ten Commandments are given as Queen Ratio provides a moral and allegorical commentary of the wild boar which is depicted as a devilish creature. Furthermore, all of this is found, believe it or not, in a medieval hunting treatise.
John Talbot was a relentless captain. So relentless in fact that he would find reasons to fight even in times of peace. Once, he came back to England for a few years and he started a judicial quarrel that almost led to an open conflict. The Duke of Bedford was wise enough to summon him in France, on the frontline, where he brought havoc to his enemies. Talbot was very gifted in starting and managing feuds.
The Black Prince achieved great military deeds and dazzled many people with his lavish court in southern France–he was prince of Aquitaine. At age 16 he “won his spurs” leading the English vanguard at the Battle of Crécy (1346). Ten years later he vanquished the French at Poitiers and even managed to capture their king, John the Good! He would still insure a great military victory at Najera (1367) against a Franco-Trastamaran coalition. The man was a military prodigy.
I found myself faced with my childhood hero, Étienne de Vignolles, also known as La Hire. I knew him because he stars in Age of Empires 2—the video game—next to Joan of Arc for the Battle of Patay. I couldn’t believe my luck. I told him how much I admired him. He asked me how I knew him. I told him about Age of Empires 2. He was confused at first but I think he got it somehow. I took my chance and asked him a few question.
‘Domina’ belonged to the words that were shortened and gave ‘domna’ (a word already used by native Latin speakers in the 1st century AD). It would later turn into ‘doña’ in Spanish or ‘dame’ in French.
It is called the Books of King Modus and Queen Ratio and reads as a long dialogue. Whereas King Modus teaches the hunting apprentice how to hunt the deer and other animals, Queen Ratio provides an allegorical reading of nature and its creatures.
If the wild
boar is a devilish beast, then the deer is a Christian one. Its noble antlers
are actually a figure for God’s own Ten Commandments. The deer protects itself
with its antlers as the good Christian shields himself with God’s Commandments.
The wild boar used to be considered as a brave and mighty beast in Germanic culture. Henri de Ferrières, author of the Books of King Modus and Queen Ratio, however, turns it into the most despicable creature of the forest. Would you want to know more about that cultural shift, I’d recommend Michel Pastoureau’s book on the subject. It’s quite the page turner!
Further readings: ~ Michel Pastoureau, Le Cochon. Histoire d’un cousin mal aimé (1999). ~ Les livres du roy Modus et de la royne Ratio, éd. Gunnar Tilander, Paris, Société des anciens textes français, 1932, 2 t.
Not so long
ago, on Age of Empires 2, my father and I were holding our ground against
waves and waves of conquistadors. My halberdiers were butchered by the dozens
and I noticed my father lacked gold to sustain his military production. Faithful
son that I am, I tasked a monk with the perilous duty to deliver my relics to
my father’s monastery despite enemy raids between both our bases.
Most of the time, however, we see players snagging relics from each other. On Arena maps, light cavalry and monks rush into the no man’s land as soon as players hit Castle Age and it leads to epic micro-fight. Those well versed into the arcane arts can even teleport their monks to snag relics in the blink of an eye. A blood pact with the Devil is required to gain this wizardly skill, though, since you need two of your monks to shag in a dark alley, which is not very Christian.
Now, I’d like to talk to you about some historic relic gifting and snagging. Since I introduced the early Christian Dukes of Bohemia in a former post, I’ll keep my focus on them for this one.
As you may
have read, Václav was the first Christian Duke of Bohemia despite his mother’s
Pagan faith. The Přemyslid family strife got to some Game of Thrones proportion, though,
when Drahomira, the mother, allegedly had her son Václav murdered by his own
brother when he dared to found a rotunda church in Prague. Boleslav, Drahomira’s
younger son, was maybe every inch a dutiful son but foremost he was quite the
power grabber. With or without his mother’s scheming, he killed his brother
without a flinch and took the Duchy for himself. While doing so, however, he also
embraced Christianity then he didn’t wait a second to elevate his murdered brother
seems weird and fairly unreasonable to us. Yet, there might be a sound political
reasoning behind Boleslav’s actions. Not only did he promote Václav to
sainthood, he also made him the patron of Bohemia. Every Duke would promote
Václav’s cult after Boleslav’s reign and use it as a propaganda of power. However,
guilt may not have been the only thing to move Boleslav. Though he abode to
Christianity, and therefore had to bow to the Holy Roman Empire, he tried to
make Bohemia an independent polity. Sneaky and shrewd as he was, when the
Magyars came westwards, Boleslav let them pass through his lands and it took the
Duke of Saxony some fierce convincing to bend Boleslav to his will and join him
to the Battle of Lechfeld, in 955.
