What is Knight-service?

What is Knight-Service?

Knight-service was a type of feudal land tenure in which a knight received a fief or estate of land known as a knight’s fee (fee being identical with fief) from an overlord in exchange for providing military service for his overlord as a tenant.

Knight-service is a type of service that is rendered by a knight. Knights were originally mounted warriors who fought on horseback, but the term now covers all types of military and ceremonial service, including those who are not mounted.

The term knight-service can be traced back to the 12th century, when it was used to describe the service that a vassal owed his lord. A vassal was a person who was given a fief, or a piece of land, by his lord in return for pledges of loyalty and military service.

The nature of knight-service varied from one lord to another, but it typically involved providing troops for battle, guarding the lord’s castle, and performing other duties as


In the European feudal system, knight service consists of military responsibilities done in exchange for land tenures.

Military duty may be required for battles or expeditions, or it may just be for riding and escorting services or castle security.

A lord might either enfeoff (give a fief to) one man for direct and personal service or enfeoff someone who would bring additional knights with him. The number of knights provided was usually proportional to the size of the fief.

Initially, services and equipment were provided at the expense of the vassal.

The normal service duration was 40 days per year. In England, knight duty was reserved solely for the king. In France, though, the lower nobles might also claim such service and therefore attain immense personal authority.

Variations emerged as time passed. From the mid-12th century, fewer knights were summoned, although they frequently served for more than 40 days; service due was occasionally provided in scutage, a fee paid in place of service.

By 1300, the reduction in the role of cavalry, the increased employment of mercenaries, and tenant opposition had combined to significantly diminish the number of knights summoned from any fief.

Feudal Society and Knights

Western Europe had no countries after the fall of the Roman Empire. There were numerous tribes fighting for territory dominance, but there were no central governments or national armies.

The Frankish tribes took control of vast territories, and one Frankish king, Charlemagne (Charles the Great), ruled a large portion of Europe, from northern Spain and Italy to France, Germany, and Poland.

Charlemagne established a feudal system of government to control such a vast territory. The king owned all of the land in feudalism.

In exchange for loyalty, protection, and service, the king granted nobles (lords or barons) fiefs (portions of land). In exchange for military service, the king could also grant vassals (knights) fiefs.

Many knights were professional warriors in the lord’s army. In exchange, the lord gave the knight lodging, food, armor, weapons, horses, and money. Peasants, or serfs, farmed the land and provided wealth in the form of food and products to the vassal or lord.

Because the peasants were bound to the land, it was in the vassal’s best interest to keep invaders at bay. Fiefs – and the obligation to serve the king – were inherited by the ruling nobleman’s eldest son.

In the absence of a central authority, feudalism permitted huge provinces to be controlled. Each lord or vassal raised an army to defend his fief and to serve the king when necessary. One disadvantage of this arrangement was that the nobility wielded enormous influence since they controlled the military.

In fact, nobles frequently fought amongst themselves over lands.

Feudalism did provide a way for people to progress in society through military service and knighthood. Knights were gentry in the sense that they were above the peasants in society, but they were not necessarily part of the noble ruling classes or monarchy.

Knighthood was not a rank that could be inherited; it had to be achieved. As a result, it was an alluring way for a lord’s younger son to improve himself.

A knight could amass a wealth by receiving a grant of land from the king or by working as a paid professional in the service of a lord.

Incidents related to military service

Every knight’s principal task was to serve in the field when called upon, for forty days a year, with stipulated armor and arms.

There was, however, a long-standing disagreement about whether he might be called upon to do this service beyond the realm, and the issue of his expenditures was fraught with difficulty.

In addition to this primary responsibility, he was required to serve as castle ward in his lord’s main castle for a set number of days each year. Certain baronies were also tasked with providing knights for the guard of royal castles such as Windsor, Rockingham, and Dover.

The tenant under knight-service had the same economic duties to his lord that his lord had to the king under the feudal system.

These were:

  • Aids, which included the responsibility to ransom the lord if he was imprisoned, knighting the lord’s eldest son, and marrying the lord’s eldest daughter.
  • Relief, which he paid upon inheriting his estates.
  • Wardship, that is, the earnings from his estates while he is a minor (i.e., if the landholder is too young to manage the land).
  • Marriage, that is, the right to marry (unless bought off), his heiress, heir (if a minor), and widow.
  • First seisin.


The principle of exchanging the requirement of military service for money struck at the heart of the entire system, and the shift was so great that tenure by knight-service of a mesne lord became, first in actuality and then in law, tenure by escuage (i.e., scutage).

According to Bracton, by the time of Henry III, the test of tenure was scutage; subjection, however little, to scutage payment made the tenure military.

The system’s dissolution was accelerated in the latter half of the 13th century as a result of changes in warfare that increased the role of foot soldiers while making the service of a knight for forty days less valuable to the monarch. Instead of paying scutage, the barons compounded for their duty by paying flat payments, and by the reign of Edward I, the notional quotas of knight-service due from each had been much lowered.

The knight’s fee, on the other hand, remained a knight’s fee, and the monetary aspects of military tenure, particularly wardship, marriage, and fines on alienation, remained a source of revenue to the crown for a long time.

However, during the Restoration (1660), the Tenures Abolition Act 1660 eliminated tenure by knight-service, as well as these vexatious exactions.

What was the education of a knight in Medieval Europe?

A knight begins his training at a relatively young age, usually around the age of seven. The initial phase in this training was to train as a page.

