"I pledge my service and my loyalty, body and soul, to my Lord. When the clarion call is sounded, I will ride out and fight in the name of liege and Lady. Whilst I draw breath, the lands bequeathed unto me will remain untainted by evil. Honour is All! Chivalry is All! This I swear on my blood and my breath."
- —The Knight's Vow.[3a]
Knights of the Realm are Bretonnian nobles who have proven their skill and valour in combat, having battled the kingdom's foes as young Knights Errant. They make up the bulk of the nobility of Bretonnia and command great respect, both for their station and for the deeds they have performed to reach it. Upon their investiture, Knights of the Realm are given the responsibility of administering a domain – generally a few acres of land, a village and a castle from which they have absolute rule.
Those under a knight's rule are bound to his service, to work his land and pay their taxes, and in exchange the knight provides his subjects with protection. Within the hierarchy of Bretonnia's feudal system, the Knights of the Realm are bound by fealty to Lords of higher status and prestige, scaling all the way up to the Royarch himself.
"Heavily armoured, gilded, decked out in layers of steel that an Empire warhorse would have struggled to carry, let alone charge with. Formidable. Not for nothing did men across the Old World fear the onslaught of the knights of Bretonnia."
- —Reiksmarshal Kurt Helborg, on the superiority of Bretonnia's knights.
A Knight of the Realm is truly the epitome of what it means to be a knight, fighting with a level of skill and full-blooded commitment that even the elite Reiksguard of the Empire cannot match. For countless generations these warriors have lived off the fat of the land, eating the best meat, drinking the best wine and taking the fairest maidens with which to have children. This, together with constant training and practice at arms, has set them apart from ordinary Men. Bretonnian knights are physically bigger, fitter, and more robust, standing head and shoulders above the kingdom's peasantry. They are a magnificent sight, battle-tempered warriors clad in baroque suits of heavy armour, overlaid with rich liveries that are emblazoned with Heraldic devices. Mounted atop the finest Warhorses in the mortal world, the Knights of Bretonnia appear as formidable, plate-armoured giants, leaving lesser warriors to scurry around them like rats at the foot of old monuments.
A noble who manages to hold his domain for many years may end up with a retinue of Knights Errant, which might include his own grown up sons. Since the time of Gilles le Breton, it has become common practice for a Knight of the Realm to relinquish his castle and domain to his son when he has accomplished his errand of knighthood. The senior Knight then sets out on a grail quest and becomes a Questing Knight. If there are several sons, the eldest and first to accomplish his errand of knighthood succeeds to the domain. The others on accomplishing their own errands can be given a portion of the domain if it is large enough. This will usually be a tract of wild land on the margins of the domain, perhaps still waiting to be conquered and settled.[2a]
The errand of knighthood might actually be to conquer the land and hold it long enough to build a castle and settle down with peasants. In this way, new domains are constantly being carved out of the wilderness while the Orcs and other enemies are kept under pressure. If there are no suitable lands to be assigned, it is customary for the younger sons to relinquish their claims to a castle on accomplishing the errands of knighthood and either join the retinue of a Duke or the King, or set out upon the grail quest straight away. When new lands are conquered, it is better to carve out new domains for Knights Errant than to enlarge an existing domain, as it is difficult to defend a domain when it becomes too big to properly manage. The simple fact is that a domain is most easily defended by a single Knight if he can see all of it from the highest tower of his castle and can ride all around its boundary in a single day.[2a]
It is also good if his neighbouring Lord's castle can be seen from the tower of the Knight's own castle, so that the Knight may signal for reinforcements and give out warnings of a possible invasion force entering his Lord's domain. A Knight of the Realm is duty-bound to defend his people and his estate until his death. Trained in the art of war, a single knight is expected to defend himself and his domain against minor threats - bandits and lone monsters - without the assistance of others. Should the situation become too desperate, a Knight of the Realm is allowed to marshall the peasants of the village into battle, or to shelter them within the confines of his castle until help arrives from the neighbouring domain.[2a]
"He caught sight of one of the Bretonnian knights, already in the distance and riding hard back to his lines. The warrior’s armour glinted warmly in the last of the sun, as if lined with silver. His charger, its caparison still vivid despite the splatters of grime, powered up the slope with a ponderous, weighty grace. Before quitting the field, the knight brandished his sword with a final flourish – a gesture of arrogance, of self-assurance, of superiority. Magnificent, thought Bachmeier..."
- —A Captain of the Empire witnesses a Knight of Bretonnia.
Above all, however, a Knight of the Realm is to obey and embody the standards of Chivalry. Amongst the most important of these is to respond to the call to war. When called to war, each Knight of the Realm is required by fealty to answer the call from his Lord and join him on his campaign. Each Knight of the Realm is also required to maintain his own company of soldiers, such as a company of Men-at-Arms to either fight on his behalf, or to defend his domain while on leave.
When a Knight of the Realm leaves for a campaign, he brings with him as many Men-at-Arms company as he possible can to bolster the ranks of his Lord's army. The Knight himself will fight alongside other Knights, not as a rite of passage as he did as a Knight Errant, but as duty required by his position. For a Knight there is no greater shame than to fail in these responsibilities, thus betraying the chivalric code he is bound to uphold. If he does so, he may be stripped of all titles and rights, and be banished from the realm until he can prove himself worthy once more.[1a]
When on the battlefield, a Knight of the Realm forms up around others of similar status and forms the bulk of most Bretonnian cavalry squadrons. Though their Errand quest is done, a Knight of the Realm is still all too eager to show their mettle in battle, and would gladly face the toughest enemy opponent to prove such a point. As the staunch backbone of the Bretonnian knightly forces, they are skilled and deadly in combat, with stout lances setting their enemies to flight with a single, determined charge.[1a]
Famous Knights of the Realm
- Huebald d'Gisoreux - One of the very few peasants to ever become a knight.
- Leonhard d'Quenelles - Led the charge that defeated a Chaos army assaulting his homeland.
- Bertrand le Grande - Leader of the Knights of the Realm who assisted in the destruction of the Black Grail Knights.
- Knights of the Lionhearted - A fearsome group of Lyonessan knights, who are one of the few Regiments of Renown in Bretonnia.