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Given the situation in GPC 509, I'm wondering who could perform a knighting ceremony in medieval Western Europe.

My impression that it's sometimes a knight, sometimes a noble, sometimes a ruler. Usually the person has to be a man, but not always.

Can anyone please shed some light on the practice?

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Not an area I know an enormous amount about but some meagre thoughts:

There were no clear rules on this.  Or more accurately, there were rules, more than one of them, and they contradicted each other, because chivalry developed over time and was contested.  Initially, knights developed gradually out of mounted warriors attached to a nobleman — it’s more a matter of a certain kind of aristocratic warrior becoming identified as being in a special category, and it’s really fuzzy.  At what point does a leader giving arms formally to a follower — a ceremony that may have Germanic origins that go back to at least 100 A.D. — become “knighting” that follower?

At any rate, once chivalry existed as an idea, people (unsurprisingly) fought over who would control entry into this special category.  If you look at a book of chivalry like Lull or de Charny (which I have not read — this is based on references in stuff that talks about them), they will probably say something along the lines that only a knight could dub another knight.  However, ecclesiastical authors tried very hard to establish that no, only the Church could make a knight, and there are versions of the dubbing ceremony in which a priest does it.  It’s part of that great übertheme of medieval history, the power struggle between clergy and secular nobility.

Generally speaking, the knights won this one, and the Church lost, and the clearest overall rule of thumb across Europe is that being a knight is the minimum qualification for making a knight.  But the identity of the knight who dubs was very important: they were thought to be guaranteeing on their own honour the honour of the person they knighted.  (I like the stuff in 4e‘s Book of Knights in which you get additional Glory based on who knighted you.)

There’s a fun complication here: we talk as if the source material for Pendragon “reflects” medieval ideas, but that’s not actually the case.  Chivalric romance was one of the main things that helped develop the idea of chivalry and then spread it — it’s not something that passively reflected a set of standard ideas, but something that actively shaped them.

What a knight was could be quite different in different places: in the more dynamic world of medieval Italian cities, you might find commoner knights from quite low social origins (something which could be adapted for urban “Roman” knights, those rather unconvincing figures, in Pendragon), while in Germany you have ministeriales, unfree knights whose legal position was not unlike that of serfs elsewhere (but who were of course not very much like serfs at all from a social standpoint).  

Yet calling all these people “knights” is however basically accurate in an important sense, because they self-defined as that, basing their sense of who they were by importing what were essentially a set of ideas that were developed in what is now France, but are ultimately something that can be found in recognizably similar forms across a wide area.  This spread of chivalry didn’t happen solely through the medium of the stories of Chrétien and others.  (Obviously, in England, the main thing that happened was that Normans conquered the place and brought the way that people were thinking in what is now northern France with them.)  

In the Vulgate, for instance, when Lancelot works out a way to be knighted by Guenevere, should we read that as “reflecting” a standard unsurprising assumption that a woman can knight?  Or, in light of categorical statements that only a knight (implicitly, a man) can knight, should we read that as part of the process by which the author is staking a position on how knighthood should be understood, that it’s meant to strike the reader as a bold departure from expectations, a statement about how important love is.  I’m not a specialist in medieval literature, but I’d have to wonder if the second is at least possible.

Most of the above comes from Maurice Keen’s Chivalry, which is where I’d start looking for more information.   My local university library is closed, so I don’t have access to a copy.

Edited by Voord 99
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As far as I know, Knights could knight people on the battlefield.

Kings who were knighted could, in the same way, knight people. However, the power moved from Knights to Kings when knighthood became merely a recognition of lesser nobility.

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The answer depends on when we are speaking about.

During Uther and Anarchy and Boy King - any LANDED KNIGHT or Landed Greater Lord could make a knight. IE: Countess Ellen of Salisbury could knight someone as well as any of her landed knight, but a random household knight could not do so. The exception would be on the field of battle, where any knight could do it.

From the Conquest period forward, you begin to see ability to create a knight codified/solidified into being only the Greater Landed Lords (Baron/Count/etc) or higher, and by the time we reach the Grail period, a landed knight CANNOT make a knight.


Note that this is NOT codified within the Pendragon game, nor within the GPC, but rather is how it was "historically".

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Thanks for your responses, everyone.

I suppose what has me confused is GPC SPOILERS...

... the situation in 509.

I'm trying to figure out whether this is just a matter of the countess not being able to knight, or the specifics of that particular situation. Given that many of my second-generation PKs will be knightable then, I wanted to know to whom they would owe that status.

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Deleted my earlier thoughts after consulting the GPC and seeing exactly when Robert is knighted.

Robert is knighted in 509.  If you’re sticking with that, the answer to whom they would owe that status would naturally be to him, as he would presumably knight any new knights in that year. 

I’d probably play up that this bond is unquestionable, even if their homage and fealty to him is not.  As a knight, Robert can knight, whether or not he is really the count, and the relationship between a knight and the knight who knighted him is special.  Especially if one of the father PKs knights Robert, as the GPC suggests.  Robert then proceeds to knight that PK’s son as his own first act as a knight.  Not a dry eye in the house. 🙂

It’s more interesting in 496-508, when there would be no obvious single person, and new PKs have to ask knights for the honor.  Whom they choose to ask in that period would send messages.  Although as Robert’s knighting approaches, it becomes feasible to delay one’s own knighting until he can do it.

Edited by Voord 99
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