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Aoife the Celt

The Norman Knight

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The Norman Knight

 

A Norman Knight, also known as Knight of Normandie, or Chevalier de Normandie, is a member of an age-old warrior tradition which is heavily interwoven in the feudal culture of the Duchy of Normandie. Knights do since times ancient beyond the memory of woman occupy a social standing between that of Udalfolk and (Arch)nobles. Contrary to the (Arch)nobility, the knightly rank is not hereditary and it is therefore possible for any Norman to become a knight. Norman Knights are entitled to the honorific of "Dame", in case of a lady knight, of and "Sir", if such knight is male.

 

Since time immemorial the Duchy of Normandie is, together with the Duchy of Port Chloe and the Providence Plantations, the heart of knightly tradition in the Lands of the Longships Throne and is one of those places within the borders of the Twenty-Six Jarldoms where knighthood is most universally esteemed.

 

Knights of Normandie are expecteded to be brave, courageous, honourable, and true to their word. They should be loyal to their feudal overlord, adhere to the Norman Code of Chivalry, and are tasked with defending their faith. In practice, there some knights who fall short of sustaining such high and noble ideals. Several do not try particularly hard, and instead seek knighthood mainly for the prestige and opportunities.

 

The High Realm of Stormark owes the Chevaliers de Normandie a tremendous debt of honour for it was their cavalry charge in the later stages of Battle of Myrkviðr, the largest in the history of Reikistjarna, which saved Stormark from utter destruction. Their charge was led by High King Harald, who at the time was the Count of Quercy in the Duchy of Normandie, and it commenced at the very moment that the Storish shieldwall on top on Mount Myrkviðr was at the verge of breaking, after hours of battering attacks by the Harkalegar. The cavalry charge aforesaid tipped the scales in favour of the Army of Stormark and led to the crushing defeat and annihillation of the Harkalegar.

 

Traditionally, skill at arms was the most important aspect of knighthood. Norman Knights were expected to fight wherever and whenever there was a need for them. They traditionally fought as heavy cavalry, wearing mail hauberks - which were over time supplanted by plate armour - and fighting from horseback with lance, sword and shield. Some of them chose to fight with other weapons such as axes, hammers, and spears as well. Each knight owned at least one horse, and typically own two: a fierce warhorse with an ill temper and a much milder horse for daily riding.

 

Today, the Knights of Normandie, except for those employed in the armed forces, fight solely at tournaments, which are very important social events in the Knightly Jarldom. Such tourneys are held on a regular basis. Rules governing such tournaments as well as knighthood requirements have always been much more stringent in Normandie than anywhere else in the High Realm, save for Port Chloe and the Providence Plantations.

 

Since times ancient beyond the memory of woman, the Chevaliers de Normandie have displayed zir coat-of-arms on their shield and surcoat to identify themselves. They generally wear their family arms. Those knights who do not have family arms, or do not wish to use them, are free to create their own. These personal arms often portray the manner in which such individual achieved knighthood or have some other personal significance. Many Norman Knights nowadays wear large crests on their helms that embellish the theme of their arms. Rich knights often seek to further distinguish themselves by wearing ornate weapons and armor. Lacquered or jeweled armor and capes of exotic fabrics are some ways that those knights can flaunt their status and wealth.

 

In accordance with the venerable traditions and ancient customs of the Duchy of Normandie, the process of becoming a Knight of Normandie has three stages:

  1. Page. A youngster that becomes a page is attached to a knight, who becomes the youngster's master/mistress. The willing offsring of many nobles and knights are sent to foster with relatives or allies, while other pages serve their own folks. The page performs simple errands for the knight, who in turn begins to train the youngster in vital skills, such as jousting and swordsmanship. Typical training involves sparring with blunted weapons and tilting at rings.
  2. Écuyer. When a youngster reaches adolescence, (s)he graduates to being an écuyer. Écuyers learn how to properly care for and use weapons, armor, and horses as well as learning about the ancient code of conduct known as Norman Chivalry. In past times of war squires joined their masters in such armed conflict, assisting them with zir equipment and fighting by their side in battles. Some écuyers choose to never become a full knight, and live the rest of zir lives as écuyers. This may be because the individual does not have the inclination to live a knight's martial lifestyle, or does not have the funds to properly equip zirself.
  3. Chevalier. Since times ancient beyond the memory of woman any Chevalier de Normandie has, under the Coutumes de Normandie, which is the body of ancient law and custom of the Duchy of Normandie, the power to proclaim another individual a knight for whatever reason (s)he chooses. This usually happens when a écuyer has reached adulthood and zir master/mistress judges zie worthy of accepting the responsibilities of a knight. A person who has not been raised in the knightly tradition can also be made a Knight of Normandie as a reward for service. This is often granted to soldiers or other Udalfolk who have shown bravery or performed a great feat. Knighthood is considered very valuable to the Udalfolk, as it raises a Udallers's social standing. Knighthood is seen as primarily a martial position, so even the sons of powerful magnates are not necessarily knighted if they are incapable of fulfilling the requirements. Doing otherwise would lose honour rather than gain it, and would make a knight and zir family be held up to ridicule. It is the aforesaid social pressure which generally prevents knights from giving out knighthoods for petty or selfish reasons.

