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How wealthy were medieval knights?

Finances of the knights

Only a few knights belonged to the high nobility, the vast majority of the knighthood belonged to the lower nobility. This was not enough for the political and economic power of the aristocracy or the clergy, which in turn affected the financial situation of the knights. Their service, the use in times of war and the defense of the country could not easily translate into sounding coin. So how wealthy were medieval knights?

Although the knighthood had extensive privileges but it also had constantly high costs to bear, which also incurred in peacetime, because at the same time the knights had to remain defensive and ready in case of war. In particular, from the late Middle Ages onward, the concentration of power in the princely courtyards and the up-and-coming patrician houses in the cities often made it very difficult for the knights to secure their income. Only a few wealthy knights managed to assert themselves permanently in the lower nobility. Numerous knight families fell back into the peasants or citizens, they originally came from.

The income of the knights

The knights were largely financed by the yields the farmers made as tenants of their land. Their financial power and, moreover, the opportunities for political influence changed significantly over the centuries. If in the early Middle Ages they still belonged to the population group, which was financially well-equipped, it was much more difficult for the knights to make a living starting from the Late Middle Ages. This is mainly due to ongoing warlike conflicts between the kingdoms and royal houses. Bad harvests that affected not only the peasants but also the knights indirectly did the rest.

Cost of the knights

The constant readiness to defend the country and the castle, as well as the war services as a vassal in the battles of their lords, were costly. The Knight’s equipment alone-armored armor, lance and sword, shield and warhorse-cost a small fortune. During the knight’s absence from his castle and land, however, he continued to ensure the safety of his ministers and ensure that his castle was not attacked. The cost of these precautionary measures had to take over the knight. The total cost of knighthood-related expenses could not be significantly reduced, but revenues varied considerably. To counter the growing power of the princes and up-and-coming citizens, the Knights considered the last option to merge in the Knights’ League to assert their interests.

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