The Page – a Military Apprentice

In the Middle Ages, some of the boys destined to become knights trained from early childhood in the knightly arts. The first stage in their military apprenticeship was served as a page in a noble’s household. A page learnt not only about military matters but also about honour and courteous behaviour, especially towards women.

The son of a knight spent his earliest years with his nurse and the other women in the castle. During this time, he learnt something about manners and how to behave. Sometimes he was taught to read but rarely to write. In addition, he started to learn to sing and play a musical instrument. The turning point in his life came when he was given his first pony. He was taught to look after horses and to ride them expertly.

When he was about seven or eight, he was sent away from home to be a page at the court of the king or some great lord. A page’s main duties were to run errands, help the lady of the household with her duties, learn to come when he was called and to wait patiently when there was nothing for him to do. As he grew older he was trained in the use of weapons, especially the sword and bow. He learnt to handle a lance by tilting at the quintain. The quintain was an upright post with a pivoted crossbar. There was a shield on one end of the bar and a heavy sack on the other. The idea was for the page to ride full speed or tilt at the quintain, hit the shield a resounding blow with his lance and duck under the swinging sack. The unfortunate beginner was usually swept out of the saddle time after time by the swinging sack, but this was all part of the training.

The page also started to learn the art of venery or hunting. He had to be able to recognise the spoor, the footmarks, and the fewmets, the droppings, of the forest animals so that he could track them to their lairs. To find his way safely through dense forest, he had to know how to follow and leave a trail.

Medieval men admired the courage and faithfulness of their dogs. Each lord had a dogboy who lived with the hounds in their kennels, learnt their characteristics and looked after them in every way. The page too had to know the ways of dogs so that he could get the best out of them when hunting.

A knowledge of falconry and hawking was also part of his education. Falcons and hawks are birds of prey which can be taught to hunt game for their masters. Medieval falconers trained their hunting birds to come to a lure (a dummy bird containing a piece of meat which was whirled around on the end of a piece of rope. Except during hunting, these fierce birds were kept hooded and had tiny bells attached to their legs so that their every movement could be heard.

Pages spent a good deal of their time hunting or waiting upon the huntsman. Anything that could run or fly was hunted by the members of the knightly class with the greatest enthusiasm.

The Rise of the Knight

The European Middle Ages between 800 and 1450 AD were dominated by the knight. In war, he was a skilled fighter and an armoured horse-soldier. In peacetime, he was a landowner and a ruler of men. The knight appeared at a time of great violence and bloodshed when Western Europe was attacked by the Vikings from Scandinavia in the North and West; by the Arabs from Africa in the South and by the Magyars from the Steppes of Asia in the East. The forefathers of the men who defended Europe against these fierce, ruthless invaders had seized their lands from the Romans some centuries earlier. Now it was the turn of the medieval Europeans to stand and defend these same countries.

knight

The Europeans’ main weapon against the invaders were horse-solders or cavalry. The idea of cavalry was not a new one. The Ancient Greeks and Romans had used horse-soldiers but they had never taken the place of their heavily armed foot-soldiers, or infantry, because they could not charge the packed ranks of the enemy’s foot-soldiers effectively.

Before the invention of stirrups, cavalrymen had the greatest difficulty fighting on horseback. If they wore heavy armour, they were likely to lose their balance. If they charged their enemies with their spears extended in fron of them, they were likely to be swept from the saddle by the impact. But with stirrups, the medieval knights were able to do combat sitting firmly in their saddles.

Historians think that stirrups were invented in China at the end of the fifth century AD, but it took a long time for news of their use to reach the west. However, once the Europeans started using stirrups, other developments followed rapidly. Long pointed shields were designed to cover the whole of the body and cavalrymen learnt to gallop at top speed into their enemies and stab them with their spears instead of throwing them. Their horses were shod with metal shoes so that they could travel over the roughest ground without splitting their hooves. It was possible for a rider to wear heavy armour without losing his balance when leaning forward or backwards.

