The Knight: A Portrait of Europe's Warrior Elite

Overview

An up-close introduction to the most admired warriors in history

"They mounted their horses, grasped the lances made of fine Bordeaux Steel, closed the visors of their helmets, and made their way to their stations for the first course. Spurring their horses on, they advanced toward each other at full gallop, lowering their lances as they approached. The tip of Clifford’s lance caught Boucmel high on his breastplate and was deflected off . . . directly into the young squire’s ...

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Overview

An up-close introduction to the most admired warriors in history

"They mounted their horses, grasped the lances made of fine Bordeaux Steel, closed the visors of their helmets, and made their way to their stations for the first course. Spurring their horses on, they advanced toward each other at full gallop, lowering their lances as they approached. The tip of Clifford’s lance caught Boucmel high on his breastplate and was deflected off . . . directly into the young squire’s mail hood, piercing his neck clean through."

This tragic account of an ambitious young Frenchman’s senseless death during a "friendly" joust with an English knight underscores the ever-present danger that stalked the flower of European youth in the Middle Ages. In The Knight, you’ll meet John Boucmel, Nicholas Clifford, and scores of other warriors who risked their lives to fill the medieval lists and battlefields in a relentless quest for fame, glory, and victory.

This vivid, fast-paced narrative whisks you from the blood-soaked fields of Normandy in the Hundred Years’ War to the battered walls of Jerusalem in the first Crusade, from a sumptuous feast in an English castle to the pomp and pageantry of a spectacular thirty-day jousting tournament. You’ll discover how knights were trained; how they paid for their expensive weapons, armor, and horses; and how the solemn vows they took influenced their behavior both on and off the battlefield. Discover the truth behind the countless legends of the Age of Chivalry in The Knight.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Attempting to cover the entire history of the horseback fighter from the late Dark Ages to the Renaissance, Alan Baker (The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome's Warrior Slaves) is forced to limit itself to selected high points in The Knight: A Portrait of Europe's Warrior Elite. A good part of the chapter on castles and siegecraft, for example, is devoted to a somewhat Anglocentric history of fortification in the British Isles, before providing a solid account of the classic siege of Chateau Gaillard in 1204. Similarly, the chapter called "The Fall of Jerusalem" does not go beyond the First Crusade-though the account is useful, as is the biography of Godfrey of Bouillion. The chapter on the knight's equipment is oversimplified (although many of the controversies covered could not be resolved in a six-volume work), but balancing this is the fine account of the tournament at St. Inglevert, in which most of those weapons were called into play without anyone being killed. Indeed, the real strength of the book is its rummaging out anecdotes about knightly prowess from chronicles not available in most libraries.
Kirkus Reviews
A brisk, fact-filled introduction to the elements of knighthood and its evolution in the 11th through 15th centuries. 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 entrées 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 theend 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620457122
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 2/4/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1
The Mounted Warrior
Chapter 2
From Blood to Laughter
Chapter 3
The Knight's Equipment
Chapter 4
Love and War
Chapter 5
Castles and Siegecraft
Chapter 6
The Fall of Jerusalem
Chapter 7
Warriors of Christ
Chapter 8
Mercenaries
Conclusion: From Lance to Firearm
Glossary
Bibliography and Suggested Further Reading
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