Knights & Battles introduces children to the world of chivalry with a charm and clarity that I have not seen since How to Be a Knight. Filled with illustrations, explanations, and interactive features, Knights & Battles begins with the flowering of knighthood in the Middle Ages and outlines its progression through the centuries. It describes the duties, and expectations of knights as well as the process of becoming one. Battles are depicted as well as basic strategies of siege warfare. Finally, Knights & Battles ends by describing the modern version of chivalry.
Did you know?
Castle walls were angled outward to rebound missiles – or hot water or sand – back on to attackers, and to deflect battering rams upward. [pg. 13]
“The Inquisition was a church court founded in the thirteenth century to fight heresy. Staffed mostly by friars, it could torture and execute suspected heretics. The Church believed this saved a heretic from hell.” [pg. 17]
Long wars between the rulers of England, Scotland, and France gradually changed the idea of fighting for the king as a person, into fighting for the nation itself. [pg. 24]
“The sword was the symbol of a knight’s rank. Unlike the bow, spear, or dagger, which developed from the tools of the hunt, the sword was designed purely for use in battle. Swords were extremely expensive and were often handed down in families for generations.” [pg. 31]
“French was the international language of chivalry, to be used on all formal occasions.” [pg. 33]
The Catholic conception of church and state are described as well as the activities of monks and the supposed power of relics. An illustration is included of a mystery play which includes several men dressed up as demons (bright red body costumes with tails and horns).
Astrology is mentioned as something that doctors used to determine when to attempt cures.
An illustration is included of several people being burnt at the stake.
It is also said that “Christians thought of their world as a double pyramid of power stretching down from king and pope, through nobles and bishops, free men and priests, to peasants.” [pg. 6] A discussion of the proper view of civil government and the church could be prompted by this statement.
Mr. Tames seems to support the idea that the Muslim world was more advanced that European culture, writing that “standards of comfort and learning remained higher in Muslim countries until the end of the Middle Ages.” [pg. 9]
On several occasions Mr. Tames mentions the concept of “courtly love” saying “this concept allowed noble ladies to have admirers without making their lords jealous” [pg. 10], also describing it as “an ideal passion for another person, always beyond reach by reason of rank, distance, or marriage.” [pg. 42]
Conclusion. Not quite as good as How to Be a Knight, but close.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret