- "The so-called ‘knights’ of your Empire are barely worthy of the name. It takes more than a lance and steed to make a knight – do we call the pig-riders of the greenskins knights when they ride to battle? No. Knighthood is more than the art of fighting from horseback. It is a way of life, a code of behaviour, and a daily quest for virtue… It is chivalry, something I fear the cavalrymen of the Empire will never understand."
- —Sir Guy du Bastonne, Knight of Bretonnia.[2a]
- "I am eager to discuss knightly virtue further with Sir Guy or any other Bretonnian who cares to call mine into question. My lance and I will shortly put the matter to rest."
- —Sir Theodoric von Ritterstein, Knight Panther.[2a]
The Knightly Orders of the Empire are a heroic brotherhood of armoured warriors who ride into battle atop mighty barded warhorses and sometimes other, more exotic creatures into battle. Knights are magnificent figures, clad in gleaming full plate armour crafted by Dwarfen smiths, armed with weaponry of the finest quality. To become a Knight is also to become one of the most elite warriors the Empire has to offer.[1a]
Many sons of the Imperial nobility choose to join one of the many brotherhoods located throughout the Empire as a way to progress through society, and as such, the Knightly Orders come in many different shape and sizes. Some of these Orders, like the Knights Griffon, only recruit from the local nobility, while others become templars of a particular Imperial deity, such as the zealous Knights of Sigmar's Blood or the Knights of the White Wolf. Some are well known throughout the Empire, while others are quite small, relatively unknown sects valiantly doing their part to make the Empire a safer place for Men to live.[1a]
Although the common people might find little distinction between the many Knight Orders of the Empire, upon closer observation, one will realise that there are two distinct types of Knightly Orders within the Empire itself. These types are divided between the common Secular Orders (An Order of Knights with no specific allegiance to a Ruler or Religion), and a Templar Order (An Order founded for the purpose of servitude to a particular god).[1a]
List of Knightly Orders
A relatively small order, the Knights of the Blazing Sun are also known as the Templars of Myrmidia because of their devotion to the Estalian warrior deity, Myrmidia. Largely unknown in the lands of the Empire, it was only through the strangest of chances that the Order's worship of that martial-minded goddess began at all. During the Crusades against Araby, threescore Knights from the Empire lent their aid toward the recapturing of the Temple of Myrmidia in Margritta, the southern seaport of Estalia. During the fierce fighting around the temple, a violent earth tremor shook the building and dislodged the vast bronze statue of Myrmidia that was fixed on its topmost steeple. The statue fell to the ground, smashed into a thousand fragments, and flattened Emir Wazir the Cruel and his Black Scimitar Guard. With their leader slain, the Arabyian hordes abandoned the temple and left it in the hands of the Knights. Whether this incident was actually divine intervention has been widely disputed, but to those Knights who fought in the temple, it was unquestionably Myrmidia herself who intervened against the savage Arabyian tyrant. Upon returning to the Empire, the noble veterans of that battle founded the Order of the Blazing Sun and built a shrine to Myrmidia in the heart of the Imperial city of Talabheim. Though many folk mistrust them for courting strange foreign deities, the Knights of the Blazing Sun have unceasingly fought with distinction against the enemies of the Empire and are held as a prized ally by many Elector Counts.
The Ulricans are renowned for their steadfastness and reliability. Slow to forgive and vengeful when crossed, yet warm and open to allies and quick to offer friends the benefit of the doubt. Their ways are short and to the point, their strictures simple and their sermons without the pretentiousness common to other cults. This combination of strength of character, practicality and simple honesty makes the Cult of Ulric quite popular with the common man. The Ulricans themselves are their god in microcosm: brash, boisterous warriors with a lust for battle and unmatched skill at war. Even the priesthood of Ulric is comprised solely of highly accomplished warriors, and in some cases the cult will only initiate those with an acceptable military record or those who are otherwise proven in battle. Fierce and contentious by nature, when two officers of the cult come into conflict, a duel between them usually erupts to decide dominance, with the loser ultimately acquiescing to the wishes of the winner. Thus, might, for the Ulricans, makes right.
