The tales of knights throughout history have captured the imagination of ordinary people and storytellers the world over. 

There’s something enduringly appealing about the archetypal knight in shining armour, the fearless warrior who was also the epitome of chivalry and charm. 

Most of the famous legends of knights relate to male military champions – but what about female warriors and women of similar ranks? Were there any female knights? And what is the female equivalent of knight today? 

Were There Any Female Knights? 

Over the centuries, a great many individuals held the classic rank and title of knighthood, and for the majority of history, these were held almost exclusively by men. 

Given the nature of warfare and the more domestic roles of women in the traditional social conventions, women were rarely seen on the field of battle. As a result, the majority of military champions that rose to the level of a knight were men. 

However, there were exceptions. As the cultural and social conventions changed over the ages, there were occasions when women were included in warrior positions, and some of these were elevated to the status of a knight. 

Perhaps the most famous female knight of legend is the iconic Joan of Arc. Purists may argue that she was not an official knight – being of humble peasant origins – and not a member of a formal Order of Knights

Joan of Arc enters Orléans by Jean-Jacques Scherrer (1887, Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Orléans)
Joan of Arc enters Orléans by Jean-Jacques Scherrer (1887, Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans) – Jean-Jacques Scherrer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Yet there’s no doubt that this courageous female warrior has secured her place in history as one of the most memorable female knights. 

Female figures such as Joan of Arc and the few other women classed as knights are undoubtedly more of the exception than the rule, and while there were female knights throughout history, they were very rare and certainly not the norm. 

What Is The Female Equivalent Of A Knight? 

If there weren’t very many female knights, it’s natural to wonder what was the female equivalent. And for modern minds inspired by the stories and legends of knights and their ladies, it’s intriguing to consider what would be the contemporary equivalent of a knightly rank for today’s females. 

Historically, the female equivalent of a knight is a dame, though this is a relatively new convention. 

In the modern systems of nobility and within the few remaining Orders of Knights around the world, women are granted the rank and title of a Dame when they attain a position comparable to a man’s rank of a Knight

For example, with the famous New Year’s Honours List that recognises the great works of individuals from all walks of life, the British monarch grants knighthoods (for men) and damehoods (for women), which entitle the recipient to become a Sir or a Dame

In this sense, the modern equivalent of a knight is a dame, though this styling is regarded as a modern evolution of the titles of nobility. 

During medieval times, a woman who was married to a knight or who acquired the status comparable to a knight was usually known as a Lady. 

Many of the noble Ladies of history would have held ranks and positions within society that would have been the female equivalent of the title and social standing of a knight. 

Ways To Become A Dame

The knights of old were usually granted their noble status by the monarchs or the heads of the various Orders of Knights. This has been the route to such a noble rank that has customarily been available solely for men, which is why there have been so few female knights. 

In today’s society, the opportunities to ascend this level of nobility and social esteem are much more balanced between genders. 

The ways for women to become a Dame in the modern world are largely the same ways that men can become a knight, and there are typically two routes to these noble titles. 

The most well-known way to become a knight or the female equivalent of a knight, i.e. a Dame, is to be granted the noble title by a sovereign. 

These are the honours that often make headlines when a notable citizen or celebrity is granted a knighthood or a damehood, in recognition of their contribution or life’s work. 

In the past, it was the famous new knights and Sirs that captured the interest of the world’s media, but in recent decades, the noteworthy and remarkable women who have been granted damehoods have become inspiring figures, both in their own country and around the world, in recognition of their efforts or actions. 

While there’s a great deal of social esteem attached to these honours titles, they are not openly available. 

They require a life’s work or significant contributions to society. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the sought-after knighthood or damehood will be offered. 

There are many great and high-achieving individuals who are famous for not having been granted a knighthood or damehood, despite their incredible contributions or impressive achievements. 

Fortunately, there’s a path to becoming a dame which is much more predictable, controllable and doesn’t require a lifelong investment. This is the route chosen by many nobles of the ages and it’s the practice of simply purchasing a genuine title of aristocracy such as a knight or a dame. 

For those prepared to invest some careful research and a degree of their resources, it’s possible to join the ranks of the famous and celebrated dames by acquiring a legitimate Damehood. 

The ancient legends of knights and their fair maidens may live on in the fairy tales of modern times, yet there’s no doubt that these stereotypes belong to a long-ago era. 

These days, both genders are more familiar with a more equal-opportunities approach to getting ahead in society. 

The fact that it’s equally as possible and viable for women to buy a damehood as it is for men to buy a knighthood is a reflection of the cultural evolutions towards equality that we recognise today. 

This modernisation of the nobility and access to aristocratic ranks is perhaps something that the ancient female warriors would have been delighted to witness.