Assignment: Feudalism, Knights, and Squires (Oh my!)

Post date: Nov 10, 2012 5:18:14 AM

Yes, these three words may be new or at least pretty unfamiliar to you, but don't worry. This week's assignment is designed to give you some background information about those topics.

Below is the assignment and required reading. There are two parts: the completed pyramid diagram and the caricatures. You can either download and print the assignment from here or attached to this page, or you can read off of this web page and complete the assignments on your own paper. You can get a total of 6RP for this assignment.

Feudalism, Knights, and Squires Assignment


Feudalism in the Middle Ages resembles a pyramid, with the lowest peasants at its base and the lines of authority flowing up to the peak of the structure, the king. Under Feudalism the King was only answerable to the Pope. Feudalism was based on the exchange of land for military service. Life lived under the Medieval Feudal System, or Feudalism, demanded that everyone owed allegiance to the King and their immediate superior.

Feudalism Pyramid - Fealty and Homage

During the Middle Ages a portion of land called a fief would be granted by the King. This reward would be granted to him by his lord in exchange for his services. The recipient of the fief would be one of his vassals. The fief, or land, was usually granted following a Commendation Ceremony. The commendation ceremony was designed to create a lasting bond between a vassal and his lord. Fealty and homage were a key element of feudalism.

The Feudalism Pyramid in England - How it worked

Feudalism in England can be easily described through a pyramid:

  • At the top of the Feudalism Pyramid was the King

  • The King claimed ownership of the land

  • The King granted the land to important nobles - these nobles then pledged their loyalty by swearing to serve and protect the king

  • The king also granted land to the less powerful military men (the knights) who were called vassals

  • The vassals also agreed to fight for the king in exchange for their land

  • The land was worked by the peasants or serfs. They belonged to the land and could not leave without permission - the bottom of the Feudalism pyramid.

The Feudalism Pyramid - The Social Pyramid of Power

The good thing about the Feudalism Pyramid of Power was that is was possible for everyone to move higher up the ranks of the pyramid and this is what everyone aspired to do. Medieval Squires and Pages of the Middle Ages wanted to become knights. A Knight who proved valiant in battle or was successful at jousting in tournaments could become wealthy. His wealth could pay for a castle. His importance in the land would increase and he could then join the nobility. Powerful nobles aspired to be King - and the Medieval history of the Middle Ages under the feudalism pyramid describes such coups.

Feudalism - The Pyramid of Power

The pyramid of power which was the Feudal system ran to a strict 'pecking' order - during the Medieval period of the Middle Ages everyone knew their place. The order of rank and precedence in the Medieval Feudal System was as follows:

The Pope

The King


Knights / Vassals




Peasants / Serfs / Villeins

The Feudalism Pyramid and the Pope

Feudalism was based on the belief that the land belonged to God - but that the Kings, who ruled by Divine Right, managed the land and used it as they wished. However, under the Feudalism pyramid the King was answerable to the Pope. The Pope, as God's vicar on Earth, had the right to intervene and impose sanctions on an unjust King. Under the feudalism pyramid the Pope had the power to pronounce judgment against a King, depose a King, forfeit his Kingdom, put another King in his place or excommunicate a King. The power and pronouncements of the Pope played a major part in the History of England. The Pope declared the Norman Invasion as a Holy Crusade and declared his support of William the Conqueror against the claim of King Harold.

Now that you know a little about the feudal system in Europe during the time of The Crusades, fill in the flow chart below. Use the reading to fill in the boxes on the left and right of the pyramid about what each group provided the other what each gave in return. Use the words below to fill in the dotted lines in the pyramid.

King Nobles Vassals and Knights

Peasants, Serfs, and Townspeople

(You will want to download and print the diagram to complete it)

Knights and Squires

Armor and Weapons

A knight was armed and armored to the teeth. He had so much armor and weapons that he depended on his squire to keep his armor and weapons clean and in good working condition. At first the armor was made of small metal rings called chain mail. A knight wore a linen shirt and a pair of pants as well as heavy woolen pads underneath the metal-ringed tunic. A suit of chain mail could have more than 200,000 rings. However, chain mail was heavy, uncomfortable, and difficult to move in. As time passed, knights covered their bodies with plates of metal. Plates covered their chests, back, arms, and legs. A bucket like helmet protected the knight’s head and had a hinged metal visor to cover his face. Suits of armor were hot, uncomfortable, and heavy to wear. A suit of armor weighed between 22 to 30 kilograms. Some knights even protected their horses in armor.

A knight also needed a shield to hold in front of himself during battle. Shields were made of either wood or metal. Knights decorated their shields with their family emblem or crest and the family motto.

A knight's weapon was his sword, which was about 14.5 kilograms. It was worn on his left side in a case fastened around his waist. A knife was worn on the knight’s right side. Knights used other weapons in combat as well. A lance was a long spear used in jousts. Metal axes, battle hammers, and maces were also used to defeat the enemy.

Assignment: Make a Annotated Character of a Knight and Squire

Now that you have read about knights and squires like Nigel, Rannulf, Edmund, and Hubert in The Book of a Lion, make a caricature of a knight and a squire during the Middle Ages in Europe.

A caricature is a cartoonish drawing that is meant to exaggerate the qualities or characteristics of a particular person, group of people, or character from a story. Political cartoons are often caricatures. Draw your own caricature and make annotations, words explaining the parts of your picture and teaching us about the person. See below for an example of what you should do.

(Click the picture to enlarge)