founded his rotunda church, he acquired a holy relic to dwell it from the Duke
of Saxony. That relic was St Vitus’ arm and St Vitus had since become patron of
the Ludolfings. What can I say? Two and two make four. The Ludolfings were the
Dukes of Saxony themselves. It meant that Prague religious life was enfeoffed
to Saxony’s holy patron! Add water to the burned area, the Duke of Saxony was well
placed to sit on the vacant throne of the Emperor and that is exactly what Otto
I did, eventually, when he was crowned in 962.
fateful year, still in the absence of an emperor in power, and before the
Ludolfings claimed and took over the title, Boleslav wished to sunder Bohemia
from Saxony’s religious oversight. He murdered his brother to seize the duchy
then he made him a local saint so that St Vitus’ cult would not obstruct his
personal display of power. This was a very clever move! When Boleslav turned
his brother’s cold corpse into holy relics, he insured Bohemia religious life wasn’t
overshadowed by a foreign patron. The next step was to elevate Prague into a
bishopric and make it as free as possible from Imperial supervision.
Christianization was first kicked off by missionaries sent from the bishopric
of Passau. Nonetheless, as soon as 895, the bishopric of Regensburg took over
the missionary agenda of Bohemia and all substantial religious matters regarding
the Přemyslid duchy were settled in Bavaria, Bavaria being nothing but a
friend to Saxony.
to some dubious record in a 12th century chronicle, Boleslav managed
to give Prague its own bishopric thanks to the good influence of his daughter,
Mlada-Maria, as soon as 967. Nevertheless, it is certain that Prague had its
own bishopric in 976 and was freed from Regensburg’s oversight. It was not yet
an archbishopric, though, and still answered Mainz. Bohemia would have to wait
the Luxembourg dynasty and John the Blind’s reign to see Prague become its own
archbishopric. All the credit falls to John the Blind’s son, however, Charles IV.
It would be time now to talk about Boleslav II and his epic relic snagging skills. However, I’ll first gloss over the former sentence I wrote, ‘St Vitus had since become patron of the Ludolfings,’ because there are more relics gifting to deal with on that matter!
I know when I started to write this post that St Vitus relics dwelled in ‘France’
before they made their way into Saxony and, from there, found a path to Bohemia’s
capital. Even before that, St Vitus’ relics were in Rome! They were moved to St
Denis abbey in the 8th century.
9th century, the Vikings forced many monks to move out relics from
their sanctuary. However, this is not what happened to St Vicus relics. Hilduin,
the abbot of Saint-Denis, found himself exiled to the German abbey of Corvey,
in Saxony, because he’d allied an enemy of the Emperor, Louis the Pious.
Hilduin was quickly reinstated but he made a friend along the way: the abbot of
Corvey, Warin. The bound of friendship that united the two abbots is what made
the relics transfer possible and moved St Vitus remains from Saint-Denis to
this relics transfer hastened the Christianization of Saxony. The German duchy
had known very few martyrs: relics mostly had to be imported and St Vitus’ case
set up a trend that would only grow stronger. Furthermore, the importation of
relics into Saxony tethered its links to the Frankish Empire and helped its
integration. Moreover, the chronicler Widukind interpreted the transfer from St
Vitus’ relics to Saxony as a translation imperii:
the Saxons symbolically inherited the imperial power that the Franks had held
for so long when the holy remains entered the Corvey abbey.
transfer was therefore much more than just a symbolic gesture. It could also
have deep economic repercussion. Albeit I’ll discuss that in the next installment
of this post series.
