The Death of the Knight
Arrows are Pointy
As a conclusion to our series on Knights and all things Knightly let’s talk about why the knight in shining armor went away. Today we focus on the death of the knight.
I guess the easiest way to explain the knight slipping from the battlefield is that there was a change in armor and tactics and weapons that occurred to make the knight, already a costly piece of battlefield equipment to lose, much easier to lose.
The Battle of Agincourt
I have touched on this battle before (see the Two Fingered Salute) but it is a turning point in history. This was a huge English victory during the Hundred Years War. The reason that it is a turning point is that the English defeated the heavy French Cavalry with longbows. Before this point in 1415, battles were won and lost due to the cavalry. At Agincourt the French Cavalry charged the English, as was usually the first move in any battle at this time in history. The English had a forest on one side of the them and a line of stakes on the other keeping the French horse in a line charging straight toward the archers. Unable to reach the archers due to the stakes and unable to flank them due to the forest, the archers were free to rain arrows down into the charging knights. Their horses, like most of that time period were armored only on their heads and necks at best. The arrows begin to drive down into the horses, causing them to rear and buck. The knights that ended up on the ground were left to their own defense and the infantry of the English took advantage of the knights being on foot. The faster moving infantry made quick work of them.
The English longbow was the first deathblow against the knight. The crossbow was the second. The crossbow, though it might take longed to load was much more powerful then the longbow. A stout crossbow bolt could not only find the gap in the armor but it could make gaping hole sin the armor if it struck at the right angle. Chain mail was also easily bypassed by a fast moving thick crossbow bolt. Strike two.
Strike three was the invention of gunpowder. Like most melee weapons the use of gunpowder and weapons like muskets and the troop known as the musketeer was the true death blow to the knight. A gun could easily dispatch a knight or the horse that he rode. The musketeer was the first guerrilla fighter. Fast and using tactics that the knight could not hope to match, the musketeer closed off any chance for the knight to make a come back.
The knight is still seen however. Go to a Ren Faire, especially one with real, full contact jousting and you will find someone in full armor, striding through the faire to the delight of the children. Watch the joust and see how they move. Watch the power of the knight and nobility the armor and the weapons. Don’t you wish they would make a comeback.