A knight was a mounted warrior in the Middle Ages who pledged allegiance to the Church and, as such, answered to ordained priests. During the Crusades it was believed that a knight only fought for just and holy causes.
However, many abuses occurred (including rapes, pillaging, cruelty and senseless murder), and some would argue that the whole idea of ‘killing for Christ’ is a twisted perversion of Christ’s teachings.
It has often been said that crusaders tended to behave particularly badly once they were in the field. That they could be undisciplined and capable of acts of great cruelty cannot be denied.¹
The Crusading knight was also a servant of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and as the institution developed over the centuries, the idea of knighthood became highly romanticized in life, literature and song. Instead of being a mere ‘killer for Christ,’ the knight evolved into a courageous hero who was bound to protect women through acts of chivalry. At least, that was the prevailing ideal in the latter Middle Ages, an idea that became even more pronounced during the Renaissance.
Part of the knight’s identity rested upon horsemanship and another part on armoury–just as horsemanship, battle attire and weapons have always been important to warriors, stretching back into antiquity. When the technology of warfare changed, the old idea of the mounted knight in armor gradually fell into obscurity.
Today, the knight remains an omnipresent symbol of heroism and honor in works of fiction and pop culture. And those knighted by royalty are done so for some great lifetime achievement (e.g. Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and Sir Michael Phillip “Mick” Jagger).
In addition, certain religious groups have adapted the term knight to symbolize holiness and the pursuit of goodness (e.g. The Knights of Columbus).
Interestingly, some contemporary figures do not accept the honor of knighthood which the British royalty so carefully offers.²
¹ See Rethinking the Crusades by JONATHAN RILEY SMITH » http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0042.html
² David Bowie declined the honor in 2003, saying : “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.” See » http://www.bowiewonderworld.com/press/00/030912thesun.htm. And many others have responded similarly, as revealed in this list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declining_a_British_honour
- Constantine, We Are Here: (brothersjuddblog.com)
- Mar 11, 1997: Paul McCartney Knighted (censorshipinamerica.com)
- Feudal Europe Essay (socyberty.com)
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- King Arthur in Legends and Literature (socyberty.com)
- Teutonic Knights and Knights Templar: Clash of Interests (socyberty.com)
- Jousting Tournaments in the Middle Ages (brighthub.com)
- A Crusading Knight and Cute Concrete (nytimes.com)
- Santorum Tackles the Crusades (unreasonablefaith.com)
- In Defense of Medieval Gaming from Geekcentricity ” Role-Playing (geekcentricity.com)