As promised, here begins a very short history of the early Dukes of Bohemia, from Vratislav to Bretislav. Hang on to your hats, fasten your seatbelts, grab your popcorn and enjoy some Crusader King 2 worthy storyline.
living in the first half of the 10th century, hated the Franks. He
married a pagan princess to upset their plan of world domination and she was a
fine young woman, but she evolved into a bitter old mother. When Vratislav
died, his son Václav became Duke of Bohemia. That’s only logical. However, the
latter saw many political upsides to embrace Christianity and he founded a
rotunda church, right there in Prague. In doing so, Václav also recognized the
authority of the Holy Roman Empire over his Duchy and for many years, Christian
matters in Bohemia were overseen by Imperial churchmen. This whole situation
enraged Ludmilla, Václav’s mother. She plotted to get her first-born and she
enlisted the best man for the job, Václav’s own little brother, her second son,
was shrewd. Boleslav was smart. He agreed to murder his brother. He carried the
deed. He became Duke of Bohemia, hurray! However, he was too smart to backtrack
on his brother’s spiritual choices and he embraced Christianity so hard that he
promoted his murdered brother to sainthood. #Paradox
From that point onward, St Václav, better known as St Wenceslaus West of the Rhine, became the spiritual patron of Bohemia. All Bohemian Dukes and Kings had to worship him dutifully to secure their dynastic propaganda of power.
was quite the state builder. Beyond handing Bohemia a spiritual patron, he also
insured his control of the land by building strongholds all over the country.
He built the stronghold in Prague, too. He was nicknamed ‘the Cruel’ when
people found out that he had quite an expedite way to deal with his political opponents.
To be clear, he gifted them with the same fate that he’d offered his brother. Eventually,
Boleslav also tried to free Bohemia from the Holy Roman Empire grasp by
reaching to Bavaria and helping the Magyar migrate West. However, Otto I was a
bit of a tough nut to crack. The Magyar were utterly crushed by the Imperial Army
at Lechfeld in 955 and Bohemia was forced to provide troops. It was clear from
that point onwards that Bohemia would be part of the Holy Roman Empire because
of its Christianization. There was no escape from it.
succeeded to his father. He maintained friendly relationships with the Holy
Roman Empire, but most of all, he secured access and control to the silver
mines of Kutná Hora and it would greatly benefit to Bohemia in the centuries to
was the next Duke of Bohemia. Nicknamed ‘the Red’ because he had red hair—what
do you want me to say?—Boleslav was a gentle fruitcake. He reigned only a year
or two that he already tried to strangle his brother Ulrich and castrated his
other brother, Jaromir. Both fled to Bavaria and the Bohemian nobility chose to
overthrow their tyrant by inviting Vladyvoj to the throne. Vladyvoj took on the
Duchy of Bohemia as an imperial fief from the German King, Henry II, but
he died shortly after that. Jaromir and Ulrich still out of the picture, Bołeslaw the
Brave, King of Poland, swooped in and took over. Bohemia was from now on into a
personal union with the Kingdom of Poland, and free from the Empire. There was
no way Bołeslaw would bow to the Emperor. It would be as if the King of England
bowed to the King of France only because he holds a fief of the latter.
the Hundred Years War started!
as Duke of Bohemia was much shorter. Jaromir was quickly put in charge of
Bohemia and the Duchy reconciled with the Holy Roman Empire. Then Ulrich took
over and ultimately his son, Bretislav I, inherited Bohemia, which he ruled for
twenty years from 1034 to 1055.
Bretislav wished to steal a page from Bołeslaw’s book and refused to pay tribute to the Empire. It cost him dearly. He ended up walking barefoot through Regensburg, wearing a penitentiary sack, begging for pardon. The Emperor granted his pardon and Bretislav swore his total allegiance to his suzerain. Bohemia was definitely part of the Empire, it wouldn’t be contested anymore, yet all those wars forged the Duchy as a stable and powerful polity. It wouldn’t be long before it was elevated to Kingdom. Well, two centuries basically. But who keeps count?
The Vyšehrad Codex (National Library of the Czech Republic, XIV A 13) is probably the most valuable manuscript preserved in the Czech Republic. Researchers believe that the manuscript is the coronation evangelist of the first Czech King Vratislav I (as Prince II), or that he has composed it to commemorate this event.
