Concept of Knight Hood
The knights portrayed in The Song of Roland and Froissart’s Chronicles are both utilized as military assets but to varying degrees - Concept of Knight Hood introduction. In The Song of Roland, the knights of opposing France and Spain are specifically tied in military and religious aspects, whether they embrace pagan or Christian beliefs. The most honorable knights serve nt only as warriors but as a king’s most trusted ally. For instance, the most honorable knights of King Charles are apart of the Twelve Peers, which serve as his council. The knights of both countries are heroic, sharing common mannerisms and honor for each other on the battlefield (Medieval Chivalry). In a sense, all knights of The Song of Roland are apart of an international brotherhood.
Furthermore, the knights of France and Spain have common respect for each other, displaying awe in their enemy’s heroics. Throughout the battles, his pagan enemies repeatedly admire Roland the Count’s strength and courage. The result is evidence of how personal the fighting is between these enemies. Several pagan knights yearn to defeat and kill Roland in order to receive high honors and admiration by King Marsilion and fellow countrymen. Although the battles in The Song of Roland describe how violently the knights slay their enemies, the mutually shared mannerisms and respect remain the same. A pagan knight displays one brief example of deviant behavior, which disgracefully breaks the knight code and is scorned by Roland:
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Now Roland feels: someone taking his sword!
Opened his eyes and had one word for him:
“I don’t know you, you aren’t one of ours”;
……..…”You nobody! How could you dare
Lay hands on me – rightly or wrongly: how?
Who’ll hear of this and not call you a fool?”
In comparison, the role of knights in Froissart’s Chronicles is different. In the era of battles waged between England and France, the knights’ role declined from medieval chivalry to mere courtiers. The code of conduct regresses from powerful and courageous heroes to persons in service to the government. This is the result of the integration of new military practices, such as archers and the hiring of mercenaries. In return, knights primarily became warriors of the past. Although knights still fought in battles, countries during the Hundred Year War began to obtain standing armies rather than relying on knights for military purposes.
The knights’ role was further degraded when the commoners of England rebelled against the King’s officers. In The Song of Roland, knights were regarded as respectful Lords and defenders, although this was not evident of the knights in Froissart’s Chronicles. The people of England grew distasteful of the noblemen’s greed and therefore began to assemble to take action. The knight in the following passage submitted to the demands of the rebelling commoners: “And in their going they beat down and robbed houses of advocates and procurers of the king’s court and of the archbishop, and had mercy of none. And when they were come to Rochester, they had there good cheer; for the people of that town tarried for them, for they were of the same sect, and then they went to the castle there and took the knight that had the rule thereof, he was called sir John Newton, and they said to him: ‘Sir, it behoveth you to go with us and you shall be our sovereign captain and to do that we will have you” (66).
The time between The Song of Roland and Froissart’s Chronicles illustrates not only the degeneration of the role of knights, but also the change in warfare. Knights such as Roland and Malpramis were equipped with horses, lances, mail, shields, and swords. They were the primary sources of weaponry used. Divisions were created for larger armies but once fighting ensued, battles were scattered and barbaric. In The Song of Roland, it is a characteristic of opposing, heroic knights to battle one another.
The concept of warfare during Froissart’s Chronicles changes significantly. Archers present a powerful force in battles in which their artillery is able to disable the bulk of the opposing knights on horseback. Furthermore the popular, important, and heroic aspect of the knight is omitted and the focus of the battles is directed towards the seized townspeople and the poor class.
It is evident that the changing times have impacted the role of the knight. Warfare grew more complex with improved weaponry, such as the crossbow, which could disable enemies from a distance. Central government grew more organized and civil than it was in the Medieval Ages. In addition, religion became more moderate than during the times of the Crusades when knighthood was at its peak. Knighthood still remained a honorable status, but to a much lesser extent militarily.
Froissart, Jean. “The Chronicles of Froissart.” 1994. University of Virginia Library. Electronic Text Center. 16 Mar. 2009
Goldin, Frederick. The Song of Roland. 1st ed. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1978.