Medieval knights are one of the most iconic and romanticized figures in history. These warriors lived in a time of chivalry, honor, and bravery, and were the epitome of the idealized medieval warrior. Knights were highly skilled in combat, and were often armored from head to toe in a variety of different types of armor. In this blog post, we will explore the history of medieval knights, the different types of armor they used, and the evolution of armor throughout the medieval period.
History of Medieval Knights
Knighthood emerged during the 12th century in Europe. The term "knight" comes from the Old English word "cniht," which means servant or boy. Originally, knights were young men who served as attendants to lords and nobles. However, as time went on, knights became recognized as skilled warriors and were granted the right to bear arms and fight in battle.
Knighthood was not an easy achievement. A young man had to go through a rigorous training process that lasted for many years. He would first serve as a page in a noble household, where he would learn basic skills such as reading and writing, as well as more practical skills such as hunting and hawking. As a squire, he would then serve as an apprentice to a knight, learning the art of combat and warfare. Finally, after years of training, he would be knighted by his lord and be recognized as a full-fledged knight.
Knighthood was not just about being a skilled warrior wearing a suit of armor; it was also about living by a strict code of chivalry. Knights were expected to be brave, honorable, and courteous. They were also expected to defend the weak and helpless, and to treat women with respect and courtesy.
Types of Medieval Armor
Armor was an essential part of a knight's equipment. The armor worn by a knight was designed to protect him from a variety of weapons, including swords, axes, and arrows. Medieval armor evolved over time, and there were many different types of armor used throughout the medieval period.
Chainmail was one of the earliest types of armor used by knights. It was made up of thousands of interlocking metal rings, and was designed to protect the knight from slashing attacks. Chainmail was flexible and allowed the knight to move freely, but it was heavy and offered little protection against piercing attacks.
Plate armor was developed during the 14th century, and quickly became the preferred type of armor for knights. Plate armor was made up of a series of metal plates that were joined together with leather straps. Plate armor was much heavier than chainmail, but offered much better protection against both slashing and piercing attacks.
Another type of armor that was commonly used by knights was leather armor. Leather armor was made from layers of boiled leather that were molded into shape. It was lightweight and flexible, but offered little protection against weapons.
In addition to armor, knights also wore a helmet to protect their head. Medieval helmets were usually made of metal and were designed to protect the knight's face and head from attacks. Helmets were often adorned with decorative elements, such as crests or plumes, to signify the knight's status and identity.
Evolution of Medieval Armor
Medieval armor evolved over time as new weapons and tactics were developed. For example, plate armor became more common during the 14th century because of the increased use of crossbows and other ranged weapons. Plate armor was much more effective at stopping piercing attacks than chainmail, which was vulnerable to crossbow bolts.
As firearms became more common in the 16th century, armor had to evolve once again. Plate armor was still effective against musket balls, but it was much heavier than earlier armor and was difficult to move in. As a result, lighter armor was developed that could still offer some protection against firearms but was more maneuverable. This type of armor was known as "half-armor" and consisted of a breastplate, backplate, and helmet, but did not cover the arms and legs like full plate armor.
By the 17th century, armor had largely fallen out of use among soldiers. Firearms had become too powerful for armor to offer any meaningful protection, and soldiers had begun to rely on other forms of protection, such as trenches and fortifications. However, armor continued to be used by cavalry units for several more centuries, as the speed and mobility of horses made it difficult for them to be protected by trenches or fortifications.
Medieval knights and their armor continue to capture the imagination of people today. These brave warriors were the epitome of the idealized medieval warrior, and their armor was a testament to their skill and bravery in combat. From chainmail to plate armor, the evolution of armor over the medieval period reflects the changing nature of warfare and the development of new weapons and tactics. Although armor eventually fell out of use among soldiers, it remains an important symbol of the chivalric ideals of bravery, honor, and respect that were central to knighthood.