The image of the chivalrous, medieval knight in shining plate armor with he and his horse outfitted in heraldic symbols is typically what many envision when they think of knights throughout history. But that ideal evolved from the 13th to 15th centuries, after such warriors had been in existence from at least 300-500 years before. The legends of King Arthur and his knights begun in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, and the romantic concepts of chivalry and courtly love inspired by writers like Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe, also heavily influenced commonly held opinions about the role of knights. The Roman Catholic church too played an essential role in the development of knightly orders. The Knights Templar, and the Hospitallers or Knights of Saint John in the Holy Land, and the Spanish military orders of Alcantara, Calatrava, and Santiago who fought against the Moors, performed their duties guided by monastic principles, but this did not prevent excesses or barbarism. The reality of knighthood was very different for those who lived during the early periods where the practice became instituted.
|Crusaders of the Knights Templar|
|Battle of Hastings reenactment|
|Geoffrey of Anjou's heraldic device|
|A warrior in his hauberk with shield and sword|
|An idealized knight|
and it pleases me when I see many soldiers come running after them; and it warms my heart to see strong castles besieged, the palisades smashed and broken down, and to see the army on the river-bank protected on all sides by ditches, and strong, tight-made palisades.
William Marshal: Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 1147-1219, David Crouch