View Full Version : Duties of a squire?

08-24-2005, 12:02 AM
In the Middle Ages, a young man aspiring to be a knight would be taken on as a squire to learn how to be a knight. I'm looking for information about what a squire's duties would be in both war and peacetime. Would other types of nobles have squires, like lords who did not fight? What were the responsibilities of the knight to the squire, and vice versa?


08-24-2005, 04:02 AM
Not sure if this will help much but http://www.chronique.com/ has at least some information. Click the knighthood button on the side, then becoming an knight, and the training of a squire. It's not very detailed but I hope it helps.

Cathy C
08-24-2005, 04:12 AM
The duties of a squire were multi-fold, as it was a lifestyle rather than a job. The squire was responsible for maintenance of the weapons of the knight, maintenance of the armor and horses, assisting the knight with putting on his armor in the proper order (since a knight mostly could not put on his own armor.) He also had to train in a variety of fighting methods, learn the rules of warfare and horseback strategy, learn horse handling, emergency first aid for the knight and horse, etc. The squire was the "go-to" guy, sort of a military valet or butler.

08-24-2005, 07:41 AM
A "knight" can be considered a military unit of 3 to 7 men (or so). Knights were often accompanied into battle by armed retainers, and usually travelled with 2+ horses (not riding their war horse until needed). A squire would be the ranking retainer, I should think, and might fight in harness as a man-at-arms, if his training was advanced. Other retainers might be mere peasants from the knight's estate, not expected to fight.

08-24-2005, 04:56 PM
Great info so far.

In the Middle Ages, a young man aspiring to be a knight would be taken on as a squire to learn how to be a knight.
Yes, but don't forget he'd first be taken on as a page. This young boy (or boys) would get stuck doing anything the squire/s wouldn't do. All the lowly jobs such as fetching the lord more wine at mealtime if he didn't have servants or mucking out the stables if he didn't have grooms.

I'm looking for information about what a squire's duties would be in both war and peacetime. Re: War, As Vomaxx said a squire with a completed level of training would be expected to cut his teeth in battle and also protect (be a wingman) to his knight- or he would remain rearward with a fresh horse and weapons (if his knight was well off and had more than one warhorse) and was expected to bring it forward should his knight lose his mount. Keep in mind a well-to-do knight might have several squires to perform said duties and accompany him on the field, etc.

Would other types of nobles have squires, like lords who did not fight? What were the responsibilities of the knight to the squire, and vice versa? Thanks! Yes, other nobles, even Princes had squires and higher ranking nobles were required to lead and direct in battles (whether enaging in the actual battle lines or remaining behind and directing by banners or trumpets varies according to time period and also location- for instance: Viking leaders often got bloody in the thick of fighting, whereas Later English Kings rarely saw a battlefield closer than from a hilltop (if they were even there) and Romans did both depending upon the time period. Huns and Eastern tribes were also known for following their leaders into a charge.

A nobles' obligation to a page/squire would be to raise him to knighthood and all the expenses of keeping the boy/young man to adulthood. Food, boarding, clothing, training and then to provide horse and armour when the lad had grown.
A page/squires obligation to his lord was absolute. Only God outranked a squire's lord in this respect. His devotion, commitment and service were expected to be unquestionable and unfailing (True, we're all human and make mistakes,) but that's what the texts say.

08-25-2005, 01:34 AM
Thanks for the replies so far!

Question regarding allegiance: A squire could be either low-born or high-born, correct? If a squire is of noble birth, could he train with a knight from a different family, and if yes, where would his allegiance lie? To the family he was born to, or to the knight/lord he swore allegiance to? I believe it's the latter, but I'm not sure. An oath would outweigh blood-ties, wouldn't it? I've seen other fantasy novels in which noble sons were fostered to other houses, but I'm not certain how much basis they have in history.

The society I'm trying to create in my fantasy novel is feudalistic but not exactly conforming to the Middle Ages. In it, I've got the son of one noble family being sent to the lord of another noble family to become his squire. The two houses are on good terms, and this is intended to cement relations between them as opposed to the squire being shipped off as a hostage. If he'd been a girl, his father would have tried to marry him off to the lord. The squire would have to take oath to his new lord, but what's concerning me is how much allegiance he would retain to his blood kin. Part of the story is the squire wanting to give his allegiance whole-heartedly to his new lord, but questioning whether his lord is worthy of his respect.

08-25-2005, 02:00 AM
One big problem with most feudal societies was that men often swore fealty to more than one liege, and when those lieges fought, the vassal had to make a choice (which could be to his advantage or not). (The reason this happened was often that a noble would get some land from overlord A and then some land from Lord B, and swear fealty for each manor. This could happen on a very large scale, such as when the King of England was a vassal of the King of France. This didn't work out too well, as you probably know.)

I doubt there were many squires of common birth. Medieval society was not very upwardly-mobile, except for those who could carve out some nobility with a sword, or with a king who would ennoble nobodies so they would be entirely dependent on his favor.


Where is Medievalist, whose posts were so informed on issues like this?

08-26-2005, 03:25 AM
Vomaxx is right on the money.

Oftentimes nobles who could afford to get out of fighting would just pay wehrgeld, or money for service- for instance, they would either hire out mercernaries or soldiers either trained fighters or freemen peasantry (not serfs) or they would pay to equip or have these men equiped and that would satisfy their obligation to their lord.
**Basically, nobles could get out of fighting by paying if they had the money, there was often a set standard, as in: For this property, this noble owes 10 knights and 25 men at arms with helmets, swords and shields, and 25 archers.
*There are instances where nobles owing 'duel fealty' as Vomaxx stated, paid both lords, or paid one and took the field in person against the other! Wild huh? The middle ages rocked.

As Vomaxx already said squires were very rarely low-born. As in VERY RARELY! They were the sons of nobility who weren't the lads seeking futures in the church as clerics, etc. An average income noble with many sons was expected to split up the lot and often it was the second son who went to serve the church. The rest could end up with various lords in the kingdom, serving high lords (hopefully) or knights if pop was lucky to place them well and have them learn knightly ways.
*Low born squires in actual documented history are so rare that they were always special circumstances individuals. Special circumstances being anything from divine inspiration (Like Joan de Arc - the low-born French girl who ended up influencing the King of France and co-leading his armies) to merchants (low-born) who did well enough in trade who could pay poorer knights to have their sons taken in as squires. None of this happened often. The low born simply weren't placed in the same social class as the nobility and were expected to serve them at best, but were often seen ranking below a good hunting dog. They were cattle. :popcorn: okay, lecture over... sorry :)

08-26-2005, 03:42 AM
Thanks, everyone! Don't apologize, A.REX. You're not lecturing, and you're giving me a lot of useful information.

In my WIP, the squire in question is the fifth son of a noble family. He knows he's unlikely to inherit any land, so he's looking forward to his squireship as a chance for advancement in another House. The lord in question is both lord of a Great House and a master mage. His duty to the king would be through use of his magic rather than picking up a sword to fight.

08-27-2005, 06:26 AM
Sounds perfectly feasable and interesting, I'm sure your work will be awesome because you're one of the people who ask when they don't know and try to get the real answers. I admire that! (I only wish I knew more about my current WIP; 18th century nautical... ugh.)