Weird History
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What It Was Actually Like To Be A Knight During Medieval Times

Updated March 1, 2019 265.3k views12 items

Many have imagined going back in time and becoming a real medieval knight or lady. Life for knights is assumed to have been brimming with jousting, courting, and slaying dragons. However, most of this isn't true. Jousting took some time to become popular, chivalry was a list of rules about whom not to abuse, and dragons didn't exist.

Much of a knight's life involved sitting around waiting for the next war to happen. When they did don their shining armor for battle, the gear was likely so bulky and heavy that the knights might have been better off with nothing at all. 

Even if the daily life of a knight wasn't as glamorous as we initially believed, it still offers insight into medieval lives and times.

Photo:
  • Photo: Master of Jacques de Besançon / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Most Days Began With Mass

    In medieval Europe, almost everyone was Catholic. Whether they truly believed in the religion was irrelevant. All people — and especially those in higher authority such as knights — had to adhere to daily religious duties. Knights started each day with a mid-morning mass at the local church. Presumably, this helped center them so they could start their day on the right foot.

  • Photo: F. P. Stephanoff/Chas. Heath / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    They Were Chivalrous, Sort Of

    Most people have heard about how knights adhered to a code of chivalry. Many tend to imagine chivalry in a courtly sense, with knights being polite to women. The system was actually more often a way to keep belligerent knights in line.

    One set of chivalry rules, for example, addressed seemingly straightforward situations, which included refraining from these activities: beating up priests; stealing livestock; robbing, killing, or kidnapping random people; burning down houses for no reason; and assaulting women.

  • Photo: Circle of Jan Baptist Saive (II) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Meals Were Mostly Meat

    Modern science has made us aware of our food's nutritional value, but people in the Middle Ages didn't know much about what they ate. Their diets consisted primarily of meat and bread, in part because they liked it, but also because they thought that vegetables were poisonous.

    Meat was expensive for the common person, so knights likely had more access to meat products than the average serf did. They then had to determine if the meat they bought from the market was safe to eat.

  • Photo: Paul Mercuri / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Many Knights Cared A Great Deal About Fashion

    Fashion in the Middle Ages wasn't like it is now. Laws placed restrictions on the kinds of clothes people could wear. Serfs, for example, could only spend so much money on clothes because noble people, like knights, wanted to ensure they dressed better than ordinary folk.

    Knights had to be fashionable to distinguish themselves from the class below them, so they wore elaborate and fancy garbs. They also enjoyed emphasizing their crotch with large codpieces