The squire was a young servant to a knight and someone who one day hoped to become a knight himself. The job of squire was almost like that of a modern-day apprentice. A squire was expected to act as an assistant to the knight he worked for and in doing so, learn about the life of a knight first-hand and about the skills and responsibilities of this position. Whilst working for his knight, a squire had different jobs to learn and many of these could only be obtained by observing the knight go about his daily life. The squire’s job was to took care of the horse and armor of the knight to whom he served, followed him in battles and tournaments and gaining the first experience in battle.
Maintaining the knight’s armour and looking after his horse were important training for when the squire was eventually out on a battlefield, as a knight. The squire was expected to be with his knight throughout the day, helping him to dress, serving him at table, running errands and messages and sleeping by his door at night, ready to help fight off any intruders. The first step for a boy to become a knight was when he was sent to live with another household before the age of ten, working as a page. In his new home, he learnt the skills of horse riding, sword play, reading, writing and court etiquette. All these were training, both physical and mental, for his future role as a squire, and then a knight.
By the age of 14, the young nobleman stayed in the noble court, where he gained basic knightly education. The knight would only become in the age of majority (usually when he was in 21 years of age) or after the heroic battle. A squire’s training was partly gained through watching his knight in action and partly obtained by practising skills such as sword play, horsemanship and etiquette with other young squires.
Some squires never became knights, if they were unable to afford the expense of maintaining a horse and armour and these men could attain instead the title ‘arma patrina’, which was a courtesy title for aged knights or those who could not pay to become knights.
Generally, a squire could expect to attain the status of knight after satisfactory progress for seven years. However, in exceptional circumstances, for example, when a squire had performed heroically during a siege at his castle, or on the battlefield accompanying his knight, he could become a knight at an earlier age. In XII and XIII century the ritual of receiving a knight’s stallion was related to the Church’s rituals. Prepared for prayer during which he would give an oath to preserve Christian and knightly values, a knightly trainee after worship was dressed in knightly carcass. Squire get the knightly signs (sword and spurs) and knelt in front of the ruler, prince or some prominent nobelman who would then hit him with a three-pointed sword and pronounced a sentence (eg Sois chevalier !: Be a knight!). In the war the ceremony was limited to the act of kicking the sword. There were also the procedures for which the knight had lost this honor for the great offenses were prescribed.
The medieval knight is one of the most well-known figures in medieval life. He gained his position by years of hard work and dedication and, despite the glamorous image of the role, it was a responsible and difficult role.
- Gravett, Christopher, Turner, Graham English Medieval Knight 1300 – 1400 [Osprey, 2002]
- Jones, Terry Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary [Methuen, 1994]