Could a woman become a knight in medieval times?

A medieval knight had a number of set roles and duties – not least to fight in battle and lead men to war.

This article was first published online in January 2015

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Could a woman become a knight in medieval times?
| © Eugene_Antonov

As a result, it was usual for knights in the medieval period to be men who had trained for warfare from an early age. However, the situation wasn’t quite so clear-cut.

Any man who held enough land to afford the cost of arms and armour, and to take time away from his estates to join the army, was expected to be a knight. He would have to turn up at any military muster, mounted and armed, and very often would bring a retinue of men at arms or archers.

The king also expected knights to maintain law and order, ensure taxes were paid, and keep roads repaired and river crossings usable.

When a dead knight’s land passed to his wife or daughter, these duties were imposed on that woman. In England the title of Lady was usually given to such a woman, but in France, Tuscany and Romagna she was given the male title.

In 1358, women finally gained full knightly acceptance in England when they began to be admitted to chivalric orders – though they are called dames, not knights.

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Rupert Matthews. For more fascinating questions by Rupert, and the rest of our panel, pick up a copy of History Revealed! Available in print and for digital devices.

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