The day of the infantryman was over, and the day of the cavalryman or knight had come.

As a knight’s armour and war-horse were so expensive some means of paying for them had to be worked out. Instead of hiring and equipping ordinary soldiers, the medieval kings preferred to give away part of their lands to their followers. They governed the estates for their king and supplied him with soldiers whenever he needed them. This brought into being a new system of landholding. It was called the feudal system and it produced a new kind of soldier, the knight.

The City of Ember

The City of EmberThe City of Ember (The First Book of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau is a young adult novel. It could be a prediction for today’s world, and this book is set in the future. It’s not science fiction and it’s not fantasy, it’s a story that is engaging and well thought out.

It’s about a city built beneath the ground by The Builders. We are not told why, but we can guess. The story picks up many hundreds of years after the people are left in the city of darkness. The generator is beginning to fail. The food is starting to dwindle. The people are beginning to lose hope. How can anyone leave the city where light bulbs light their way and walk into the darkness when there is no such thing as a hand-held light. What will the people of Ember do when the generator stops and will not start up again? Read the book to find out. You won’t be disappointed. I enjoyed it. Thank you for the recommendation, Sherry.

The next book on my reading list is Bellwether by Connie Willis. I love this author’s previous writing, so I’m hoping this story will be as good. The cover and the blurb are not something that would normally attract me to a book. I’ve decided to read the book for no other reason than I like the author.

Official Opening

Now that everything seems to be working correctly, I would like to officially welcome you to my new domain. All attempts to reach the old domain will still land you on my door step, so all is well. However, if you have been kind enough to place a link on your website, I would appreciate it if you could update the url at your earliest convenience.

Now that the site is officially open, I am hoping to be inspired to find my way back into writing more posts and into the craft of writing itself.

Touch Down!

Welcome to karenleefield.com

This is an exciting time for me. It’s the first step to many changes that are being made to all my internet communities. To celebrate my new domain name, I will shortly be implimenting a new theme – tried and tested on my test site. I hope the effects I have there, will come through to here too.

So…without delaying any further, I’m of to upload the new theme. Hopefully, it won’t take long, but if you arrive here in the middle of the decorating, please do not be alarmed and I hope you enjoy the shift through the scenes that will happen so that the new template can be put in place.

UserOnline Plugin

I used to use a third party website to tell me how many people were browsing this blog. However, it often stopped the page from loading quickly and I felt that was a disadvantage as we do live in an “instant” world. No one is prepared to wait for anything these days.

Today, I found a UserOnline Plugin for WordPress. The plugin is easy to install. I had to mess with the coding a tiny bit so that it integrated with this theme, but that only took a minute or two. Now, I have an indication of how many people are online and it’s not going to slow anything down because it’s part of this website. And…if you follow the link, you’ll be amazed by the number of bots doing their thing.

Edit (some weeks later): This plugin has since been removed as it was playing havoc with my pages.

Update on “Untitled”

I thought I was capable of writing a story; this story in particular, but I’m not. I can’t concentrate. The ideas swim in and are washed away much to fast. It’s like my mind is playing tricks on me, but this is my new reality.

In other words, the story is not progressing. I haven’t abandoned it, but have doubts about reaching the end (or even the middle). I’ll keep you posted on how I’m going.

No Working Title

As discussed yesterday (I think), maybe it was the day before, I started writing a new short story. At present, it has no title, but that will come later…I hope.

The first 250 words is based on the worst moment of my life, but isn’t completely true. I’ve changed some details to fit with where the story is heading. After that, it’s completely made up. Although I won’t share the details here, I can tell you that it’s heading in a dark direction. I think this is going to be a horror story. In fact, I know it is.

The story is NOT therapy for me. It’s just a story. It is exploring a recurring thought I’ve had over the past seven weeks. I don’t know why this thought keeps coming back, but I felt that maybe I should look into it and what better way to do so than by telling a story.

I have noticed that my writing is jarred, fragmented. This reflects the way my mind is working at the moment. It will be interesting to read the end result.