The chivalry of Medieval knights is a widely held notion spread by countless fables that continue to this day. But is it true?
For the most part, the answer is yes.
But that fact actually limited the value of knights in warfare.
At the beginning of the Medieval era, knights were the only full-time soldiers. Knights held a romanticized view of combat that stressed courage and chivalry. But as part of the gentry, knights looked down on common soldiers and expected to battle only their noble peers on fair terms.
Chivalry dictated that a knight defeated in battle with another knight should not be pursued. If captured, a knight was taken as a hostage and held for ransom rather than killed.
While the gallantry of knights was celebrated by bards, cunning rulers began to shun them as a force on the battlefield. Knights were expensive and headstrong. Worst of all, as the size of armies grew, knights became vulnerable to archers and trained infantry despite their armor.
By the battle of Agincourt in 1415, knights made up only 8% of England’s heavy cavalry.
So, in truth, knights did fight fair. But that very fact made them poor soldiers, doomed to history’s dustbin.
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