The Czech King Vratislav I (ruled as Prince Vratislav II from 1061) was crowned on June 15, 1086 at Prague Castle. The Evangelist contains excerpts from the Gospels that were read at the Mass during the church year. […] The Visegrad Code was originally created without a specific purpose, into stock. Later, approximately one third of the Code was hastily completed on order from Bohemia. It also contains a reading on the feast of Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, who opens the initial D-ixit with a depiction of a throne prince who, as a gesture of his right, expresses his consent to the act of Vratislav’s coronation and symbolically passed it over to the government.
Further Readings: ~ Nora Berend, Central Europe in the High Middle Ages. Bohemia, Hungary and Poland, c.900-c.1300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. ~ Peter H. Wilson, Heart of Europe. AHistory of the Holy Roman Empire. Cambridge [MA]: Belknap Press, 2016.
Joan of Arc
never failed to be breezy and impertinent when faced with her social higher-ups.
That is one of her predominant character trait which makes her so charismatic.
She was blunt. She was fearless. She bowed to no one but the King. She was fine
damn ready to kick some ass and to admonish anyone whom she felt had crossed a
line. She certainly was one of a kind.
Joan Meets Jean de Metz
“Should I lose my feet I’ll walk on my knees.”
de Metz first met her back in Vaucouleurs, where her journey started, she was
wearing a threadbare red dress. “What are you doing here, darling?” he asked.
She answered in a straightforward manner: “I’ve come here to talk with the Lord
of Baudricourt, so that he would send me to the King. He won’t hear me, but I’ll
get there. Should I lose my feet I’ll walk on my knees. No one in the world,
nor any King, nor any Duke, nor any daughter of the King of Scotland, nor anyone
else, can take back the realm. The King shall have no succour but mine!” Jean
de Metz fell head over heels for Joan. He escorted her himself to Chinon after
he had her dressed as a man. He would then follow her for several months .
Joan riles the Duke of Lorraine
they left Vaucouleurs for Chinon, Jean de Metz went with Joan to meet The Duke
of Lorraine. The latter had invited the Maid to his court because he thought
she could be a healer of some sort. She candidly told the Duke to ditch his
mistress and be faithful to his wife. Then she went on to ask if René of Anjou,
the Duke’s future son-in-law, could accompany her to Chinon. The ten years old
prince belonged to the highest nobility. He was cousin to the King. Joan really
got some nerve. Yet her request was unabashedly denied .
Joan Flames A Theologian
“I speak better French than you”
eventually made her way to Chinon and met the King as she promised she would.
At that point she was requested to meet theologians to vouch for her visions.
Pierre Seguin was amongst those theologians and mighty doctors of the Church. He
asked Joan which dialect she spoke. “I speak better French than you”, she
replied, for he had a southern accent. He carried on to ask Joan to give a sign
that she was indeed sent by God. She came out as sharp as a knife. “I didn’t
come here to grant you tokens from God. Send me to Orleans. I’ll show you the
sign you’re looking for. ”
Joan of Arc Mocks Dunois
“I come by God’s own guidance, which is far safer and wiser than yours.”
on to Orleans. On her way over there, the French army rode up to the East of
the city to cross the river Loire. It pissed Joan, for John Talbot and his
troops were sitting West of Orleans. If there was ever a fearsome captain, it
was John Talbot. I found various occurrence of French armies avoiding him or fleeing
upon his arrival to avoid to face him. Yet Joan had wished to meet him head on.
She walked right to the man responsible of the coward itinerary, the Bastard of
Orleans himself. “Is it on your advice that we cross the river here and not
where Talbot and the English are?” The Bastard was rather startled to be addressed
in such a fashion. “Yes it was!” he boasted. Joan put him back to his place: “Know,
Bastard, that I come by God’s own guidance, which is far safer and wiser than
yours. Right at that moment, the winds which had been unfavourable to cross the
Loire turned and made the crossing possible. The Bastard couldn’t believe in
his own eyes. From that moment onwards he had faith in Joan .
Joan got captured in Compiegne, after she helped to liberate Orleans. Once
captured and faced with her enemies, however, Joan didn’t tune down.
