What It Was Like to be a Knight During Medieval Times


[MUSIC PLAYING] When we think of knights
during the medieval times, we think of valiant
men who chose to defend their honor
in feats of jousting, chivalry, and dragon slaying. But that’s not exactly how it
was for the actual knights. Jousting wasn’t always a part of
the culture of being a knight. Chivalry was less of
how to be a gentleman and more of a list
of what not to do. And dragons weren’t
real, no matter how much we wish they were. Today, we’re exploring what
it was actually like to be a knight during medieval times. Before we get started,
be sure to subscribe to the Weird History Channel. Oh, and while you’re
there, leave a comment and let us know what topics
you would like to hear about. So gather ye at thy round
table, and together-ith, we shall commence. There weren’t a lot of
options for other religions, so almost everyone that lived
in medieval Europe was Catholic, or at least they claimed to be. Everyone from kings and queens
to the lowly peasants and serfs were expected to take part
in their religious duties, be it yearly or daily. Knights were certainly
included in this, and they were known to start
their days with a morning mass at their local church. Nowadays, we would
say that breakfast is the most important
meal of the day. But back then, feeding
the Christian soul was considered more important. That was part of
their moral code. Just like the other code, a
sort of antiquated man code, the code of chivalry was
also one that was adhered to. Most of us think
chivalry is something that can be found in a
Nicholas Sparks novel. But the code for
knights was less reminding them to hold
doors open for the ladies and more to keep
belligerent knights in line. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] Just keep him in here. Until you or anyone else– No, not anyone else. Just me. Just you. Get back. Get back. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] Though there were
rules of things to do, like live for
honor, protect the weak, and respect the
virtues of women, there were far more
rules of what not to do. Things knights were
not allowed to do as declared by the
code of chivalry included beating up priests,
taking someone’s cattle or other livestock,
hurting women, setting fire to homes, or
robbing, kidnapping, killing, or doing any
sort of general harm to random innocent people. These are rules that
we can all generally agree meet the bare
minimum of what would fall under the umbrella of chivalry. Nowadays, everyone is always
trying a new diet fad, but medieval diets did not
include Keto, Paleo, or Atkins, and they most certainly
never had a Meatless Monday. They never had a
meatless any day, since meat was the primary
ingredient in most meals. While most meals consisted
of meat and bread because it tasted
good, it also was because they thought most
vegetables were poisonous. It’s a classic saying that one
bad apple can spoil the barrel, but it sounds like
back then, someone ate the wrong kind of
mushroom or put some poison ivy on their salad. So all vegetables
were out of fashion. Beware of green
salads and raw fruits, for they will make
your master sick, was a common saying at the time. Meat wasn’t cheap
in medieval times. And since there was
no Oscar Meyer baloney to eat in a pinch, the lowest
on the economic scale ate pork. That’ll do, pig,
that pig will do. However, since knights held
an elevated social status, they had access to
higher quality food than the average
serf or peasant did. Beef and sheep were often served
to knights along with cheese. Since food needed to be kept
safe to eat, a lot of it was pickled or
had been preserved with salt, which would certainly
make someone thirsty, which is why– If they didn’t have
a Kroger handy, you had better believe
they didn’t have Evian. So without unlimited
access to clean water, the people of medieval
times mostly drank alcohol because they knew it
wouldn’t be contaminated. While we don’t have
the same excuse today, the medieval knights
drank like frat boys, and that often led
to worse behavior. All these men drinking
beer all the time. They most certainly weren’t
playing beer pong or flip cup, and this rowdy behavior
could sometimes get violent and
rather ungentlemanly. Of course, they couldn’t
drink too much mead, which would fatten them up. Because contrary
to what you might think of the traditional manly
stereotype a knight conjures in your imagination– That’s right. Image was everything. And since no one was getting
likes on their Instagram pages, they had to settle for
likes the old fashioned way, compliments and adoration. But fashion wasn’t as
straightforward as it is now. There were laws
placing restrictions on what people could wear. Under sumptuary
law, ordinary people were forbidden from spending
a lot on their fashion. This cap was instituted
to stop peasants and serfs from dressing better
than noble people, like knights, so
that everyone could be identifiable by their
outward appearance. So knights had to
wear nice clothes to distinguish themselves
from the lower class. They did this by wearing more
elaborate designs and nicer materials, as well as
emphasizing their crotches with large codpieces. Yeah, that’s right. With no sports
cars to compensate, size mattered back then. No matter how they dressed, the
knights still had a job to do. But what was that job, exactly? Well, part of their
responsibilities included serving in their
lord’s private military. In some places like