Easily the most boisterous of all the Knightly Orders within the Empire, the Knights of the Black Bear maintain a fortress on the borders of Averland, as well as a Chapterhouse in Averheim itself. Close as they are to the haunted land of Sylvania and the Orc-infested Worlds Edge Mountains, the Bears of Averland do not lack for opportunities to prove their martial valour. Even so, the Knights have often found themselves without a foe and have thus fashioned a series of martial tournaments to provide an outlet for their energies (they had previously engaged in the practice of Halfling coursing - an activity that was outlawed in 2402 IC). These tourneys test all facets of what the Black Bear perceive to be knightly skills and include such feats as swordplay, horsemanship and, of course, quaffing great quantities of alcoholic beverages - at least, for a Man. Where the name of the Order originates is a source of much debate. The official story, as put forward by the Black Bears themselves, speaks of a noble- yet impoverished -knight having to wrestle a great bear to save a lady of noble birth who had become lost in the Imperial wilderness. Recognising the nobility of his deed and being possessed of great wealth, she presented her saviour with a small portion of her wealth, which he used to found a Knightly Order house in Averheim. It is in this memory that each of the Order's tournaments is opened by the Order's Grand Master wrestling a bear- a practice that can lead to a great many Grand Masters coming and going in the space of a year, particularly when the mead flows! Other violently suppressed rumours indicate that there was no such incident and that the Order takes its name from a very prosaic tavern of the same name in Averheim.
The Knights Griffon are arguably the most drilled and militaristic Knightly Order in the modern Empire. Their daily rituals mostly consist of strict martial training. A veteran Knight Griffon is the epitome of discipline and soldiery on the field of battle. He is able and willing to hold his ground, attack or retreat in good order (should the situation require it). The Knights Griffon were founded in the year 2305 IC by Emperor Magnus the Pious as part of his rebuilding of the Empire after the Great War Against Chaos. Magnus requested one hundred of the most loyal and devout Knights Panther to join him at his court in the city of Nuln, where he formed an Order of devout Sigmarite Templars directly responsible for the protection of the Temple to Sigmar in the Empire's then-capital. The Knights were deeply honoured by this selection and accepted the offer, and the Order of Knights Griffon was incepted. When the Imperial Crown finally passed to the Princes of Altdorf in 2429 IC, the Knights Griffon moved their Chapterhouse to the Cathedral of Sigmar in Altdorf to maintain their vow to protect the heart of Sigmar's realm. As a result, there is some animosity between the Knights Griffon and the Reiksguard, each of whom views the other as imposing on their traditional role.
The Knights Panther were established after the wars against Araby when returning crusaders brought back magnificent leopards, tigers, and panthers, as well as furs that adorned their clothing. The Knights Panther still trim their clothes and crests with whatever exotic, spotted or striped fur they can obtain. Their shields carry the emblem of their Order, the fabled spotted panther of Araby. Though the Crusades against Araby have long been over, the Knights Panther still carry their lances against the despotic lords of the South. Such fanaticism is not unusual in Knightly Orders, though most choose to battle a foe somewhat closer to home. In the past century, two separate Imperial Decrees commanding the Knights Panther to desist have been issued, but both times, these commands were rescinded. The Imperial Court preferred to offend a distant foreign nation rather than a powerful martial force. Unlike many Knightly Orders, the Knights Panther owe their first loyalty to the Empire itself and are sworn to the protection of its people and lands. The Knights Panther are based predominantly in the cities of Middenheim and Talabheim. These cities are traditionally major centers of Ulric worship, and as a result, the Knights Panther have a fierce rivalry with the Knights of the White Wolf, each Order trying to outdo the other in battle.
