They were the superheroes of the Middle Ages. The knights who fought for their kings and homelands represent today the ideals of bravery, chivalry, pureness of purpose, and humble devotion to a Higher Power. This is a rose-colored view of reality, but let’s leave that issue behind for now.
Here are five of the most famous knights of the Medieval period.
He lived and died more than a thousand years ago, but the incredible bravery and fighting prowess of El Cid was so extraordinary it played out like the script for a sensational Hollywood movie.
In fact, the story of El Cid did get the silver screen treatment in 1961. The brave knight was portrayed by A-List actor Charlton Heston.
El Cid’s real name was Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, born in 1043 in the village of Vivar in Spain’s Castile region. He was of lower noble birth and entered the knighthood as a young man. He served Sancho II, the King of Castile.
His incredible Medieval combat skills soon earned him the status of Knight’s Captain. This also earned him the nickname, El Campeador, which translates to “Master of the Battlefield.” This was often shortened to “El Cid.”
Godfrey of Bouillon
Born in France in 1058, Godfrey of Bouillon is often called “The First Crusader.” That’s because he was among the first expedition to the Holy Land after Pope Urban II ginned up the Christian powers of Europe to return to the Middle East to drive out Islam.
Godfrey was a wealthy landowner but gave up his lush estates in France to suffer the dangers and privations of war. He is said to have led the siege on Jerusalem in 1099. Godfrey led the charge and was the first to climb the fortified walls of the ancient city. He powered through showers of arrows and used his sword to cut down Islamic defenders. Legend has it that he cleaved one assailant in half with a single blow.
Godfrey of Bouillon was named the “First King of Jerusalem.”
He is often called “the greatest knight of Medieval England.” Born in 1146, William would serve five English kings. He began his career as a warrior knight at just age 12. He is known as an “errant knight” because he spent much of his career traveling as he looked for adventure and good causes which could be put to right at the end of a sword.
His many exploits attracted the attention of Medieval poets and troubadours. They wrote stories about his deeds and sang songs about his many victories. William Marshal went on to be a close counselor to several kings, Including Henry III.
William Wallace of Scotland
Made famous by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart, William Wallace was the real deal back in 13th Century Scotland. He was a fierce advocate of Scottish independence from England. He put the blade of his sword where his convictions were. He scored a number of stunning defeats against vastly superior English forces.
The most notable was the crushing defeat of King Edward’s army at the battle of Falkirk in 1298. In that clash, 6,000 Scots routed a force of 15,000 English infantry and cavalry.
William Wallace was eventually captured and executed by King Edward I, but Wallace’s noble fight for the freedom and independence of his beloved Scotland makes him a knight of extreme historical significance.
Richard the Lionheart
His prominence is from the role in the Legend of Robin Hood. Richard’s reputation in military skills marked him as an exceptional knight. By the age of sixteen, he had leashed his army and acquired military success. He was the king of England but spent ample time abroad. Richard was also a stronghold in fighting for Christianity and England. His demise was in France’s battle, and he was buried next to his father’s tomb.