Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Becoming a Knight: Then and Now

Becoming a knight in the middle ages was a long and difficult process that usually began when a noble boy turned 7 years old. The boy was then sent to live in the family of a relative or another vassal of their father's liege lord. Here he served as a page for about 7 years. He learned to wait on tables and did menial chores such as running errands and polishing armor. In some households, pages also attended school and learned to read, write and do sums.

When his voice started to change, the boy graduated from page to squire. Squires spent less time doing chores and more time training for warfare. Oftentimes their knights gave them horses and weaponry and had them ride into battle with them.

At the end of his training, the squire participated in an elaborate ceremony and "earned his spurs." He was now a knight.

He has no shining armor and he won't be riding a horse into battle, but my son John "earned his spurs" last Saturday when he graduated from West Point and joined the Long, Gray Line.

(Yes, I know that this picture is a proof and I'm not supposed to reproduce it. My son is a procrastinator when it comes to pictures.  I got this proof long after the invitations went out in the mail.  I have sent in the order for legal copies, and I hope the company will forgive me for not waiting for them to come before posting this.)

If you want to learn about what it is like to be a cadet at West Point, try the middle grade novel Battle Dress, by Amy Efaw. A West Point Class of 1989 graduate, Ms. Efaw provides an insider's look at what the first six weeks of training, better known as Beast, is like. Her protagonist, a brave and determined girl named Andi Davis, is screamed at, belittled, and worn down during the long, grueling training that is designed to break cadets and then rebuild them into soldiers.

If you want to learn about what it is like to be a squire or a page, try my novel On Fledgling Wings. Nathaniel Marshal is the spoiled and coddled son of a Somerset knight.  He is used to being able to bully everyone into doing things his way.  But when he leaves home to become a page, he enters a world where he is bullied and he must grow up quickly.

Jennifer Bohnhoff is a 7th grade social studies teacher and the author of three historical novels for middle grade readers.  You can learn more about her books and follow her blog at www.jenniferbohnhoff.com.

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