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Southern Magic - History Tidbits

The Good Knight

By Carla Swafford

Just think, you're a five-year-old boy and held hostage as a guarantee for your father's good behavior. But what happens? Your father breaks the truce, the king is stomping around in outrage and threatens to kill you at the gates of your father's castle. Surely, your father will repent and soothe the king's anger? No! Instead, your father brags that he still has "the hammer and the forge to produce another such, even finer." You are the fourth of six sons.

As you can imagine, the king is more determined to punish this defiant vassal, and orders a large siege catapult rolled to the battle lines. You are placed in the catapult's basket to be hurled onto the stone wall, but you laughingly ask the king's men, what type of game they are playing. Thankfully, the king cannot go through with killing you and keeps you as forfeit for your father's betrayal. You are?

William the Marshall. Born about 1144 and died 1219. William was knighted 1164. At age 21, he began service in the royal household after proving his bravery to Queen Eleanor. During his long lifetime, he won 500 tournaments and knighted two kings. His last words were humble as the man himself, "I am dying. I commend you to God. I can no longer remain with you. I cannot defend myself from death."

For a knight, during William's time, the tournament was not just a means to impress the ladies, but earn a living and advertise his strength and skills. This was all done in the hope of winning a place in a wealthy lord's household. A knight's expenses were great. He would need three horses, one for his baggage, another for travel, and a war-horse for battle. Then he would need a hauberk and leggings made of chain mail. Under the chain mail he wore a padded shirt called a gambeson and camise. On his feet, heavy leather boots reinforced with metal and spurs at his heels. Over the hauberk a sleevless surcoat and a long rich cloak of a gentleman. He would also need several styles of headgear for battle, tournaments, and travel, along with a "fish-tail" pommel sword and a long lance. All this together might cost an ordinary peasant a hundred years' worth of wages.


Taken from Magic Moments - November 1999 Volume 2/Issue 11