A relatively new Order recently established in 2521 IC, the Hunters of Sigmar have dedicated themselves to hunting down and destroying pockets of Chaotic resistance in the Drakwald forest region. The Order was formed by Jerik Wildorn in the aftermath of the Storm of Chaos, mainly in response to the increased presence of Beastmen and other dark and dangerous things lurking in the deep forests of the Empire's northern reaches. Jerik is an expert woodsman and tracker, and these skills are emulated, honed and perfected by the Order's Knights each and every day. They frequently provide escort services to coaches and merchant caravans travelling through the region. In addition to such duties, the Hunters of Sigmar go out of their way to track and eradicate evil where it lives within the woods. Their strategy revolves around the idea of striking at Chaos before its forces have time to gather and form a raiding army. By striking in a preemptive manner, lives are saved and small settlements spared the ravages of Chaos. The average Hunter of Sigmar often spends long periods of time living outdoors. As such, they have to provide their own sustenance and have little time to repair their equipment. They carry everything they might need into the field- you just never know how difficult a trail will be. Mud-spattered and odorous, Hunters are certainly not regarded as the most glamorous Knightly Order. In fact, when they gather together to form a skirmish group, they are often mistaken for a ragtag group of Freelance Knights, unaffiliated with any Order. However, their relentless struggle against the Forces of Chaos is more than welcome in these dark times. It is not uncommon for local people to offer shelter and food to these brave warriors of the Empire in a gesture of appreciation for all their efforts.
Founded during the reign of Wilhelm III, the first Emperor in the line of the Princes of Altdorf, the Reiksguard is recruited from the oldest sons of the Empire's nobility. Unlike other Knightly Orders, the Reiksguard is divided into warriors who fight on foot as heavy infantry and on horseback as traditional heavy cavalry. Regardless of how they fight, the Knights' weapons are of the highest quality, and their full plate armour is polished to a mirror-like finish and topped with crests that carry the colours of the reigning Emperor, Karl Franz. The Reiksguard Knights are the Emperor's best troops and, as such, form the core of his household guard. In this way, many masters of the Order have served as Imperial bodyguards, both on the field of battle as well as at other, more stately functions. It is traditional also for the Grand Master of the Reiksguard to serve as the Reiksmarshal - second only in authority to the Emperor himself in matters of war. In battle, the Reiksguard favour fighting in large regiments, the better to cow the enemy with the full splendor of their mirrored armour and crimson plumes. Imperial history is full of references to great battles won by a decisive charge by the Reiksguard Knights or a stalwart defence by the Reiksguard foot. Despite the potential power and influence that such a reputation offers, the Reiksguard has always stayed apolitical and loyal first, last, and always to the reigning Emperor, regardless of his dynastic or geographical origin- a stance that has in the past set them at odds with other, more transient or self-interested Knightly Orders.
The warrior code of this Order is founded squarely on the principles of justice and fairness. Naturally, as nobles, the Templars' opinion of justice contrasts markedly with that of the common folk, but it cannot be argued that the Templars often willingly fight for those who have no others to defend them. The Templars of the Everlasting Light defended the plague-struck village of Hafbad when no other would, and members of their Order gave their lives to defeat the mighty Shaggoth Brakorth in the Worlds Edge Mountains. Despite such deeds, the Order has passed into history for another, less glorious reason: the Templars of the Everlasting Light are cursed. The secret of how they became thus afflicted is locked within the Order's records, but speculation has it that they offended some deity while on Crusade in Araby centuries ago. Whatever the cause, they find themselves thrown from their horses at inopportune moments; swords break as a deathblow is delivered; and seemingly stable earth turns to marsh or quicksand once the hooves of their steeds touch it. Only a member of this Order (Kurt von Tzalza) could be struck in the eye by a ricochet that was fired behind him. Only a Grand Master of the Everlasting Light (Sigismund Drak) could be dumped unceremoniously into a cart-load of manure during a victory parade in Altdorf, the only such cart for many miles around. Only one Chapterhouse, in the entire history of the Empire, has vanished into a yawning chasm as the result of a freak earth tremor. There are many more varied accounts of this ill-fortune in the histories of the Empire. Nevertheless, the Templars of the Everlasting Light never run out of new recruits. To a certain class of nobility, it is better to belong to a famous Order, however unlucky it may be, than to one whose name is unknown beyond the walls of their Chapterhouse.
