"When we fight with honour, we bring honour to our house."
- —Anonymous Knight of the Empire.
Knights are elite, professional soldiers, generally, but not always of noble blood. They specialise in fighting in heavy armour while using large weapons, often from horseback, and comprise a general’s most elite shock troops. Many Knights have a duty to protect the lower classes, though not all of them acknowledge it. There are a large number of knightly orders hailing from both the Empire and Bretonnia, such as the Knights of the White Wolf, the Knights Panther, the Reiksgard Knights, and the mighty Grail Knights. Religious orders of Knights are known as Templars,[1a] while mercenary knights are called Free Lances.[6a]
The Perfection of Knighthood
"Our knights are our most potent weapon. No better knights can be found in the Old World or beyond, and they are rightly feared by all who oppose us."
- —A Baron of Bastonne, on the pinnacle of knighthood.
Amongst the tribes of Bretonnia's ancestors, it became the custom for the best and bravest young man in the village to be armed and ready at all times to fight off foes. Everyone else in the village toiled to provide for themselves, but also to feed and equip the warrior and his Warhorse. The warrior lived off the fat of the land, ate the best meat and drank the best wine. This, together with constant training and practice at arms, set him apart from ordinary men. He was physically bigger, fitter, and more robust, standing head and shoulders above the common Peasant.
The chosen warrior took up residence in the village watchtower, a wooden structure which would in later times evolve into a stone Castle, and would take for his wife the fairest maiden in the village. In return for all this, the warrior was honour-bound to defend the village against any foe, no matter how terrible. If necessary he would take on even a horde of marauding Orcs alone. These warriors became known as "knights."
Border Prince Knights
Although many in more civilised lands would laugh at the notion, there are a number of knights in the Border Princes, and some of them hold principalities. Knights tend to think themselves better than anyone else. They are better than the other petty princes around them because they hold to standards of honour and chivalry, and they are better than the knights of lands like Bretonnia because they actually have to fight to keep their rule. It is not unknown for a knight to style himself "king" and demand fealty from neighbouring princes, an attitude that often leads to war.[2a]
Knights almost always assume some title, but they are the most likely to assume a modest-sounding rank. Barons, castellans, earls, lords, baronets, dons, and a few princes make up most of their numbers. Every knight has a court, even if most of the roles are filled by one or two people. They require marshals to look after troops, groomsmen to look after horses, chancellors to keep records, and justiciars to administer the law. Almost all knights have a body of law for their realm, and this law is generally quite clear on the superiority of the knight and his family. The realm is named appropriately for the title: a barony, lordship, or fief is most common. There are some knights in the Border Princes who are almost indistinguishable from knights in Bretonnia who hold similar titles.[2a]
Knights do, in fact, tend to prosper in the region. The knightly ethos was, after all, developed to enable warriors to hold land in the face of threats, and it does that job quite well. There are a few principalities held by the grandson of the founder and more held by the son. There might even be one that has managed four generations of hereditary succession. Thus, some knights gain power by fairly peaceful succession. Others gain power after defending a region from another threat or by taking over from a prince they had previously served. Most still gain power by violent conquest, however, like any other lord in the area.[2b]
Of course, prosperity does not mean that they are right and good. Indeed, most of the knights in the region are quite brutal about keeping the peace and order in their realms and in dealing with invaders. This is part of the reason they are successful; they know that they have to keep order within the realm and believe they have the authority to do so however they see fit.[2b]
A Day in the Life
"The knight demanded I get out of his way. 'Why?' I asked. 'I am in the service of the people,' he replied. 'Well I'm the people,' I said, 'so I don't have to get our of your way.' He didn't have an answer to that, of course. So he punched me in the face!"
- —Holger Kass, 1st Bögenhafen Halberdiers.[6a]
The knight lives and wakes in luxurious surroundings, as he is typically a member of the nobility or amongst the most valued retainers of the gentry. He is attended to by his Squire, a young man who hopes to earn a knighthood himself one day and acts as a Knight's personal assistant until such time.[3a]
He spends much of the day in training, practising on foot or horseback whilst wearing a suit of armour. The knight practises combat on foot, honing his skills with sword and shield, or he will mount his horse to charge at a quintain, a training dummy designed to improve his accuracy with the lance.[3a]
In the evening the knight attends to courtly matters, socialising among the aristocracy at dances, feasts, and other entertainments. The knight plays a relatively minor role at such occasions, usually there simply to flatter the lords and flirt with the ladies. Should talk turn to military matters he will take a more active role, giving his opinions and advice to any who listen.[3a]
From time to time the knight will be called to fight. This will often be the mock battles of the tourney field, where the knight will pit himself against others using blunt swords and hollow lances. Despite the many precautions taken Tournaments are still dangerous tests of skill, leading some unkind commentators to draw a comparison between knights and pit fighters. However, it is when war breaks out that the Knight proves his worth. Knights that are otherwise engaged may pay scutage (or shield duty) to avoid military service, but many proudly and ably join the elite shock cavalry of the armies of the Old World.[3a]
Knights walk in two distinct circles, the military and the aristocracy. They provide the soldiers of the Old World with leadership drawn from the nobility (which a great many consider important and proper), as well as devastating cavalry charges known to break entire armies with their fury. Knights earn the respect their more courtly peers do not by demonstrating a willingness to appear on the field of battle and play an important part in the swirling melee of combat.[3a]
At court, knights provide the nobility with military advisors who speak their own language and sympathise with the concerns of statecraft. Whilst common soldiers may have more battlefield experience than many knights, they usually lack the education and perspective requisite to see the bigger picture of warfare and politics, and so are rarely called on to act as advisors.[3a]
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Core Rulebook
- 1a: pg. 75
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Renegade Crowns
- 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Career Compendium
- 3a: pg. 122
- 4: White Dwarf 203 (Aus)
- 4a: pg. 8-16
- 5: Knight Errant (Novel) - pg. 284
- 6: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th ED -- Core Rulebook
- 6a: pg. 111