|Further Reading||The Top 5 Fun Facts About Medieval Knights|
What exactly did medieval knights do with their free time? During the high medieval era England alone had around 1,300 knights that each had their own hobbies. From historical documents we know that medieval knights did 3 things to keep themselves busy when not training.
Generally speaking here are the 3 things that knights did with their free time. First, the medieval knight would attend to their land holdings or fiefs. Second, medieval knights would practice social skills and attend banquets. Third, a medieval knight would fill their down time with group activities such as hunting, board games, or attending tournaments.
When we discuss what a medieval knight would do with their down time it is important to remember that while this article presents a generalized summary medieval Europe covered nearly 1,000 years and several different cultures. While it is impossible to give a definitive answer as we don’t know everything this article presents a general summary.
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Without further ado, here are the 3 things that medieval knights did with their free time.
Medieval Knights Would Attend To Their Land Possessions During Down Time
One of the main things that medieval knights did when they had down time was to attend to their land holdings or fiefs.
It is important to remember that the knights of the medieval era were landed gentry who often held large tracts of land. This land was given to the knight by the lord or king in return for their loyalty and military service.
The knights land itself was worked by an army of peasants who were tied to the land by law. These peasants would work the land and create farm products which in turn would be given to the knight or lord as tax.
When a knight had free time they would often return to their land and become an administrator. Here they would start to weigh in on legal affairs, help the peasantry with basic problems, and generally make sure the fief was profitable.
During this time the lord would hold court to help administer justice for the peasants in the fief. Law across medieval Europe was significantly different then what we know of today. Often there was no written law but instead a set of customs and traditions that the peasantry would follow. When the peasantry was stuck in a decision they would consult the highest authority in the land.
On top of holding court a knight might also help with tax collection. Most of medieval Europe (outside of England) would put the responsibility of tax collection on the knight in charge of the land. Often the knight would delegate out this job to an individual or group of people. However, this as well took a degree of oversight on the knights’ part.
As such the first thing that medieval knights did when they had free time was to help administer their land possessions or fiefs.
During Down Time Medieval Knights Would Practice Social Skills And Attend Banquets
Another thing that medieval knights did while there was down time was to practice their social skills and attend banquets.
Today when people think of medieval knights they think of courtly love. This was where a medieval knight would fight to earn his lady’s love through a variety of tasks. This is false and a fabrication of the romantic era of 19th and 20th century Europe.
Medieval knights did practice their social skills but it was not to earn the love of a medieval princess. Instead it was often to further their own political power in their realm.
Historians have uncovered medieval manuscripts that detail how knights would practice their courtly love skills. However, these courtly love skills were not designed to swoon the knight’s love interest but rather teach young knights how to behave and court a medieval woman in an appropriate fashion without damaging their reputation.
In essence these medieval manuscripts on courtly love were training books on how to increase a knight’s political power within a realm. During their down time medieval knights would practice these skills so that they could advance themselves and their families within their kingdom.
A medieval knight would also travel to attend banquets. Here they would practice these new social skills to hopefully advance their position with their realm. These banquets were often held after major accomplishments or as celebrations in medieval Europe.
A prime example of one of these medieval banquets comes from the Feast of the Pheasant which was held by Philip the Good in 1454. The purpose of this feast was to promote an upcoming crusade against the Turks who had just taken Constantinople.
The crusade never happened. Instead the knights attended the feast and used it as an opportunity to network to increase their political power. This is an example of what knights would do with their free time.
Medieval Knights Would Fill Their Free Time With Group Activities Such As Board Games, Hunting, And Tournaments
Another way that medieval knights would fill their free time was by playing board games and attending hunting or tournament events.
In medieval Europe chess was being played as a common board game sometime between the 6th-8th century. Medieval knights would practice their chess skills during their free time along with a host of other types of games.
Medieval chess was played completely differently than the chess of today. During the medieval period chess had more pieces and was more strategic in nature. An interesting thing to note was that there was a piece called the jester that could move one square either vertically or horizontally.
On top of playing medieval chess knights would attend hunting games. During the high medieval period these hunting events were luxuries of the nobility and were organized into group activities. Several knights would attend a scheduled hunt where they could practice their martial skills, socialize, or practice riding and controlling their horse.
Finally, on occasion a knight would be invited to attend a tournament either in their realm or in a neighboring one. These tournaments were designed to be a showcase of a kingdom’s knights and their ability in combat. Contrary to popular media these tournaments were often day-long affairs where knights would fight in a series of events before retiring for the day.
As such knights would fill their free time with several scheduled group activities. These activities were designed to help knights hone their abilities as well as give them some entertainment.
There you have it, an entire article which goes over the 3 things that medieval knights did with their free time.
Medieval knights remain a fascinating group of landed elite which lived during the medieval era. Much of what we know of their lives come from a handful of chronicles and some tapestries. It has only been recently that we have started to discover more about the lives of medieval knights.
Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the web.
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