The Order of the Broken Sword, formed after a band of local freelance knights led by Dott Barthos, gathered together to go after a marauding band of Chaos Beastmen. In recent months, these Beastmen had terrorised and pillaged several local farms. Their last raid left three entire families slaughtered, a missing farmer's daughter and three mutilated cows. Something had to be done. The knights tracked the Beastmen through the twisted forest to their camp and then readied themselves for battle. During the attack, Dott Barthos squared off against the leader of the foul beasts- Sizlak Grimhoof. In the ensuing battle with the vile Beastman, Dott Barthos was grievously wounded. With the last of his remaining strength, Barthos launched a ferocious attack. His sword swung in a wide arc, smashing against the head of Sizlak Grimhoof. The blow sheared the Beastman's skull clean in half, though breaking Barthos' sword in the process. With the Grimhoof defeated, Dott Barthos was filled with righteous fury. Pressing the advantage, Dott and his men pursued the fleeing Beastmen through the woods, eventually dispatched them all. In the aftermath of the skirmish, with his broken sword clutched to his chest, Dott Barthos finally succumbed to his terrible wounds. On that day, the surviving knights formed the Order of the Broken Sword, dedicated to stomping out evil and protecting the subjects of the Empire. Dott Barthos's Broken Sword and Grimhoof's cloven skull remain in the main hall of their Chapterhouse to this very day.
The Order of the Sacred Scythe have made it their duty to patrol the shadowy roads and paths of eastern Stirland near the border with Sylvania. Long and mysterious is their history, with most of the Chapterhouse records kept under lock and key. Rumours abound that the Order has tainted bloodlines of ill repute- but no one knows for sure. What is known about the Scythes is that they are well-versed hunters of the Vampire. They tirelessly root out possible Vampiric threats, cults, and any who would serve such a dark master. As the Scythes deal mainly with creatures of the night and dark, necromantic magic, their methods are widely considered unorthodox and often downright improper. Most of the neighbouring provinces openly despise the Sacred Scythes and do not welcome them in their taverns or towns. This distrust is not entirely unfounded. Such is their fervour to destroy the Undead, that more than one town has been left burnt to the ground and smouldering in the wake of a Sacred Scythe "Tribunal." Encased in pitch-black plate armour and armed with a gleaming scythe, the Sacred Scythes are frightening to encounter on a lonely road after dusk. However, unbeknownst to the common people of the land, the Scythes perform a very real and useful service to the Empire. Their secret doings help keep Stirland from toppling into a land of blight and terror at the hands of the Vampire Counts of Sylvania.
The Knights of Sigmar's Blood have a long and proud history. Led by their Grand Master, Hans Leitdorf - brother of the deceased Elector Count of Averland, their ranks are filled with the men of noble houses across the Empire. Their selection process is considered extreme even among the other Orders, as each Knight in training must spend a year in study within the Cult of Sigmar, where he is judged by the priests as to his worthiness.
Their Chapter House, Heldenhame Keep, is the grandest fortress in Talabecland. The castle was founded after the Knights of Sigmar's Blood had returned from Arabyan Crusades.
Encased within black full plate armour and deathly silent when on the battlefield, the Knights of Morr are the dark guardians of the Empire. When parents wish to get their children to sleep at night, they tell them that the Knights of Morr will come for them unless they rest. The Knights of Morr are widely feared for their devotion to the God of the Dead, and dark tales abound regarding their initiation rites. Even so, their martial prowess is more than welcome to those they fight alongside, for their silent efficiency is among the best in the Empire.