Joan Knows What Awaits Her
“I know very well that the English will have me killed”
Back in the
15th century, the English already used to yell “God damn!” whenever
something displeased them. Therefore the French came up with a derisive and derivative
nickname for them: they called the English the “Godons”. Joan hated anyone to
call out the name of the Lord in vain, but she called the English Godons
herself. She did so, although imprisoned in a cell, right in front of the earls
of Stafford and Warwick, who ranked amongst the most powerful men of England. “I
know very well that the English will have me killed. Yet a hundred thousand Godons
couldn’t take the kingdom.” Stafford got so mad he draw his dagger with the
clear intent to kill her. Warwick through herself in front of Joan to protect
her. He would later protect her too from rape. You see, Warwick was of a sound state
of mind. He wanted Joan killed properly: on the pyre like a heretic after a due
trial to rob her from her mystical charisma .
Joan Faces Her Judges
“Should you tear my limbs apart…”
however kept a full grip of herself when she met her judges: an army of
theologians from the University of Paris who longed for her death. They tried
to catch her off guard with theological traps when asking her if she believed
she had received the grace of God. “I don’t know if God granted me his grace.
If he has, I pray that he keeps to do so. If he hasn’t, I pray that he extends
it to me,” she answered. Then they asked if Saint Michel was naked when he
visited her. She thought the idea utterly ludicrous: “Do you think Our Lord doesn’t
have clothes for him?” Eventually she was threatened with torture. She feared
nothing. “Should you tear my limbs apart or split my soul from my body, I
wouldn’t tell you otherwise. Should I tell you otherwise, then I would always
argue that you forced me to.” They ruled out torture. They went for entrapment.
At the end Joan was burned because she took on her male clothes after she swore
she would not put them on again. If there ever was a thin pretext to kill
someone, it was that one .
How Joan Ghosted Her Best Friend…
around eighteen years old when she went on her quest to rescue the King of
France. She was no more than nineteen when she died. She answered to the
powerful and the wealthy with nothing but confidence and cheek. Yet, there is
one person she didn’t dare to face, Hauviette. The latter said: “I’ve known her
since I was a child. We grew up together, you see. We had a fun sleeping next
to each other in the same bed when we were kids. Joan was good, pure and sweet.
She liked to go church. People often made remarks about it and she felt a bit
ashamed… She was like any other girl. She’d tend to her house and to her father’s
cattle. She could spin wool too. There was a big tree not far from the village.
We called it the tree of the fairies. We’d go there, with some bread and some
nuts, and we’d play. We never saw any fairies. There was none.” Then, she added:
“When Joan definitely left the village, she told me nothing. I only learned
afterwards that she was gone. I cried a lot. She was so good and I loved her so
much. She was my friend. ”
 Jules Quicherat, Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc. Paris: Jules Renouard, 1861-1869. Cf. t. 2, p. 436.  Ibid., t. 3, 87.  Ibid., t. 3, 204-205.  Ibid., t. 3, 4-5.  Ibid., t. 3, 122.  Pierre Champion, Procès de Condamnation de Jeanne d’Arc. Paris: Honoré Champion, 1921. Cf. t. 2, p. 42, 151, 252-253.  Quicherat (1861-1869), t. 2, 417-419.
Régine Pernoud & Marie-Véronique Clin, Jeanne d’Arc. Paris: Fayard, 1986 Philippe Contamine, Olivier Bouzy & Xavier Hélary, Jeanne d’Arc. Histoire et dictionnaire. Paris: Robert Laffont, 2012 (coll. Bouquins).
I really wanted to answer to that question on the AskHistorians subreddit. For two reasons: first, the scene referred to in the question really struck my feelings when I watched it because of how well acted and written it was; second, I had the knowledge and the necessary books at my disposal to answer in a fashion that would respect the AskHistorians community rules and expectations. Enjoy!
The Very Short Version
answer is that any knight could dub a squire to elevate him to knighthood. The
long answer offers more contrast. The dubbing ceremony came into fashion in the
11th century. Originally it constituted in very little: a lord gave
arms and armours to his vassals to help him into battle. This would also serve
as a rite of passage into adulthood and to some extent, we can trace that rite
all the way back to Germanic tribes (Keen, 1984, 66-67).
