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The special honour bestowed upon a man by dubbing (when he is invested with the right to bear arms) or by admission to one of the orders of chivalry. In England the emergence of knighthood was slow (the Anglo-Saxon word cniht means ‘servant’). In the late 11th and early 12th centuries, knights were the lowest tier of those who held land in return for military service. During the 12th century their economic and social status improved, as society became more complex, and the market in free land developed. They became involved in local administration, and the new orders of knights, which emerged in Europe in the aftermath of the Crusades, helped to give them a distinct identity. First to appear were the military orders of the Knights Hospitallers (c.1070), the Knights of the Sepulchre (1113), and the Knights Templars (1118). Their potential for military colonization was best realized by the German Order of the Teutonic Knights (1190), which pushed eastwards on the frontiers with Poland and acquired Prussia for itself. The Order of the Livonian Knights gained similar successes along the Baltic. The Order of the Garter (1348) was England's first and most important order of knighthood, followed by the Order of the Bath (1399). France created the Order of the Star (1352), and Burgundy the Order of the Golden Fleece (1429).

Subjects: Military History.

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