A secular Order that does not directly serve the ecclesiastical cult of any god, the Knights of the Gold Lion are unusual in that they were founded in Araby during the Crusades. A group of disenchanted knights had fled to a backwater Arabyian village after their army had suffered a crushing defeat. There, these knights began to despair of ever returning home. One knight, Erich von Strommer, took it upon himself to restore their resolve. To prove the truth of their cause, he set out into the savanna to take the head of a man-eating lion. He claimed that should he succeed in this impossible task, it would be a sure sign of Sigmar's favour. Days passed, but return he did, near delirious, bearing the head of a massive lion. The knights were filled with courage, renamed themselves in honour of the feat, forged out into the desert and eventually met up with allies. Since then, the Order of the Gold Lion has served the Empire as one of its most loyal Knightly Orders.
Founded by the rich dilettante Frederici Tolscano of Tilea in 2310 IC, the Knights Encarmine are a flamboyant, foppish band of warriors. This may have something to do with the fact that the Order is comprised entirely of the rich and privileged. Still, wealth alone is not a guarantee of entry, as there are very strict and rigid guidelines concerning who may actually join the Knightly Order. Being a collection of rich and generally powerful individuals, the Knights Encarmine hold much political clout in the Empire. As such, they have the option to choose which campaigns they will take part in- often the ones which require little actual dirty work to attain the most glory. Each member of the order maintains a brilliant suit of red plate armour topped by a tricolour plumage of green, white and red. As the paint coating the armour chips away easily, the suit must be constantly repainted after each action in order to maintain appearances. Members of the Knights Encarmine eschew the "lowly" shield, as it is a "commoner's defence" to hide behind a metallic barrier in battle. Instead, the Knights Encarmine practice a secretive two sword combat technique pioneered in Tilea. One sword acts as a deflection tool, while the other strikes the deathblow. Despite their often intolerable nature, the Knights Encarmine are very welcome when battle is finally joined. As the members of the Order incessantly hone their two-sword technique, they are masters of the blade. Foes fall in droves as the red-armoured Knights plow through ranks of enemy foot troops and mounted warriors alike. As long as an Imperial general can stomach the tales of highly exaggerated bravery afterwards, the Knights Encarmine are a valuable asset to any army of the Empire.
The Order of the Hammer of Sigmar was founded in Altdorf shortly after the news of the destruction of the city of Mordheim reached the city in 1999 IC. Zealous Lectors of Sigmar encouraged the devout sons of local nobles to join the fledgling Order. Once assembled, the Lectors sent the Order into the ruins of Mordheim to restore order and keep the faith (and the faithful) alive throughout the turmoil. The Templars of this Order can often be found bringing faith to the wavering masses and crushing the skulls of vile heretics. They ride into battle wielding great warhammers of all description, another sign of their devotion to Sigmar.
The Knights of the Fiery Heart are a Templar order which forms a fanatical military wing of the Cult of Sigmar. As a military-religious order of Sigmar, the "Hammer of the Goblins", they are dedicated to the destruction of all Goblinoids. In times of war they also fight alongside Imperial armies. The order has a long and glorious history dating from the Age of Three Emperors, when the Cult of Sigmar was outlawed in Talabecland.
The Knights of the Black Rose are a Knightly Order in the Empire with links to Morr. The Order's motto is Fear Not Death. The order recruits only from local nobility and its numbers have waned in recent years. The Knights of the Black Rose were founded sometime during the Black Plague by the Elector Count of Stirland to serve as his personal bodyguard however their allegiance has changed multiple times over the centuries. The order commonly uses motif's associated with death and the god of death Morr.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (8th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 42
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd Edition -- Omens of War
- 2a: pg. 26
- Warhammer Armies: Empire (7th Edition) -- p. 40 - 42
- Warhammer Armies: Empire (6th Edition) -- p. 12
- Warhammer Armies: Empire (5th Edition) -- p. 52
- Knight of the Blazing Sun (Novels) by Josh Reynolds
- Reikguard (Novel) by Richard Williams