One of my hobbies over the past six months has been collecting medieval art memes. There’s something about the weird faces and over-the-top expressions in those paintings that really resonates with me and makes for great memes.
And then, because I’m prone to go down rabbit holes of internet surfing, I started researching the stories of medieval knights.
Here are 10 awesome medieval knights you’ve never heard of before!
Gilbert De Clare
So, this guy’s story is a very stereotypical English knight. He’s a descendant of William the Conqueror, and his big contribution to history is the failed campaign to conquer Scotland in 1314. The night before the big battle he was having a fight and losing. He was called a coward.
The next day, to prove that he had no fear, he led the charge against the Scots. He quickly found himself surrounded and separated from his army-mates and killed. He was the first Earl to be killed in a battle in 50 years.
Whether you think this was brave or stupid, here’s a knight that was definitely kinda awesome. He had a real dedication to being brave until his death.
Thomas Of Lancaster
So, like, this is another knight that served under King Edward II. It’s common knowledge (amongst history buffs, not us, common people) that Edward II was very susceptible to being influenced by other people who knew how to manipulate him.
So, Thomas of Lancaster was one of the people who was a key figure in imposing limitations to the things Eddy II could and couldn’t do. He was also involved in the execution of one of Edward’s closest friends.
When he rebelled against one of the families that had a particularly large influence on Edward II (the Despenser family), he was tried for treason and executed.
The lesson here is to be careful when rebelling against people that have so much influence on the reigning king, but also in the absolute necessity to stand up for what is right.
Henry Of Grosmont
Henry was the nephew of Thomas of Lancaster. He was equally brave and equally stubborn. He loved jousting, and one time decided it would be fun to celebrate the Christmas of 1341 by ousting without armor. Needless to say, the competition has resulted in two deaths and a lot of serious injuries, but Henry of Grosmont came out unscathed. He was that good at the sport.
Here’s one of the knights that played a key role in the capture and execution of Thomas of Lancaster. When Lancaster was about to rebel, he approached Andrew and asked him to be on his side. But Andrew was more loyal to the king than to his friend Thomas, and so it was his knights that captured Thomas (which led to Thomas’s execution later on).
The lesson here is that for some people — principle is everything. Avoid people like these in your life. Anyone who sees life in black and white, right and wrong, with no room for “gray areas” is not a truly reliable friend.
William De Warenne
Here’s a story of a knight that made a name for himself by becoming super tight buddies with the king. Being friends with the king got him a lot of tax exemptions (making him and his family rich), and in 1135 he was one of the people who escorted the king’s body and prepared for its burial.
So yeah, history is full of people who like to be friends with the powerful for personal gain. I’m not saying it’s “awesome” to be that way, but it is awesome to see that this kind of thing isn’t just something that we have in the corrupt governments of the 21st century. It’s nice to know we’re not getting worse, although it is depressing that we’re not getting better.
Aymer De Valence
So, with the two polar opposites of Thomas of Lancaster and Andrew Harclay (reminder: one captured the other for being disloyal to an incompetent king), there has to be room for someone in the middle. That would be Aymer De Valence. He was one of the knights who was considered to be in the “middle ground”, both loyal to the king, and perfectly aware that Edward II wasn’t the best king in the world.
So, Aymer took a lot of things into his own hands, and was considered to be one of the knights that kept the kingdom in order during the reign of Edward II.
So yeah, you don’t have to be a King to be doing your kingdom the favor of ruling it reasonable.
Roger De Mortimer
Here’s a knight that didn’t care much for the rules and traditions of knighthood. In fact, he cared so little, that between 1264 and 1267 (during the Baronial War), he flipped sides six times. Needless to say, he ended up on the “winning” side at the end of the civil war.
Here’s a person who’s lack of ambition did him a lot of good! His territory was on the border with the Scots, but unlike all the other knights, he didn’t want to expand his land by taking land away from the Scots. This proved to be a very good position for him, because in 1362 the king’s opinion of him was so high, that the king trusted him to negotiate with the Scots on his behalf!
The lesson here is that if you refrain from being mean to your neighbors, your patience can be seen as a great character trait and bring you more benefits.
Thomas De Beauchamp
Here’s a guy whose military reputation was so great, that when opposing armies heard that he was the general during an upcoming battle — they just gave up.
That’s it. That’s the whole story. This knight was awesome!
Jean III De Grailly
Unlike Roger de Mortimer who had a habit of switching sides during battles, Jean III De Grailly was so loyal to the King of England, that when the French King promised him a very large chunk of land, he declined, unwilling to break his oath to the King of England. So, he was arrested and died in jail in 1376 when he died of the Black Death.
Not an inspiring story, but definitely an inspiring level of loyalty.