Timothy A. McDaniel
tmcd at crl.com
Tue Jul 11 00:43:11 PDT 1995
Phelim Uhtred Gervas, "Pug" <pug at arlut.utexas.edu> wrote:
> <Pulls out his handy dandy electronic webster that is only 32 years out
> of date to find the following of relevance>
Of course, a modern dictionary isn't necessarily the best source for a
definition of a medieval word, much less a shorter dictionary and a
word that has a long historical development. The French equivalent,
"chevalier", literally means "horseman". (I wish I could find a
reference quickly, but I dimly recall later kings issuing "distraints
of knighthood", where the sole criteron was that the person had enough
landed wealth to be a knight.)
> 1c: a member of an order or society
is overbroad: a Benedictine is hardly a knight. 8-)
If we're going to quote dictionaries, I'll reply with the OED (1st
ed). It seems a bit more detailed. The change from "servant" to a
specific service also happened in "vassal", and from "man" to a
service in "baron".
"1. A boy, youth, lad. [c893-971]
2. A boy or lad employed as an attendant or servant; hence, by
extension, a male servant or attendant of any age. [c950-c1250]
3. With genitive, or poss. pron.: A military servant or follower (of
a king or some other specified superior); later, one devoted to the
service of a lady as her attendant, or her champion in war or the
tournament; hence also fig., and even applied to a woman (quot. 1599).
[citations c1100-1859. The 1599 citation is from Much Ado About
4. Name of an order or rank.
a. In the Middle Ages: Originally (as in 3), A military servant of
the king or other person of rank; a feudal tenant holding land from a
superior on condition of serving in the field as a mounted and
In the fully-developed feudal system: One raised to honourable
military rank by the king or other qualified person, the distinction
being usually conferred only upon one of noble birth who had served a
regular apprenticeship (as page and squire) to the profession of arms,
and this being a regular step in this even for those of the highest
b. In modern times (from the 16th c): One upon whom a certain rank,
vregarded as corresponding to that of the mediaeval knight, is
conferred by the sovereign in recognition of personal merit, or as a
reward for services rendered to the crown or country. ...
In point of rank the mediaeval knight was inferior to earl and baron
... The characteristic qualities expected in a knight, as bravery,
courtesy, and chivalrous conduct [a tautology -- DdL], are frequently
alluded to, and the name (esp. with adjs., as "a good knight") often
implied these qualities as well as the mere rank. ...
5b. freq. transl. L. miles, a common soldier. [citations c1200 to
For "fighter": "One who fights; occas. a fighting man, a warrior."
[c1300-1883] Also in period, "A pugnacious person: a brawler"
"Soldier", as "One who serves in an army for pay; one who takes part
in military service or warfare; spec. one of the ordinary rank and
file; a private." [c1300-1869] A 13.. citation mentions soldiers on
"destrers" (horses, I would think).
"Warrior", "One whose occupation is warfare; a fighting man, whether
soldier, sailor, ...; in eulogistic sense, a valiant or an experience
man of war" [1297-1902]
So I think I was in error on a few points.
- Knighthood in earlier times implied a knight's fee as well.
- It was associated with the knightly virtues early. (Then again,
priests were supposed to be good, too ...)
- But: knighthood could also refer to common soldiers.
> This clearly shows that the SCA's usage of the word Knight is just fine
When did simple knights ever outrank barons in the Middle Ages?
Ansteorra is rather unusual in that territorial barons outrank
It also appears from the above that the SCA model -- only the king can
make a knight, there's no knight's fee, it's for merit or service
irrespective of birth or profession -- is an Elizabethan anachronistic
I'll concede that "fighter" is more appropriate to the SCA usage
... but this may be an indication that we're doing something that's
not period: did anyone other than knights (or in early days with their
military retainers) ever enter tournaments?
I'd like to see more on the subject, preferably by someone who has
Duby's book on knighthood and similar works.
Daniel de Lincoln
tmcd at crl.com
Sometimes mcdaniel at dfw.net, sometimes tmcdanie at unicomp.net
Was tccg at netcom.com, was mcdaniel at convex.com, was mcdaniel at adi.com, ...
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