The young knight-in-training was expected to master riding, the mace, dagger, lance, battle axe, and two-handed sword at this stage.

The page would display a certain spirit of service and obedience to his master, discipline, and loyalty to his lord. The training of a page was very similar to what was done for the training of a soldier in Ancient Rome.

The knight-in-training would serve as a squire under his father or his master and learn from them about all the duties of knighthood.

He would also be taught about the arduousness of military service and how it could affect him during his lifetime. He would learn about how a knight should behave and how to handle himself in a challenging situation. This training was designed to teach him all the skills of his role as a soldier and many of the skills he will learn in his lifetime.

At an early age, the young squire would learn, not only military skill but also horsemanship. He would be taught by his master and receive specialized training from different trainers around him, including masters in horse care, saddlery, weaponry and fighting.


What is Knight-service?

Knight-service is a term used to describe a type of feudal tenure under which the landholder was obligated to provide military service once a year. It is sometimes referred to as knight service in modern times, but this term can also be applied to other types of service.

Knight service was abolished in 1660 with the passage of the English Restoration of 1660; it had been rendered obsolete by the rise of professional fighting men armed with firearms by the mid-15th century.

What is the difference between regular service and knight-service?

Knight-service was a form of service which lasted for forty days a year (generally) and required military training.

Being a knight was akin to being a professional soldier, as knights were expected to train regularly, perform public services, provide their own arms and armor in addition to their feudal obligations. Regular service entailed working a fixed number of days in the annual feudal obligation, for example 60 days in the year.

What did knights do?

In battles, wars, and crusades, knights were regarded elite fighters, but when not in such situations, they mainly served as law enforcement officials for the local lord’s or queen’s court.

What did a knight get paid?

Charlemagne’s knights were handed grants of captured land, putting them on the fast track to fortune. They may also receive monetary or other valuable presents. Some knights, however, were not paid at all.

What are the duties of a knight?

A knight’s main duties include defending the king, his master, and the realm. Knights are usually asked to serve in a military capacity if the need arises. It is also the duty of a knight to defend his lord and other worthy causes.

What did knights receive in military service?

A knight receives an agreed upon payments, in the form of scutage, for military service. Keep and maintenance are also included as part of his compensation.

How much is a knight’s fee?

Knight’s fees were calculated based on the number of knights required to defend the land, not on the land’s value. It was expected that the knight would receive an annual income, which was worked out in advance, and this is what constituted the knight’s fee.

If two knights held land jointly, for example, for services of two knights and received an income of four pounds a year; this would be a fee of four pounds.

What are the benefits of knighthood?

Knights are entitled to use the prefix Sir before their given name and post-nominal letters after their last name in official documents (including passports) and public announcements. A knighthood also grants you a place in the United Kingdom’s formal order of precedence.

What are the privileges of a knight?

A knight was entitled to most of the same privileges as nobility, including some more uncommon ones.

How did knights treat peasants?

They demanded food as well as military duty from the peasants who lived on their grounds (fiefs). The knights had been a boisterous bunch, fighting for territory or revenge with zeal, destroying farms and killing peasants in the process.

At what age did knights retire?

There was no official retirement age for Knights and Man at Arms. Retirement was when they were too old and frail to battle any longer, which may be between the ages of 50 and 70. There have been knights as old as 60 who are still fighting.

As he aged, and after three years of retirement from active service, a knight could apply for a pension and retirement.

How much did knights earn?

The king’s knights tend to receive the most money for their military services. A royal knight will probably earn about twice as much as a noble knight.

What does a knight wear?

The most important aspect of a knight’s household is his arms and armor, without which he cannot function on the battlefield.

What was the most common type of sword?

The most popular weapon among knights was the longsword, which had a relatively small cross-piece in the middle. It was used in two-handed combat, either by pommel-hopping or plunging straight down.

The blade came to a point, meaning that it could be used for thrusting or slashing. The longsword was also very versatile; it could be used for both cutting and thrusting attacks.

Can peasants become knights?

It was simply not doable. If you were really gifted, you might be able to climb up a level or two in the social structure in a single generation, but moving from peasantry to nobility would most likely require a hundred years or more of steady success.

Who could knight someone?

A squire would become a knight at the age of twenty-one if he had demonstrated his bravery and ability in battle. During a “dubbing” ceremony, he received the title of knight.

During this ritual, he would kneel in front of another knight, lord, or monarch, who would then tap the squire on the shoulder with his sword, transforming him into a knight.

How much land would a knight own?

If a knight’s fee is considered co-terminus with a manor, an average size would be between 1,000 and 5,000 acres, much of which was “waste,” forest, and uncultivated moorland in early times.

How many people did it take to support a knight?

So the answer for the 13th century is also roughly 300 persons. In the 13th century, the minimal criteria for being termed a knight was the same as it was for a thane before the Conquest: 5 hydes of land and a church. In theory, a hyde of land (or its monetary value) could support one family.

How long would a knight’s armor last?

It is estimated that a set of armor, including chain mail and a helmet, could last for three to five years before being replaced.

What kind of relationship did knights have with the church?

A knight was supposed to be pious. The concepts of chivalry, manners, and education are tied to the church.

Knights were supposed to be defenders of the church, and some knights took their role very seriously. The vow to defend the Holy See was given dubious priority in practice at times, but a great many castles were built for defense against invaders.

Similar Posts