The Knight: A Portrait of Europe's Warrior Eliteby Alan Baker
From the thunderous cavalry charge mounted to the firm recital of a solemn vow and the gentle murmurings of courtly love, echoes of the medieval knight live in the modern imagination as enduring symbols of courage, adventure, romance, and honor. But what was the knight’s life really like? How was he selected and trained? Did the knight keep his vows? How did he make a living?
The Knight plunges you into the glorious world of the Middle Ages and reveals the truth behind the countless legends of knightly valor and chivalry. Through true stories that recount major and minor events of the period, author Alan Baker creates a vivid portrait of medieval culture and offers penetrating insights into the life and times of the knight in shining armor.
You’ll learn about the complex role of the knight in Europe’s feudal society, meet the young men who attended to the knight’s needs as they trained to become knights themselves, and thrill to jousting tournaments, pageants, and the raucous banquets of the age. You’ll follow the knight’s day-to-day life as he perfected his military skills, paid obeisance to his liege-lord, and oversaw the work of surfs and peasants whose labor provided the substantial wealth required to subsidize his profession.
You’ll also discover the intricacies of the chivalric code, which encouraged compassion, gallantry, and sometimes ridiculous behavior on the battlefield and off–and you’ll witness the horrifying cruelty of those who broke the code. Meet Sir Oliver de Mauny, who swam the moat of his besieged castle to do battle with an enemy and win a bag of partridges, and listen as an English knight begs his king to spare the lives of their most hated enemies. Gallop into battle with Duke Godfrey of Bouillon, the courtly knight who led the armies of Christendom in the first Crusade, and watch in horror as he carries out one of the most brutal massacres in history.
To preserve his life and honor on the chaotic battlefields of the Middle Ages, the knight required weapons and equipment of the very highest quality. You’ll find detailed descriptions of medieval weapons and the technology that produced them, trace the many changes and innovations in body armor through the centuries, and discover surprising facts about the legendary war horses of the era. You’ll also take an intriguing tour of the medieval castle; discover its multiple functions; and examine the advances in both castle building and siegecraft that continued throughout the era.
Punctuated with dramatic recreations of great battles, grim sieges, and one-on-one combat, this fast-paced account of history’s most glamorized warrior takes you straight to the throbbing heart of the age of chivalry. You may cringe, you may shout in triumph, you may yearn for days gone by, but you will never forget The Knight.
You couldn't throw a brick during the Middle Ages without having it land in one battle or another, typically a princely turf squabble, though the size might increase anywhere up to a crusade. Into these frays rode the knight upon his battle horse, and Baker (The Gladiator, 2001) tells his readers how such near-mythic beings were groomed and ordained and what vows they took in military service to the liege lord. If there is a certain colorlessness to Baker's writing, it nonetheless offers gobbets of hard information and stories to give it life. The author first takes on the feudal system and breaks it down into regions, thereby giving a taste of the localized character of the period's political, economic, and military power structure. He explains the purpose of jousting tournaments and describes a weeklong jousting challenge that took place in France. The development of weaponry is covered, as are castle architecture and foodstuffs, from the great feasts with entrees of swan and porpoise, to the humble beans and peas that were the daily fare of page and squire. Baker captures the nature of siege warfare through stories of the great operations against Antioch, Nicaea, and the castle of Richard the Lionhearted. He lavishes considerable time on the knights and their relationship to the crusades, in part because notions of virtue and honor are inextricably entangled with the recapture of the Holy Land, and the religious aspects of courtly love came to be identified with knighthood. Finally came the decline: when mercenaries took over the knight's role, and gunpowder spelled the end of swordplay and lancework.
A blessing for any fancier of knights, from the smitten 12-year-old to the older guy who can't believe his bad luck at having been born 900 years too late. ("Kirkus Reviews," December 15, 2002)
..".of interest to the researcher and casual rea
- Turner Publishing Company
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Meet the Author
ALAN BAKER is the author of four previous books, including The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome’s Warrior Slaves. He is currently working on his next book, The Viking, coming soon from Wiley.
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