Early Mass Promotions to Knighthood
In the 12th
century we observe ceremonies of mass promotions to knighthood. Therefore the
knight becomes really distinct from the vassal. The dubbing ceremony gains in
complexity and the multiplication of knights give them the feeling to belong to
a social order apart from the rest of society. The techniques of warfare would
however evolve drastically from the 13th to the 15th
century. Crossbow became deadlier and firearms made their introduction. The
knights therefore improved their physical protection and adopted the plate
armour, which kept on being improved generation after generation.
Only the Best and Wealthiest
To be made
a knight became a very pricy thing. Moreover the idea of knighthood was the
object of more and more sophisticated theories. The behaviour expected from a
knight, in and out of the battlefield, was codified to an extent that made it
impossible for anyone to be randomly dubbed. At this point, I’d like to quote
the Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval
Warfare and Military Technology (2010, vol. 2, p. 468-469):
All knights were warriors, but not all warriors were knights. […] The concept of the knight as a distinct elite group of warriors began to emerge in the eleventh century. The words used to designate members of this group indicate that the origins of this class lay with the armed and mounted servants who formed a lord’s entourage, or comitatus. The latin word used for a knight from the eleventh century on was ‘miles,’ which in classical Latin meant a soldier and by the tenth century a servant. […] As church attitudes toward violence changed and certain sorts of warfare became theologically acceptable, the warrior rose in status, provided he fought for the right cause. Kings and other rulers made increasing use of knights as administrators. […] Knights regarded knighthood as a separate order in society. Knightly status became a sort of institution, with its own literature, ideals of behaviour, and rituals, such as the tournament and the ceremony of dubbing into knighthood. Initially, dubbing was simply a ceremony in which the lord presented his warriors with weapons and armor, but during the twelfth century the ceremony expanded to include a blessing of the new knight’s sword. […] As the defining characteristics of knighthood developed, the numbers of those entering this elite class of men declined. By the mid-thirteenth century in England and northern France, warriors of lesser means could no longer afford to undergo the public ritual that would make them knights. The social expectations of knights and the public responsibilities that they were expected to take on exceeded their means. Knighthood became an exclusive caste, limited to those who were descended from knights and had the means to maintain the status.
A Knight Always Pays his Debts
became a capital requirement for anyone to be elevated to knighthood. In a 15th
century manuscript that describe how emperors and kings must be enthroned to
power, we also find a paragraph on the making of knights (Paris,
BnF, MS fr. 5930, f. 3r-4v):
Comment se doit faire ung chevalier
Escuier quant il a bien voyagie et esté en plusieurs fais d’armes et qu’il a bien de quoy maintenir | son estat ou qu’il soit de grant hostel et de riche et qu’il se tienne en une rencontre ou bataille doit adviser le chief ou ung vaillant chevalier de la compaignie et lors doit venir à luy et lui demander et requérir chevalerie ou nom de Dieu et de saint Gorge. Et celui doit tirer son espee et le doit faire chevalier en disant : « Je te fay chevalier ou nom de Dieu et de saint Gorge, pour la foy et justice loyaulment garder, et à juste querelle soustenir loyaulment à ton povoir, en gardant l’Eglise, femmes, veusves et orphelins. » Et s’il advient qu’il soit noble homme ou vaillant et qu’il soit povre, le prince ne le doit laisser estre fait chevalier s’il ne lui donne de quoy il se puisse vivre honnestement pour l’onneur de l’ordre de chevalerie
How to dub a knight
When a squire has travelled much and been part of feats, if he has enough to provide for himself or if he is part of a great and wealthy house, he must advise his commander or a valiant knight at the beginning of a battle and request to be dubbed in the name of God and saint George. The latter must then draw out his sword and say: “I elevate you to knighthood in the name of God and Saint George, so that you would loyally defend the faith, fight honourable causes, and protect the Church, women, widows and orphans.” If the squire is a noble or valiant man but has no money for himself, the prince must not let him be elevated to knighthood unless he grants him enough to live a decent life.
