Brutality and Blue Knights

Article excerpt

Knights were thugs, nothing but henchmen. In the 11th century, knights had a lot more in common with Tony Soprano than Sir Lancelot. Knights were given fiefs (land) by castellans, owners of illegally built castles. The knights used the proceeds from the fief to buy the weapons of the warrior class: horses, armor, swords, lances and extensive training. In exchange, the knights became hired muscle who used violence to persuade those who lived within a days' ride to pay fees and taxes and to perform unpaid labor.

Knights did not fight ogres and dragons. Instead, they were enforcers who brutalized defenseless peasants and townspeople. They robbed churches and beat their clerics. They oppressed women and children, especially widows and orphans. These feudal nobles beat farm animals and stole grain. Knights did not rescue damsels in distress. In fact, quite the opposite.

Noble violence was one of the great social problems of medieval society. Kings, counts and dukes (upper management) simply could not control the castellans and their knights (line officers). With the inability of the rulers to check them, local churches and court chaplains came up with a most unlikely approach...that the most brutal men in society would use their fighting skills only for good. The church set ideals and codes. Through written and spoken stories, they identified an entirely different character of what it meant to be a real knight. This was the beginning of the Chivalric Code.

The warring spirit of the feudal nobles was slowly redirected. …