A slap in the face for Knights!

Now most people reading this are likely familiar with the more modern kind of knighting where a sword is ceremoniously tapped on an individual’s shoulders, preferably by a comely maiden.


I dub thee Sir Stephen, for services to Blogging.

It wasn’t always so genteel or romantic.  Yes you might have your weaponry, land and perhaps a squire, maybe even some serfs to keep your farms ticking over.  Perhaps that was all deserved considering how difficult and dangerous it was to become a Knight.


English Knight wearing the flag of St. George


Originally a squire (basically an apprentice to a Knight) couldn’t become a real Knight until they had tasted combat.  This wasn’t the most reliable or safe way to garner a promotion as one the one hand a young Squire had every chance of not surviving his first combat but at the other end of the scale, what if you were fortunate to live in peaceful times with a law-abiding population and neighbours?  One might be stuck as a Squire into Middle-Age, if not the Middle-Ages!

Due to this the tradition was started that a Knight only had to do something sufficiently brave, gallant and chivalrous in the finest traditions of a British Knight.  Then your Knight, Lord or Monarch could grant the Squire a Knighthood.  This was done by way of giving an unguarded, unexpected backhanded punch to the jaw of the Squire.

The thought behind this is that this would be the last time a Knight would ever accept a challenge without answering it.   The code of honour going back to King Arthur meant that a Knight was duty bound to accept any challenge issued.  It was also no doubt a good test of self-control and discipline.

How hard the Squire was slapped was entirely up to the mood of person granting them a Knighthood.  It be a gentle tap or a armoured punch to the face that would send you to hospital.

As time went by the ceremony was further civilised by introducing the current knighting ceremony where the prospective Knight kneels before the Queen or an appointed authority such as Prince Charles or William and then dubbed a Knight by use of a sword as many of us imagine it always was due to overly romantic and usually wrong historical films.


Queen Elizabeth II grants Mo Farrah a Knighthood after the 2012 Olympic Games

Of course knighting someone such as Sir Mo Farrah or Sir Patrick Stewart does have a carry-over of the old ceremonies in that they are being knighted for some worthy event rather than armed combat though of course that can still happen too in the New Year Honours.

If you would like to read a similar themed post then check out this one on this Saluting or a particularly cute salute at Windsor Castle and also the ins and outs of holding a Duel!






About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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2 Responses to A slap in the face for Knights!

  1. Pingback: Mind The Gap – Someone pushed me under a London Underground Train! | Stephen Liddell

  2. Pingback: A special knighthood at Windsor Castle | Stephen Liddell

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