Knight in Battle

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Warfare and the Knight

Ah…The apex of life for the medieval knight. Battle was what a knight trained and yearned for from his first days as a page. Fortunately for the knight, there was never any shortage of battles in medieval Europe, providing a virtually infinite number of training grounds for fresh knights eager to hone their offensive and defensive skills, amass wealth, and gain fame.

What Could a Knight Expect?

While most of us tend to imagine great pitched battles with two mighty armies crashing against one another in a glorious charge, such battles were actually fairly infrequent in medieval times. Actually, it was quite common for groups of knights to go on raiding missions to destroy an enemy’s property and defenses. Doesn’t really seem chivalric, does it? Of course, perhaps the most famous type of fighting involved castles, which, being crucial to defense and military campaigns, seemed constantly to be besieged. However, more people tended to die from disease than actual fighting in sieges.

What Weapons Did a Knight Wield?

Knights generally limited themselves to the heavy lance and sword, but for full information regarding the weapons and armor of knights refer to The Smithy in the village. There you will learn all about knightly weapons and armor and how they were used in battle.

The Knight in Battle

Knights rode their horses in battle and formed the cavalry. They were heavily armored and can be thought of as a medieval tank of sorts. In large battles, knights, supported by a variety of infantrymen such as bowmen and halberdiers, would storm across the field in a sweeping charge designed to rout their enemies. Ideally, their fleeing, scattered opponents would then be picked off and the battle won. However, such maneuvers required exact timing and immense discipline and self-control on the part of participating knights. Many such charges failed because some knights were too impatient to wait for an order from the lord.

The Knight on a Raid

The goal of a raid was simple: destroy any and as much of an enemy’s resources as possible. This included peasants, villages, fields…anything that might affect the war effort of an enemy. Knights swept into an area to burn, pillage, and plunder, and when a defense effort was made by the attacked, the knights would flee carrying as much loot as possible. Surprisingly, this was not held at odds with the virtues of chivalry. Raids were seen as merely another way to fight an enemy, be the enemy Christian or Islamic.

In addition to the destructive raids mentioned above (which generally took place in the winter), small raiding campaigns were mounted by lords with the goal of occupying tracts of enemy territory and incorporating the land into their own estates.

Raids and mutual attacks ensured that, barring major conflicts and land grabs, both sides in minor disputes remained evenly matched and neither gained any real advantage over the other.

Knights and Sieges

Information detailing sieges will be posted in our section on Castles.