There are few more iconic characters in medieval myth and legend than the heroic knight on horseback.
Throughout history, the noble role and rank of Knight have been associated with the most admirable aspects of a good and valiant servant. This singular title has traditionally conjured up a sense of honour, courage, chivalry, duty, protection and military prowess.
It’s little wonder that the knights of old have been transformed into mesmerising characters both in fable and in real life – the life stories and adventures of history’s knightly characters often making for more enticing tales than even the most outlandish fiction.
As one of the most enduring and infinitely captivating of noble ranks, it’s not surprising that people today still dream of attaining such iconic status.
While the military champions, clad in steel armour and mounted on their valiant steeds, may be a remnant of the past, there is still an air of esteem and admiration for modern-day Knights.
The acquisition of a Knighthood still holds its appeal in contemporary society, albeit in a more modern guise than the mythical icons. Whether the attraction is the social perks of joining the exclusive club known as the aristocracy, or the cultural achievement of such a noteworthy recognition, or even perhaps the commercial advantage of being introduced as a Sir, there’s no doubt that rising to knightly status is something many ordinary people aspire to.
So, if the idea of becoming a knight is something that appeals to you, you may be wondering, what’s the best way to acquire a Knighthood?
Can You Become A Knight Through Marriage?
Traditionally, with some of the noble titles of the aristocratic hierarchy, it’s possible to marry into a certain rank and adopt the equivalent social status as your spouse.
For example, a popular trend in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was for wealthy American heiresses to marry impoverished European nobility as a way of securing a noble lineage for the American family line.
Perhaps the most famous example is that of Consuelo Vanderbilt who was married off to the 9th Duke of Marlborough in a bid to secure advantageous connections for both families. The young Miss Vanderbilt acquired the title of Duchess – a rare prize among American high society.
So marrying into the aristocracy purely for access to a noble title is nothing new – but is it a possible route for becoming a modern-day Knight?
While the systems of nobility around the world do vary considerably, customarily it’s unlikely for a man to acquire the title of Knight by marrying the female equivalent.
Some aristocratic titles may be conferred on male marriage partners – though this is much less common than the practice among wives aspiring to noble status – yet the title of Knight is something of an anomaly within the system of aristocratic ranks.
Throughout history, many noble titles were hereditary, meaning they could be passed onto future generations indefinitely. For example, the eldest son of an Earl could reasonably expect to become the next in line for the title on the death of his father.
Knighthoods, on the other hand, are more often associated with non-hereditary honours, often acquired for notable works or service, yet not necessarily permissible to pass onto descendants.
So if marrying into knightly status is not a feasible option – what is the best way to become a knight?
The Best Way To Become A Medieval Knight
As the nobility and aristocracy evolved during the Middle Ages, the role of a Knight was usually that of a courageous warrior, typically occupying a position in close proximity to the king or queen.
So, in medieval times, the best way to become a Knight was to perform some kind of outstanding service, usually on the field of battle.
Of course, aspects such as charm, charisma, good looks and social adeptness may well have helped an otherwise average soldier to catch the attention of the monarch or their family. Excellence on the jousting field may also have helped an ascension to knightly status – history’s kings and queens are notorious for bestowing favours on their sporting champions.
In such a way, it may have been possible to acquire a Knighthood simply by playing the relevant role within a royal court.
The traditional route, however, was the military track, i.e. to attain a position within the cavalry or the chivalric orders, and to adhere to the strict criteria of an honourable medieval Knight.
The Best Way To Become A 21st-century Knight
Times have changed and the ancient path to an esteemed Knighthood has evolved into a more civilian affair.
These days, the best way to become a Knight is to perform some kind of notable service in the fields that are recognised by reigning monarchs or the few remaining chivalric orders.
For example, one of the most popular knightly honours in contemporary society is the British system of formal recognition known as the Order of the British Empire.
This famous order is known throughout the world for bestowing modern Knighthoods and Damehoods onto noteworthy men and women.
While the criteria for attaining such an honour is not public knowledge, a study of the past recipients provides clues as to what it takes to impress the powers that be to such an extent that they offer the title of Knight or the female equivalent of Dame.
The good news is that the range of recognised contributions is extremely broad. Far from being a solely military prize, many civilians regularly attain such lofty honours, and they come from a vast spectrum of modern achievements. These include the arts, science, peace work, politics, charitable works, sporting excellence and business success.
So if you’re keen to join the ranks of history’s famous or fabled Knights – albeit in a more civilised fashion than armour-clad horseback, perhaps the best route is to devote your life to a meaningful endeavour that makes a positive difference to society.
There may also be certain criteria to meet – such as being an official resident of the country issuing the honours – but in a modern twist on the exclusivity of the ancient nobility, it’s now entirely possible for even the most ordinary man or woman to attain the noble honour of a Knighthood or a Damehood.