The ceremony to create a Chevalier de Normandie can be quite simple or very complex, however, it always involves the knightee kneeling before a Knight of Normandie and being tapped on the shoulders with a sword. Ceremonies usually have religious overtones involving the (Catholic) Church of Normandie or the Vanic Church. When knighted, the individuals are often charged in the name of the Divine to be just and honorable. More elaborate knighthood ceremonies involve the prospective Norman Knight sitting a night's vigil at a chapel or temple, before an effigy of the Divine. Zie may lay zir sword before or upon the figure, and zir armour is piled at its base. When the morrow has come, the vigil is followed by walking barefoot from the chapel or temple to the knighting place to prove zir humble heart. Zie will wear a shift of undyed wool to receive his knighthood, which is marked by the putting on of the swordbelt after dubbing. Newly-knighted persons are also quite often anointed with thirteen oils by a cleric. It is considered a great honour for the knightee when individuals of high status or fame perform the knighting ceremony.

 

Throughout times there were three types of Norman Knights:

  1. Chevalier errant. A chevalier errant was a wandering Knight of Normandie without a master/mistress. Chevaliers errant are so named because of their existence wandering from to tournament to tournament and from temporary employment to temporary employment with most of their worldly wealth being in their arms, armour and horses as well as the fact that they often had to sleep outdoors, under a hedge. Most chevaliers errant travelled in search of employment and often attended jousts to make money and display their prowess in hopes of being hired. Much less scrupulous chevaliers errant put their martial training to use by resorting to banditry. For this reason, chevaliers errant were often mistrusted and considered disreputable. The term "chevalier errant" was in itself considered disparaging.
  2. Épée lige. Some landless Chevaliers de Normandie became epées liges - "epée lige" means "sworn sword" in the local Storish dialect - to other individuals, taking them as zir master/mistress. They acted as retainers for zir master/mistress, taking food, shelter, and money in exchange for their services in war, should they be needed. During campaigns, nobles often hired a large number of epées lige on a temporary basis. After the campaign had ended and the noble(wo)man had no further need for so many knights, they were released and became chevaliers errant once again. An epée liges who was assigned especially as bodyguard was known as "bouclier lige", which means "sworn shield" in the Norman-Walsch language. Those epées liges who had a permanent position could also be referred to as "chevaliers de la maison" which means "household knights" in the local Storish dialect. Some chevaliers de la maison could reach quite a respectable status in their master's/mistress' service, holding positions such as master-at-arms, captain of the guards, or even castellan.
  3. Chevalier fieffé. A chevalier fieffé was a Norman Knight who resided in a keep with accompanying land. They had their own peasants and men-at-arms, and may even have taken epées liges. Chevaliers fieffés were sworn to fight for the noble(wo)man who held dominion over zir land. While the wealthiest of chevaliers fieffés managed more land than the poorest nobles, they did not have the authority to deliver justice in their land. Rather, any such chevalier fieffé had to appeal to their liege.

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The High Realm of Stormark owes the Chevaliers de Normandie a tremendous debt of honour for it was their cavalry charge in the later stages of Battle of Myrkviðr, the largest in the history of Reikistjarna, which saved Stormark from utter destruction. Their charge was led by High King Harald, who at the time was the Count of Quercy in the Duchy of Normandie, and it commenced at the very moment that the Storish shieldwall on top on Mount Myrkviðr was at the verge of breaking, after hours of battering attacks by the Harkalegar. The cavalry charge aforesaid tipped the scales in favour of the Army of Stormark and led to the crushing defeat and annihillation of the Harkalegar.

 

The Norman Knights still kick ass, albeit with modern weapons, to this very day. The usurper "Emperor Henry IV of Alexandria" knows all about it ever since his gang of thugs met the Storish Guard in Alexandria. :cheers2:

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Her Holiness the Lady Oracle of Thingeyri wonders whether when the cavalry charge depicted in the painting took place?

 

Your Holiness,

 

The depicted cavalry charge took place on the Third Day of the Month Glitnir of the Third Year of the Second Viking Age. It is the decisive charge of the Knights of Normandie during the Battle of Myrkviðr which spearheaded the destruction of the Harkalegar. The knights you see are the household knights of the Count of Quercy. High King Harald who was, and still is, the Count of Quercy is the one with the greatsword; it is His Imperial and Royal Majesty's magical greatsword Lightning.

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Incredible article. I find myself rereading it and looking over it more and more. Incredibly fascinating.

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