Nerd School: So You Want to be a Knight?

by Joe on May 3, 2013



In Westeros,much like our own history, knighthood was more of an idea than a reality. Yes knights existed, but the idea of a true knight was more something to aspire to than actually achieve. Lots of people called themselves knights, but few lived up to the name and title of “Ser”.

Battles of Westeros by Tomasz Jedruszek

Battles of Westeros by Tomasz Jedruszek


In our world, knights are given the title “sir”, a bastardization of the word sire. A knight in Westeros was expected to follow a code not unlike our own knight’s code of chivalry. Knights in The Seven Kingdoms were expected to be brave and just, defend the young and innocent, act cleanly as well as godly, and act with military courtesy. This was not always the case.

In fact anyone in Westeros could become a knight, and often did. From baseborn to bastards, anyone could be made a knight as long as they were knighted by one who was a knight. Westeros was a traditional feudalistic society, and in such a society, upward mobility was almost nonexistent outside of the merchant class. Knighthood was a way for people born in the lower classes to actually improve their situation and gain wealth , land, and title. The Cleganes are a good example of this, as the founder of  the house was originally a kennelmaster for Tytos Lannister, Tywin’s father. Tytos was saved from a lioness by Clegane’s dogs and was granted a knighthood and land for this. Sandor never was anointed, and thus was never a knight, but Gregor was a knight, and one could argue his crimes were far worse than anything his brother did.

Hedge Knight

Hedge Knight

Just as anyone could become a knight, there were many different types of knights they could become. For example, there were hedge knights, a knight without a master. Like ronin in Japanese society. These masterless knights would travel from master to master plying their arms for food, shelter, and a bit of coin. Unfortunately when the coin ran out many of these most hedge knights put their arms to use by resorting to banditry. Being a hedge knight though did not mean the knight could be any less devout to their code. Ser Dunk the Tall is often considered a pinnacle of knighthood, so much so that he was allowed to have a Targaryen prince as his squire.



The opposite of a hedge knight was a landed knight, who has his own keep and land. They act like an overseer with their own peasants and men-at-arms, and may even take on hedge knights as sworn swords. Landed knights are sworn to fight for the lord who holds dominion over their land, and must respond if called into battle. The more important a landed knight was the more land and vassals he himself would have and be responsible for.

In order to become a knight, one would have to go through being a squire first.  Squires are boys who are seeking the path to knighthood. It is at this stage that they  learn to properly care for and use of weapons, armor, and horses. It is here they are supposed to learn about Chivalry. When they graduate from this stage, they become knighted by someone who is already a knight.

1It is important to note that knighthood in the Seven Kingdoms had a religious component as well as the martial component. Knighthood was tied to the faith of the seven which the Andals brought over with them  from Essos during their invasion. During the knighting ceremony the person who is knighting taps his sword on the shoulders of the squire and recites a prayer. This is all that is required, however more elaborate ceremonies involve sleeping in septs at the feet of the alter of the warrior, or being anointed with blessed oils. Since Northerners do not often worship the Seven, they rarely become knights, instead they are called simply heavy Cavalrymen.  This does not excuse them from acting with the same ideals expected of a knight. Knights were expected to protect and spread the Faith of the Seven like the Knights of our Middle Ages

Very few actually reach the pinnacle of knighthood, and you will often hear references to someone not being a “true knight”. In fact the ideal knight as described by most in Westeros is Ser Barristan Selmy. However, even he was unable to fulfill his vows, and is considered a traitor by some.

In the end, knighthood is fickle. On one hand you are supposed to follow a code of virtuousness, and on the other you are supposed to follow orders which may contradict your code. This leaves knighthood a bitter taste in many noble mouths.

Game of Thrones:

Battles and Wars of Westeros

The War of Conquest                                    The Blackfyre Rebellion                   The Greyjoy Rebellion

Robert’s Rebellion Pt.1,                              Robert’s Rebellion Pt.2                     Robert’s Rebellion Pt. 3

The Reynes of Castamere

The People and Places of Westeros

The Religions of Westeros                         The Races of Westeros                       Tyrion and Richard

The Targaryen Curse

Game of Thrones (TV and other Media)

Casting Roundup 1 and 2                             Inn at the Crossroads Interview

Game of Thrones Primer I                           Season 1 recap

Game of Thrones Primer II                         Game of Throne Boardgames

S1E1, S1E2, S1E3, S1E4, S1E5, S1E6, S1E7, S1E8, S1E9, S1E10

S2E1, S2E2, S2E3, S2E4, S2E5, S2E6, S2E7, S2E8, S2E9, S2E10


Read Joe’s other articles:

Doctor Who: Doctor Who Season 6 Round Up, An Alternate History of the DoctorDoctor Who Season 6 primer, Psychology, and Regeneration, The Pitfalls of Paradoxical Storytelling, The Missing Episodes

Star Trek: Evening the OddsStar Trek Blu-rays 1 and 2 Trek in your Queue 1 and 2, Obama TrekStar Trek: A Different Generation, Failed Star Trek Spinoffs

Misc: Sci-Fi ComposersThieving Sci-Fi, Paranormal Activi3The Walking Dead Primer, The Genre Problem, Conan Primer, Mutant Fatigue, Sci-Fi A-Team, A Love Letter to Natalie PortmanThor Primer

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

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Joseph May 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I think Tytos was saved from a Lion, not a pack of wolves.


Joe May 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

you are correct, updated


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