Knights during the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages wars was a nearly constant occurrence, especially during the High and Late Middle Ages. This necessitated the existence of powerful armies and military units to wage war. Medieval armies typically consisted of an assortment of knights, archers, crossbowmen, and infantry men to provide an extremely potent military unit capable of defending each others weaknesses. Of these three warriors(crossbowmen and archers are typically classes as ranged units) the medieval knight was easily the wealthiest and most powerful. This power stemmed from the appointments and gifts given to knights. In exchange for his promised military service a knight would receive a large fief or plot of land to do with as he pleased. This system, also known as Feudalism existed throughout Medieval Europe for an extensive period of time and allowed the knights to amass considerable wealth. This was done by renting the land of the manor to peasants and extracting high taxes of their crop yields when the season ended.
Additionally, warriors were able to sizeably expand their personal fortunes through rather questionable wartime actions. The medieval knights who preached a code of Chivalry in which they promised to protect women, the weak, their god and king from attack seemed to disregard this when speaking of the enemy. In fact it was common military procedure to aggressive pillage conquered cities and areas to loot them of their precious gold and goods. It was due to the this and the support of the Church that the powerful Knights Templar were able to amass sizable personal fortunes and become important players in the Middle Ages. It is from this desecration of the Islamic Holy Lands that the famed Templar treasure of unimaginable wealth is supposedly from.
Steps to Become a Medieval Knight
In order to become a knight their was only one main path. In order to do so one must be a noble blood, either the son(sorry ladies there was no equality yet) of a current knight or an influential noble personage. Before the process of formally becoming a knight could begin however the boy must learn some of the requirements and life at home. In doing this the parents would do their best to instill their boy with a sense of honor and purpose. This was done through educating him on the history and accomplishments of knights and making him see respect for his noble Liege Lord.
Additionally his training would commence with sword play where he could spar or practice with wooden swords and shields. Perhaps best of all were the tournaments of champions. The boys noble parents would of course wish to make their son excited about becoming a heroic knight, what better way to do this than a tournament. The competitive events of the Middle Ages, tournaments involved knights from far and wide competing in jousting, sword play, and other athletic endeavors to win prize and honor. What little boy wouldn't absolutely be in heaven from this.
Around the child's seventh or eighth birthday however it was time to move on to the next step in his journey towards knighthood. This was done by becoming a page to the Lord at the local castle. In doing this the boy acted as the servant of the household and helped the Lord in everyday chores. Luckily he was also able to bear his colors and assist him at tournament so pages were occasionally allowed to come.
The main course of a page's training however consisted of military and mental exercises. The boys would be trained in extensive sparring and wrestling techniques to strengthen themselves physically and mentally. One such drill involving striking at a swinging wooden dummy which would challenge a prospective knight's footwork and control. This reminds me of modern day boxing on a heavy or speed bag to improve muscle memory and technique. Pages were also instructed in the arts of literature, riding, history and religion to make the warrior a well rounded and educated man.
Around the boy's 14th or 15th birthday he is ready to become a man. For this the knight in training must become a squire and apprentice himself to a knight. As with his previous work, the privilege came with numerous annoyances such as dressing and feeding the knight, carrying his armor and caring for the knight's horse. All was not dull for the squire however. The master knight would train the young man in the art of warfare and killing. Squires honed their skill with a blade and lance and were allowed to train in true knight's armor. In addition to this the master would instruct the boy in advanced riding techniques and teach him the code of Chivalry and honor of the Medieval Knights.
Once the young man was deemed worthy by his master, typically after about seven years of service and training the squire was ready to ascend to knightdom. This amazing dubbing ceremony was performed after a night of purification and fasting to ensure the squire was ready to become a knight. The knighting would then take place in a Catholic Church where the priest would bless the knight and his sword. Then the master knight would lay his own sword upon the shoulders of the kneeling man and proclaim "Arise Sir Knight" and the man would stand a new man and a powerful knight. As with any momentous moment where family and friends gather there would be a celebration where food and drink were would readily consumed and the gathers made merry with joy and happiness.
Contrary to popular belief there exists one other way for a young man to become a knight. This occurs as a reward for extreme acts of courage and bravery on the battlefield and is similar to Medal of Valor or Purple Heart awards given to today's military men.