The College of Hereditary Nobility of Hungary

Allied Groups

The College of the Hereditary Nobility of Hungary and Transylvania works with a large number of allied groups, two of which are internal to the College, and a few which are independent:

Knights and Knightly Orders

A knight is a member of the warrior class of the Middle Ages in Europe who followed a code of law called "chivalry". In other Indo-European languages, cognates of cavalier or rider are more prevalent, e.g., French "chevalier" and German "Ritter", suggesting a connection to the knight's mode of transport. Since antiquity a position of honour and prestige has been held by mounted warriors such as the Greek "hippeus" and the Roman "eques", and knighthood in the Middle Ages was inextricably linked with horsemanship.

Since antiquity, heavy cavalry known as Cataphracts were involved in various wars mainly by Iranian peoples, with their arms and role in battle similar to those of the medieval knight. However, a cataphract had no fixed political position or social role other than his military function.

The Iranian Sarmatians were probably the originator of the armoured knights of medieval Europe. Knighthood as known in Europe was characterized by the combination of two elements, feudalism and service as a mounted warrior. Both arose under the reign of the Frankish emperor Charlemagne, from which the knighthood of the Middle Ages can be seen to have had its genesis.

Some portions of the armies of Germanic peoples who occupied Europe from the 3rd century CE, had always been mounted, and some armies, such as those of the Ostrogoths and Huns, comprised mainly of cavalry. However it was the Franks who came to dominate Western and Central Europe after the fall of Rome, and they generally fielded armies composed of large masses of infantry, with an infantry elite, the comitatus, which often rode to battle on horseback rather than marching on foot. Riding to battle had two key advantages: it reduced fatigue, particularly when the elite soldiers wore armour (as was increasingly the case in the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman empire); and it gave the soldiers more mobility to react to the raids of the enemy, particularly the Muslim invasions which reached Europe in 711. So it was that the armies of the Frankish ruler and warlord Charles Martel, which defeated the Umayyad Arab invasion at the Battle of Tours in 732, were still largely infantry armies, the elites riding to battle but dismounting to fight, providing a hard core for the levy of the infantry warbands.

As the 8th century progressed into the Carolingian Age, the Franks were generally on the attack, and larger numbers of warriors took to their horses to ride with the Emperor in his wide-ranging campaigns of conquest. At about this time the Franks increasingly remained on horseback to fight on the battlefield as true cavalry rather than as mounted infantry, and would continue to do so for centuries thereafter. Although in some nations the knight returned to foot combat in the 14th century, the association of the knight with mounted combat with a spear, and later a lance, remained a strong one.

The period of chaos in the 9th and 10th centuries, between the fall of the Carolingian central authority and the rise of separate Western and Eastern Frankish kingdoms (later to become France and Germany respectively), only entrenched this newly-landed warrior class. This was because governing power, and defence against Viking, Hungarians (Magyars ) and Saracen attack, became an essentially local affair which revolved around these new hereditary local lords and their demesnes.

In the Early Medieval period any well-equipped horseman could be described as a "knight", or miles in Latin. In the course of the 12th century knighthood became a social rank with a distinction being made between "milites gregarii" (non-noble cavalrymen) and "milites nobiles" (true knights).

The first military orders of knighthood were the Knights Hospitaller founded at the First Crusade of 1099, followed by the Knights Templar (1119). At the time of their foundation, these were intended as monastic orders, whose members would act as simple soldiers protecting pilgrims. It was only over the following century, with the successful conquest of the Holy Land and the rise of the crusader states, that these orders became powerful and prestigious.

The ideal of chivalry as the ethos of the Christian warrior, and the transmutation of the term knight from the meaning "servant, soldier", and of chevalier "mounted soldier", to refer to a member of this ideal class, is significantly influenced by the Crusades, on one hand inspired by the military orders of monastic warriors, as seen retrospectively from the point of view of the beginning Late Middle Ages, and on the other hand influenced by Islamic (Saracen) ideals of furusiyya.

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (1459-1519) is often referred to as the last true knight. He was the last emperor to lead his troops onto the battlefield.

Knights of the medieval era were asked to "Protect the weak, defenceless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all." These few guidelines were the main duties of a medieval knight, but they were very hard to accomplish fully. Rarely could even the best of knights achieve these goals.

The code of chivalry dealt with three main areas: the military, social life, and religion.

The military side of life was very important to knighthood. Along with the fighting elements of war, there were many customs and rules to be followed as well.

Becoming a knight was not a widely attainable goal in the medieval era. Sons of knights were eligible for the ranks of knighthood, but while other young men could indeed become knights, the job was just nearly impossible, especially for those from the lowest class. Those who were destined to become knights were singled out: in boyhood, these future warriors were sent off to a castle as pages, later becoming squires. Commonly around the age of 20, knights would be admitted to their rank in a ceremony called either "dubbing" (from the French adoubement), or the "Accolade".

Chivalry and religion were mutually influenced. The early Crusades helped to clarify the moral code of chivalry as it related to religion. As a result, Christian armies began to devote their efforts to sacred purposes. As time passed, clergy instituted religious vows which required knights to use their weapons chiefly for the protection of the weak and defenceless, especially women and orphans, and of churches.

The Code of Chivalry continued to influence social behaviour long after the actual knighthood ceased to exist, influencing for example 19th century Victorian perceptions of how a "gentleman" ought to behave up to today.