The world of knights
Knights were the highest class of fighting men in Europe during the middle ages. The knights, who fought on horseback, were the aristocrats of the battlefield.
Who were the knights?
Their whole way of life was based on warfare, and they were the great heroes of that time. The high position of the knights was partly due to the fact that during the early middle ages kings and governments had very little real authority. Power belonged to the best fighters. The man who had horses and heavy arms and knew how to use them had a great advantage.
From their walled and moated castles the more powerful knights ruled the nearby countryside. They honoured no law but their own, and they freely made war against their neighbours. A knight did as he wished, because no one else was powerful enough to stop him. Many knights did keep some sort of order in their land and protected their people from bandits. But many a knight was no better than a bandit himself.
The warfare of the knights was like a game, and their games were like war. The sport that was most like battle was the tournament. In time, tournaments became mock battles in which knights fought with flattened lances and blunted swords. The object of a tournament was about the same as that of a battle-to capture an enemy and collect ransom.
Knights had rules of behavior, called the code of chivalry. A knight was supposed to treat his captive as an honoured guest, even if they had been bitter enemies. One knight was not supposed to attack another without warning.
Knights observed this chivalry among themselves because it was a matter of mutual advantage. A knight might be captured by another knight someday.
Knights could be attacked without warning, so no knight left his castle without wearing his heavy, uncomfortable armour for protection.