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Although the roots of the word knight are most likely connected to the German knecht, or servant, the ideas of knighthood are arguably more closely tied to the Roman equites.

During the middle ages, the term knight referred to a mounted and armoured soldier. Originally, knights were warriors on horse-back, but the title became increasingly connected to nobility and social status, most likely because of the cost of equipping oneself in the cavalry. Knighthood eventually became a formal title bestowed on those noblemen trained for active war duty.

In theory, knighthood could be bestowed a man by any knight, but it was generally considered honorable to be dubbed knight by the hand of a monarch. By about the late 13th century, partly in conjunction with the focus on courtly behavior, a code of conduct and uniformity of dress for knights began to evolve. Knights were eligable to wear a white belt and golden spurs as signs of their status. Moreover, knights were also often required to swear allegiance to a liege lord.

A knight was to follow a strict set of rules of conduct. Theese were the knightly virtues. The virtues included:

  • Mercy
  • Humility
  • Honor
  • Sacrifice
  • Fear of God

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These virtues became more idealized as time went on. Changes in millitary tactics, such as the successful use of the longbow against the French cavalry at Crecy (please add accent) and Agincourt lessened the importance of the cavalry. In times of peace throughout the later Middle Ages and as late as the end of the 16th century, the role of the knight was promoted and extolled through highly stylized tournaments that bore little resemblance to the bloody warfare in which the "tyical knight" had once participated.

See also cavalry, crusade