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The Knights in the Middle Ages of England

The Knights in the Middle Ages of England

By Ruijuan Yin

Review of European Studies, Vol 1, No. 2 (2009)

Image from Military and religious life in the Middle Ages and at the period of the Renaissance (1870)
Image from Military and religious life in the Middle Ages and at the period of the Renaissance (1870)

Abstract: Chivalry was a special phenomenon in the Middle Ages of Europe, and was also a part of the military system in the Middle Ages of Europe. Equites first came into military and civil posts signed by Augustus, and then the number of such posts multiplied in the course of time, and finally in the third century the Equites replaced senators in holding the highest responsibility. The chivalry of England made its infancy in the Anglo-Saxon period because of the rise of a series of wars. In the feudal relations, wars became the most important prerequisite for the existence of the relationship between knights and kings. If the feudal monarchies or feudal lords did not need knights for fighting, then the existence would lose its base. Knights’ spirit was composed of moral qualities, such as bravery, loyalty, generosity, and honor as its core, all of which should be complied with a knight. The knights’ spirit was virtually an aspect of the chivalry.

The decline of chivalry had the extremely complex reasons, including military, economics, and religion and so on. Subsequently the rising urban aristocracy relied on the early capitalism economy and was superior to the feudal one. The decline of chivalry had a great influence upon modern Britain’s development, which included social structure, economic basis and political system. After the decline of chivalry, the former stratum of knighthood began to polarize. Gentry and the middle level emerged and then the social structure changed from two-tiered structure to three-tiered structure. Chivalry’s decline led to the commercialization of British agriculture and the trend of capitalism. With the vanishing of chivalry, nobility’s power was reduced and the Crown was enriched, and balance shifted.

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Introduction: Individualism is fundamental characteristic of the English people. Since King Arthur, it had the Knights of the Round fighting for freedom and equality. From the beginning of the middle of 5th century, the Anglo-Saxon began to invade England. The conquest to England speeded up the formation of the England feudal system. During the two hundred years of fighting in the war, a series of feudal kingdoms were set up. Sovereign princes gave their land to the military aristocracy by instrument. Then the military aristocracy changed their identification into land aristocracy that was very like the landholder. The land aristocracy sublet their land to farmers and collected rents, and made preparations for the cost of living and their weapons and equipments from the land entirely. As a result, sovereign princes and the land aristocracy made a close relationship, and the feudal land tenure and the obligation got closed too. These aristocracies were knights at the early time. This is the origin of the England chivalry.

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