The Squire – a Knight in Training

At about the age of 14 if the page had made satisfactory progress he became a squire and, if he belonged to, or served in, a wealthy family, he put on silver spurs as a sign of his new status. As a squire, he had the right to carry a shield emblazoned with armorial bearings and to wear a helmet like a knight’s.

At this stage of his training, he was placed with a knight who continued his education and treated him as a kind of companion and general servant. A good deal of his time was spent cleaning his own and his master’s armour. He also helped his knight to dress and undress, made his bed and looked after his clothes. Each evening he took him a glass of spiced wine and slept across the doorway to his bechamber to protect him from sudden attack.

As a knight in training, the squire learnt to leap into the saddle without touching the stirrups and to guide his horse by pressing its flanks with his knees and heels. He built up his strength by wrestling and running and jumping. He practised wielding his heavy weapons until he could fight for long periods without becoming exhausted.

At the opening of tournaments, the squire rode before his knight, holding his helm in his left hand and his tilting lance in his right. If his knight was successful, the squire guarded his prisoners until they were ransomed.

In the early stages of a battle, he rode beside his knight carrying his shield and gauntlets. During the fighting it was the squire’s duty to aid his master should he get into difficulties. For example, if his knight was unhorsed, the squire fetched him another charger of offered him his own mount. When his knight was hurt, he helped him from the battlefield and bound up his wounds. The squire treated wounds that would not stop bleeding with a red-hot sword or dagger, heated in the fire. This stopped the bleeding and covered the wound with a scab so that it could heal. If, however, a knight was killed, his squire made sure that he was property buried and that his mater’s feudal lord was informed.

As a member of the noble class, the squire was expected to learn the arts of civilized behaviour. He had to be able to make conversation and to entertain his master’s guests. He learnt to play draughts, chess and other games. If he wanted to be a social success he had to be able to dance, sing and play music skilfully. A gallant young man dressed in the height of fashion with a fine tunic that was embroidered all over with red and white flowers and had long, wide sleeves. Such an elegant young man could hope to catch the eyes of the ladies.

By the time a squire reached the age of 21, he was qualified to become a knight. However, he could only advance to this honour if he had sufficient land or money to enable him to carry out the duties of a knight. As a result, many squires never achieved knighthood.

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