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A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch or other political leader for service to the monarch or country, especially in a military capacity. Historically, in Europe, knighthood was conferred upon mounted warriors. During the High Middle Ages, knighthood was considered a class of lower nobility. By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior. Often, a knight was a vassal who served as a fighter for a lord, with payment in the form of land holdings. The lords trusted the knights, who were skilled in battle on horseback.
Knighthood in the Middle Ages was closely linked with horsemanship (and especially the joust) from its origins in the 12th century until its final flowering as a fashion among the high nobility in the Duchy of Burgundy in the 15th century. This linkage is reflected in the etymology of chivalry, cavalier and related terms (see Etymology section below). The special prestige accorded to mounted warriors finds a parallel in the furusiyya in the Muslim world, and the Greek hippeus (ἱππεύς) and Roman eques of classical antiquity.
In the late medieval period, new methods of warfare began to render classical knights in armour obsolete, but the titles remained in many nations. Today, a number of orders of knighthood continue to exist in several countries, such as the English Order of the Garter, the Swedish Royal Order of the Seraphim, and the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. Each of these orders has its own criteria for eligibility, but knighthood is generally granted by a head of state or monarch to selected persons to recognise some meritorious achievement, as in the British honours system, often for non-military service to the country. The modern female equivalent in the United Kingdom is Dame.
Historically, the ideals of chivalry were popularized in medieval literature, particularly the literary cycles known as the Matter of France, relating to the legendary companions of Charlemagne, and the Matter of Britain, relating to the legend of King Arthur.Read more...
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