If you are a medieval knight, how do you ‘ravage the land’? Well, you can probably leave the actual work of destruction to the common soldiers, and concentrate yourself on the more important business of plunder. ‘It is not a good idea to kill all the inhabitants; much better to ransom them. Even peasants can be made to pay for their freedom. On one occasion, Haneken Bongard got 31 florins as ransom for each peasant he took from the estates of a wealthy hospital.’ Thus the sound advice of Knight: the medieval warrior’s (unofficial) manual.
This entertaining little book, as its title suggests, is a complete guide to being a knight. Its 15 chapters cover every conceivable aspect of knighthood, including becoming a knight, arms and armour, tournaments and jousts, battles and sieges, and such delicate matters as ‘ladies and damsels’ and ‘piety and memory’.
Written in the present tense by medieval warfare expert Michael Prestwich, it is a highly engaging, yet thoroughly reputable, introduction to the world of medieval chivalry. Thames & Hudson are producing a range of books that take this popular approach. Already published in the same series is Philip Matyszak’s Legionary: the (unofficial) Roman soldier’s manual; no doubt more are planned. And this venture follows an earlier series, similar in format, with such titles as Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day and Renaissance Florence on Five Florins a Day, books which read rather like modern tourist guidebooks. Judging by the apparent success of these series, this seems to be an effective way of presenting the past to general readers.
So, for all you aspiring medieval knights out there, this little book can be recommended as an excellent ‘how to get started’ manual.
Thames & Hudson, £12.95