Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Monday, October 1, 2012

The Truth Behind Knights in Shining Armor by Dana D’Angelo

Welcome to History Undressed, today's guest blogger, Dana D'Angelo, author of medieval romance. She's here to talk with us about the truth behind knights in shining armor! Enjoy!

The Truth Behind Knights in Shining Armor 

by Dana D’Angelo

What is it about knights that capture our imagination? Is it that they’re true heroes, intent on protecting the less fortunate, fighting bravely and fiercely for their home and country? Is it their admiration for and love of women? This is what Hollywood wants us to believe.

But if you look closely, there are actually grains of truth in this portrayal.

You see, a seven year old boy, usually from a well off family, would be sent to foster at another home and be trained as a knight. At first he would act as a page, essentially becoming a servant, and heeding his master’s every beck and call. He would start at this humble beginning until he reached the age of about 14 years. At this point, he would graduate to become a squire. He would gain enough confidence from his master to accompany him into battle, although he didn't exactly participate in the fighting.

In his long years of training to become a knight, the squire would learn all sorts of things including battle readiness and the finer arts of socialization. Geoffrey Chaucer, a well known writer in the middle ages, illustrated in one of his characters a squire that had the ability to compose songs, dance, draw, and write. On top of everything, this character had horse riding expertise and proficiency in jousting.

Although Chaucer’s character is obviously fictional, we can assume that these abilities were quite common at the time. Scholars believe that during the early medieval period, warriors acted upon an unspoken rule where they behaved in a courteous and civil manner when dealing with their enemies. As time went on, this behavior gained favor with many people and a knightly code of conduct was formed.

Poems of courtly love were recited throughout the land by troubadours, and the ideals of chivalry were spread. It was around the 13th century that romance stories such as the legendary tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table became extremely popular. It’s debatable whether King Arthur really existed, however these stories further influenced the way a knight behaved toward their enemies and those of a more gentle birth.

What resulted from this commitment to chivalry was a strict code of courtly love. A knight, for example, would single out a woman — usually one that was already married. He would admire her from a distance, and write long love poems, professing his undying love and loyalty toward her. And to prove his devotion, he would do dangerous and courageous feats in order to impress her.

A squire would observe all this from his betters, and would try to incorporate the knightly ideals into his own life. When he reached his 20th year or so, he finally had the opportunity to earn his knightly spurs. He would then participate in a religious ceremony, attending a church vigil and taking a purifying bath. And only after these were performed would he then be officially dubbed and declared as “Sir.”

Although we can imagine that it would be near impossible to uphold the chivalric code during the heat of a brutal war, there is still enough evidence to support that many knights followed the ideals of chivalry.

Men  — fierce fighters, bold, brave in facing death, yet often displaying a gentle nature… Perhaps, the real reason why we admire these knights in shining armor is because they share many of the same qualities as the heroes of our own time.


Dana D’Angelo is the author of One True Knight, the first book in The Knights of Honor Trilogy. To learn more about Dana or new release, visit her at www.dana-dangelo.com

When the beautiful yet feisty Rowena de Belleville discovers her father’s plan to remarry, she fears the worst and flees her home — only to be thrust into the arms of a stranger.

Desperate to hide her identity from her pursuers, she embraces the dark stranger. But her reckless act backfires as it awakens a passion buried deep within her soul, while igniting the fuse of her mysterious benefactor.

Unable to escape destiny, their paths cross yet again. This time she learns the handsome man is Jonathan d’Abelard —  the Iron Hawk, a legendary knight feared by all save one faceless killer bent on making his life a living hell…

Will her chance encounter draw them together, or ensnare her in a dangerous game of seduction, feverish desire and vengeance?


Kary Rader said...

Dana - You are talking about my favorite hero of all-time -- The KISA. Knight in Shining Armor, which has come to be synomomous with the idea of romance. Loved the article! Great post. I really need to read your story. I love medievals so much.

Dana D'Angelo said...

The KISA - I like that :) Thank you so much for your comments, Kary. It's great to know that you love medievals as much as I do!

D'Ann said...

Sexy men, swords, horses, what's not to love?

Dana D'Angelo said...

My sentiments EXACTLY! Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post, D'Ann.

Brenda said...

What an awesome post.
I've always been a sucker for a KISA!

Dana D'Angelo said...

Thanks for dropping by and your comments, Brenda!

Daryl Devore said...

That's for a bit of a lesson here. Ii have a KISA in my next book - this will help provide a bit of background for him.

Dana D'Angelo said...

No problem, Daryl! I'm glad I can help you with your story. Good luck with it!

Melissa Limoges said...

What a great post!! I absolutely love tales of chivalrous knights. I'll be checking out your own knight shortly. :)

ellaquinnauthor said...

I love hearing that young men were taught all the courtly skills. They are so missing in today's men. Great post.

karen Y. bynum said...

Great post Dana! I didn't realize a knight had to go through so many stages to become a knight. Enjoyed the insight :)

Liza O'Connor said...

Very Interesting

Dana D'Angelo said...

Thank you Melissa, Ella, Karen and Liza for dropping by and commenting. It makes me happy to know that you all find this subject as interesting as I do :)

Katie C. said...

That was great. That kind of chivalry is what makes historical romances my favorite.

Alex Raine said...

OOhh... A KISA? I want one!! Maybe I'll try and write a short piece and explore this era. Great post. I have been looking for books and authors outside of the typical (i.e.: Regency, etc)