Who’s Knighting Who?
also confirms that any knight could dub a squire. However, as Keen notes, “We
have noticed in many early texts the anxiety of aspirant knights to receive
knighthood at the hands of some lord of particular distinction or repute. In
the later middle ages a still more particular dignity was associated with
receiving knighthood at the hands of one who had established a name for himself
as a knight of prowess by deeds recognised as outstanding.” (Keen, 1984, 77) My
personal favourite promotion to knighthood is the one held for Philip the Good,
Duke of Burgundy. Since his father had passed away, he turned to the most
skilled, feared and respected knight of his court: John of Luxembourg, lord of
I will translate Chastellain directly on that one: “The Duke required the order of knighthood to John of Luxembourg while riding next to him, showing no emotion and talking in a cold manner, handing to the latter his sword: ‘Dear cousin, in the name of God I ask of you to grant me the title of knight.’ The foresaid Luxembourg received the request as a high mark of honour. He dubbed him, saying: ‘My Lord, in the name of God and Saint George, I elevate you to knighthood; may your Grace therefore become a knight as you and all of us will need you to be.” (George Chastellain, Oeuvres. Edited by the Académie royale de Belgique. Brussels: F. Heussner, 1863, p. 259) Afterwards, Philip the Good went on his way to dub other valiant squires in his ranks.
A Dubbing Was Pretty Much a Christening
We tend to
forget however that the Church could also dub knights. Monstrelet’s son was
dubbed knight of the Order of Jerusalem by the canons of Cambrai in 1444; read J. B. Dacier, « Mémoire
sur la vie et les chroniques d’Enguerrand de Monstrelet » (1826). Keen
addresses that matter quite extensively in his chapter “The ceremony of dubbing
to knighthood”. He explores as to why and how the Church became the sole
institution to anoint kings and emperors, but failed to monopolize the dubbing
of knights. Yet, he observes: “The fact that so often knights were dubbed in church impressed on all minds that
knighthood was a Christian calling, imposing broad obligations of Christian
observance and morality, whether it was given in a church or not. Under the church’s influence, crusading,
the martial pilgrimage, established itself firmly as the highest mode of
expression of the chivalric virtues of courage and endurance. Ecclesiastical
teaching also gave definition to the idea of chivalry as an order, possessing,
as every order should, its rule of life, and instructed the knight about how he
should view his individual discharge of his office as a Christian duty.” (Keen, 1984, 76)
When is it Good to be Knighted?
Any knight could therefore dub another knight, but the prerequisites to become a knight made it impossible for any “insane knighting inflation” to ever happen. Matters of wealth, moral code and lifestyle strictly limited the access to knighthood, more and more so from the 12th to the 15th century.
I’d like to end this post as it should with a last observation made by Keen: “A number of late medieval sources mention three normal occasions for receiving knighthood. It may be given, they say, when the emperor or a king holds a solemn court, or at his coronation; usually the ceremony will take place in a church, after the bath and vigil, and the prince himself ‘or some other lord who is a knight’ will gird the aspirants. […] The second occasion for taking knighthood that they mention is on pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, the rise of which practice we have also traced. The third occasion for taking knighthood that they all mention is on the eve of battle, or of the storming of a city, when men seek knighthood ‘in order that their strength and virtue may be greater’. From the latter part of the thirteenth century on, this became a very common occasion for the taking of knighthood. […] In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the making of knights became almost a regular feature of the eve of battle, and the pages of such chronicles as Froissart [and Monstrelet] are in consequence full of references to such creations.” (Keen, 1984, 79-80)
Literature on Knighthood:
Bernard of Clairvaux, In Praise of new knighthood (1129) Ramon Llull, The Book of the Order of Chivalry (1279-1283) Honoré Bonet, The Tree of Battles (1382-1387) Christine de Pizan, Livre des fais d’armes et de chevalerie (1410)
Modern Studies on
Peter Coss, The Knight in Medieval England, 1000-1400. Stroud, U.K.: Alan Sutton, 1993. Georges Duby, The Chivalrous Society. Translated by Cynthia Postan. London: Edward Arnold, 1977. Maurice Keen, Chivalry. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984. Malcolm Vale, War and Chivalry. Warfare and aristocratic culture in England, France and Burgundy at the end of the Middle Ages. Liverpool: Duckworth, 1981.