Shining Armour Throughout the Middle Ages. Throughout the Middle Ages, the knight in amour was considered to be the most powerful figure on the battle field. Every ambitious lad would have liked to have been one (but, for many ambitiuous lads, this was impossible: to be a knight, yotu had belong to the gentry).
These men were heroes. Their courage and skill at fighting had to be great. They were also supposed to be good men: men who defended the weak and helpless, who looked after women and children in times of danger. The rules that governed their behaviour were known as ‘chivalry’.
Edward III, especially, believed in chivalry. He founded the Order of the Garter in 1344. He created a court to make sure his knights behaved correctly, and he loved the bright colours of pageantry and tournaments.
A tournament was at once a sport and a means of training knights for their role in warfare. It had been invented by the French. During the 12th century, a tournament (in this case called a melee) was a mock battle between two sides. Unfortunately it was more dangerous than intended. Many were killed or wounded in these events.
Later, jousting was introduced. Two knights charged each other with levelled lances. The idea was to unseat the opponent. Henry II banned jousting; Richard I allowed it – but insisted on issuing licences for tournaments; Edward III loved it. Henry II of France also enjoyed it. Perhaps he was too enthusiastics; : he was killed in a bout.
Eventually, the casually rate was reduced by the introduction of blunt weapons and a code of rules. Special arena were built, and competitors (no one less than a knight was allowed to take part) were charged entry fees.
But there were changes afoot. While Edward III was encouraging tournaments and chivalry, he was also experimenting with the use of the cannon. Cannons needed gunpowder. The army now had gunpowder. Had the monarch thought about it, he might have realised that lances and longbows, swords and swashbuckling, were all out of date.
All sorts of things, including muskets, were now possible. After the Hundred Years War, battles would never be quite the same again. But Edward III was dead long before this happened. Read previous article: Henry V’s Campaigns taking people’s hearts English