23 Medieval Knights Facts That Separate Fact From Fiction

Published February 12, 2018
Updated June 21, 2019

Discover the most surprising medieval knights facts that go beyond the swords and the armor to reveal the truths that most people don't know.

Medieval Knights Facts Roman Empire
Knights are thought to have originated with the equestrian orders of the Roman Empire. Pixabay

Medieval Knights Facts Charlemagne
When Roman Emperor Charlemagne founded a similar mounted order within the feudal system in the ninth century, knighthood was born. Wikimedia Commons

Medieval Knights Facts Cniht
The word "knight" derives from "cniht," an old Anglo-Saxon term for "boy." Pixabay

El Cid
Spanish knight El Cid, one of history's most revered wartime commanders, had Greek and Roman military texts read aloud to his troops before battle. Pixabay

Illicit Romances
Knights and ladies were allowed to show their love regardless of marital state, which fueled many illicit court romances. Wikimedia Commons

Knight on Horseback
There was a military order of knighthood for women called The Order of the Hatchet, which honored women and gave them a title.Pixabay

Armor Helmet
The full plate armor was introduced during the 15th century and it weighed around 50 pounds.Pixabay

Spiral Staircase
The spiral staircases of medieval castles were designed so an army of invading knights had trouble ascending them.Pixabay

Medieval Knights' Sword
A knight’s armor was a status symbol — the better the armor, the more important the knight was believed to be. Pixabay

Hand Armor Of Knights
As the medieval period progressed, knighthood became more refined, with knights sometimes required to attend dance practice.Pixabay

Battle Tournament
Tournaments held in the early Middle Ages pitted knights against each other in battle for the entertainment of the crowd.Wikimedia Commons

Jousting Melee
These battles included jousting and a dangerous meleé that was like actual combat.Wikimedia Commons

Knights Code
The knight's code entailed not associating with traitors, never giving evil counsel to a lady, and attending daily Christian mass.Wikimedia Commons

Robbing And Pillaging
Regardless of the code of chivalry, knights had a reputation for robbing and pillaging when bored.Wikimedia Commons

Noble Birth
A knight had to be born of nobility – typically sons of knights or lords. Wikimedia Commons

Medieval Knights' Other Occupations
Besides providing protection, knights also served as judges, political advisers, and even farmers. Wikimedia Commons

Knights' Armor
Knights were expected to serve as members of the military only about 40 days a year — more in times of war. brad_t/Flickr

Knights' Horse In Armor
The king could grant fiefs (portions of land) to knights in exchange for military service.mharrsch/Flickr

Medieval Knights' Spurs
A knight who had been disgraced in these battles had his spurs hacked off and his shield hung upside down. yersinia/Flickr

Knights Lined Up
A young boy must first be a page (servant to his ruler), then a squire (servant to a knight) before he could be knighted around age 21. Pixabay

Helmets Of Knights
Squires were required to master several skills like swimming, diving, climbing, wrestling, fencing, and long jumping - all while wearing armor. vassallosalvatore/Flickr

Knight Statue
Knighthood had to be earned through some exploit involving the use of arms.Pixabay

Knight's Sword
Knights underwent "purification," during which sacraments and relics were put into the hilt of their sword, which was believed to unite them with God.Pixabay

Tudor Period
Military knighthood essentially ceased to exist after The Tudor period (1485 and 1603). After that, knighthood became an honorary title only.Pixabay

Being a knight during the medieval era might seem like a glamorous gig. However, the Middle Ages was an extremely violent time — and medieval knights did more than just protect castles. Modern-day romanticizations aside, being a knight was highly hazardous, even with the protection of full body armor.

Imagine attending grueling, on-the-job training for 12 (or more) years just for the privilege of heading to war. Sure, the perks of prestige, acquiring free land, and getting cozy with married ladies were probably nice. But knights endured a great amount of sacrifice to reach their status — and often lost their lives.

Granted, medieval knights had it much easier in times of peace than they did in times of war. But with a new religious Crusade starting up about every five minutes back then, there wasn't a lot of free time for knights to spend rescuing damsels in distress.

Nevertheless, after you did fulfill your military responsibilities for the year, chances are you'd just be left alone for the rest of the year to go tending to your free land (when not governing all the peasants that live on it). Perhaps you'd dabble in politics. You'd probably still be going to church a lot. Maybe do some light hunting.

Still, many boys born into the noble bloodline of lords or knights put themselves through an immense amount of trouble to gain these titles. The knighthood meant you'd have basically a normal life with a few great perks to balance the danger that came with the job.

But life was shorter and a little more black-and-white in the Middle Ages. It was apparently more important to die a hero for your cause than to live a few more years as a peasant.

See more in the gallery of medieval knights facts above.

After checking out these medieval knights facts, check out 100 of the most fascinating facts about the world. Then, have a look at some of the most interesting facts about Vikings that you'll ever read.

Erin Kelly
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.