Medieval Sources

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Every player decides the manner in which they will play the game, and how far they will adhere to the aim of creating a comprehensive and authentic medieval atmopshere in which others can participate and all enjoy. Some may not consider that to be too important, but for those who do I thought it might help to put down some of the sources from the period. The topics covered should not simply restricted to the domains of England and France during the age of chivarly, and it is encouraged that anyone contributing to this consider how vague and restrictive the term "middle ages" can be depending on the perception. Sources important to an understanding of not just what an interpretation of the Serious Medieval Atmosphere may be but of accepting the variety in those intepretations range from the sacking of Rome, the rise of the Franks and the migration periods to the Mongol invasions, the death throes of Hungary, the consolidation of power in monarchies and the fall of the knight. As a student of history myself at the University of Sydney, with one of Australia's most comprehensive libraries at my disposal, I have decided that I can help a little bit with improving the character of the game.

For ease of use, sources are divided into their categories and summaries will be provided on their subjects and use.

Medieval Mouthfuls

A be all and end all in a sense, by understanding the actual role of the knight and behaviour characteristic of him, one's understanding of the feudal power structure and method of warfare in medieval Europe can be bettered.

Famous Knights

William Marshal

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1146 – 14 May 1219), also called William the Marshal (Guillaume le Maréchal), was an Anglo-Norman soldier and statesman. He has been described as the "greatest knight that ever lived" by friends and enemies alike, the [phrase being attributed chiefly to Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. Heavily involved in the conflicts between the French and the Anglo-Norman kingdom of England, he was the only man to unhorse Richard the Lionheart, and rose from a landless knight to one of the most important and respected feudal lords in England as Regent of England, a loyalist General and Marcher Baron - Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster, Lord of Longueville (a fief in Normandy which he held by a controversial oath to the King of France which was obtained when King John "Lossland" lost all but a small portion of England's continental possessions).

As for any importance to playing a knight, there are interesting things to note. Whilst the troubadour fashion evolving in the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine did encourage knights to learn to write and recite verse, and William himself was known to have enjoyed singing (even looking for an excuse to teach his daughter's to sing properly on his deathbed), the three chief qualities of a knight (also extolled on his deathbed, to a vassal asking for advice) were proclaimed by him to be "prowess, wisdom and fidelity". Simply put then, the strength and skill to be a knight (such as leaping on horseback in full armour and without the aid of stirrups - this is actually what was expected of a knight), the wisdom to advise ones suzerain, and the kind of fidelity to one's lord that one would expect to have to one's wife. Of course, these were by no means always followed faithfully by the nobility of the day.

Tourneys and jousts are another interesting thing to look at. To keep the knights occupied, lots of small tourneys would be held quite regularly, roughly every two weeks if one was living in France. Despite how big some of these were, they were not as organised as the popular, Arthurian style would have us believe - the chaos of the melee being quite a common sight. Entire towns and countrysides would become fair game for the chivalry of various counties and realms to maraud, hunting down other knights and attempting to capture them. One's armour, weapons and horse were in fact a requirement, not so much for safety and fairness, but because quite often they were the ransom for your run of the mill, unlanded knight. A popular tactic used was referred to as "The Count of Flander's tactic", where a lord would wait until later in the day when people were tired and then sally forth from the safe area with his manse to capture as many knights as possible. Just as their fortunes were made in times of war, so too did they live by the sword during peace.

Note: I am still looking for a biography from Project Gutenburg to upload, since the one I read was from 1931 and I have been unable to find it via the internet.

Wikipedia Fan site?

For the record, the name Marshal was a title which by the time William was a knight was not really that important, it's original functions having something to do with holding doors and ensuring everyone got rightly drunk whilst their horses were safe. This may have been the transition period to where the stablekeeper became an important member of the court, but it was nowhere as grandiose as its use in ranks like "Field Marshal".

Raoul de Cambrai

Read it. An epic poem of France from the same period as the life of William Marshal (Guillaime le marachel), it describes many aspects of knighthood and vassalage, from the responsibilities of a lord to his vassals, the promises that a king may make, the right and wrong of uncompromising demands and slaughter, the pecularities of one's oath and the ceremonial but vitally important particulars it entailed, and vivid descriptions of the arms and armour that a knight would adorn himself with.

Something that I've noticed is that players have different ideas of how a battle goes, especially how their characters take part in it. Raoul and Bernier, the two major characters, would most likely be classed as heroes in Battlemaster. I say this because it seems almost a little over the top for anyone less than a bloodthirsty super-soldier to be galloping around a battlefield, scattering hordes of searjants and lesser nobility whilst hunting down his enemies and cutting off their limbs, whilst wearing a triple-layered hauberk and suffering direct blows cleaving his helmet and mail. Even so, knights were the pinaccle of a warrior society in which virtually all resources were channeled not only into making noble life comfortable, but into allowing them to focus their lives entirely on ruling and warfare. To link this with William Marshal, the great knight was scaling castle walls at 50, scattering the defenders and capturing the castellan in one instance which shamed even Richard the Lionheart through his valour. A decent suit of mail goes a long way to making someone a lot more confident.

Raoul de Cambrai, the first half of the poem is here/ "For historians Raoul I, with its brutally realistic depiction of warfare, politics, and feudal relations, is of far greater interest than Raoul II."

In addition, this seems to be in the same vein as Raoul. Erec et Enide.