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.

Could a woman become a knight in medieval times? © Getty Images

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.

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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.

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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.

This article was first published online in History Revealed January 2015 and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Rupert Matthews.