England, knights exclusively protected the king, which
effectively made them the national military. Other places like France
allowed the nobles of the community to recruit
knights to protect them, making them more
like bodyguards. Regardless of who
they served, knights were expected to fight
for and carry out the orders of whomever
they swore an oath to. Just like Brienne of Tarth,
only with a slightly bigger codpiece. Sure, being a knight
was a profession, but they generally only
worked roughly 40 days a year. Like a lot of modern jobs,
there was a certain hurry up and wait attitude. Being a knight essentially
meant being on call. Being ready to go into battle
or escort their lord on journeys were expected, but in
reality, these duties were painless and over quickly. Knights had to be
on top of their game when they went to
battle, but they also had to make sure they
were always ready to go. And that came from
participating in tournaments. This started as them competing
in melees, mock battles where they would fight for prizes. Eventually, those evolved
into jousting matches. This later turned into
glorified equestrian pageants called carousels, which
you will recognize from your years of not wanting
to ride it at amusement parks in carnivals as a child. Someone has an issue
with carousels. Tournaments weren’t
open to just anyone. They were exclusively
for men of nobility. It was a great honor
to participate in them, so no one ever left
their invites unread. This was something that
they chose to do if asked. Since they had plenty
of time being on call, knights have lots
of opportunities to compete in tournaments and
to earn a little extra dough. They also had more time
to court the ladies. Over time, the supply
of knights shrank because not every night could
emerge victorious in battle. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] Look, you stupid bastard,
you’ve got no arms left. Yes, I have. Look. It’s just a flesh wound. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] Tony Stark had nothing
on medieval knights. With their imposing armor, a
knight looked impenetrable, and it was for arrows that
were fired in their direction. But the life of a
knight in battle wasn’t all arrow dodging. For the rest of their
duties, the full body armor weighing roughly 60 to 110
pounds was not very practical. Because they may as well have
been carrying an entire Fran Drescher on their back. This armor slowing
down the knights is part of the reason
many historians believe that some armies in the
14th and 15th centuries could have won several major
battles had they been wearing less bulky protection. They would have been more agile,
more energetic, and generally faster than the other armies
buried under similarly burdensome armor. Eventually, the
lesson was learned, and in the 16th century
found the soldiers trading in their stacks of
armor for attire that allowed them
to be more mobile. If you’ve been struggling with
what to do with your life, take comfort in the fact
that modern medicine allows you to live over triple
the life expectancy of people in medieval times. With less time, they
had to decide quickly on what their
life’s purpose was, because most people made it to
about the ripe old age of 30. Training to be a knight
could start as early as seven years old. So that meant they
could spend the next 14 years of their lives training. During those years,
they worked at being strong and impressive warriors. These years were
spent on horseback, learning archery, and
mastering the sword until they were proficient. A lot of training
montages later and they would be ready to achieve
knighthood at the age of 21. At this time, they would go
through a dubbing ceremony, where they would pledge their
loyalty to a particular lord. Bonus points if they decided
to write their lords’ names on their new notebooks
with hearts drawn next to it. Since this was the age
way before Apple TV, the nights were spent communally
as knights and noblemen found ways to entertain themselves. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] Drink. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] Generally, the after
dinner entertainment came from a minstrel, a
servant first employed as a castle or court musician. Some were known as
bards, although we don’t know if any
knights were lucky enough to be regaled by that bard. You know which one. But the knights
were often treated to ballads or long poems
based on myths or legends. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] (SINGING) Brave
Sir Robin ran away. No. (SINGING) Bravely
ran away, away. I didn’t. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] The Knights would spent
a lot of the nights entertaining each
other because– Knights didn’t exactly
get a good night’s sleep by our standards. Instead, they would
sleep in shifts. Some might get to sleep for
half the night and then wake up and pray, right? Or if they were really
lucky, have sex. But someone had to
stay up and keep watch. Most of us these
days would prefer to sleep for the whole night. But it appears that their
interrupted sleep schedules weren’t dangerous for them. Unless this was affecting
their 30 years life expectancy, who is to say? The life of a knight
wasn’t all battles and it wasn’t all pageantry, but
it was great work at the time if you could commit
to it at an early age. So what do you think? Would you have liked
to be a knight? Let us know in the
comments below. And while you’re at it, check
out some of these other videos from our Weird History.