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Thoughts on Knighthood
[03/25/2011] [Grimbold]

I started my journey in medieval combat sports in 1990 in the Society for Creative Anachronism. After five years in the SCA, I earned my Award of Arms, which allows me to use the title "Lord" and to bear a coat of arms. That was the highest award I received. I joined the SCA to fight heavy, and the concept of earning a knighthood was something almost unreachable when I first began. In time, I met and learned from a few knights, and every knight I ever met, trained with, or fought with at a war seemed to be a good example of what knighthood stood for. They were all people who seemed to be examples of the best the SCA had to offer. My opinions of what a knight should be are shaped by those experiences and the quality of the folks I met.

Two years ago I joined Amtgard. In that time I have met a number of knights here as well. Although I have not met a true cross section of the knighthood in Amtgard, I think the ones I have met give me a fair example of what knighthood in Amtgard is. I can honestly say I personally know only a small number of knights in Amtgard who I think live up to the standard that I saw set for knighthood in the SCA. The knights in Amtgard who do not meet this standard are not bad people or undeserving of their awards and titles. They just are not people who have not done as much as the folks I chose to compare them to.

So what is the difference? Why do I feel that the knighthood of Amtgard as a whole isn't as knightly as the knighthood of the SCA? When I break down this question in my head, I keep coming back to the idea that the four paths to knighthood in Amtgard are too generous. The path to knighthood is too quick. It is one of the biggest differences between knighthood in the SCA and knighthood in Amtgard. I personally feel that holding an office in Amtgard is not an acceptable path to knighthood. While it is something to be considered when discussing the virtues of a prospective candidate, it alone is not enough. In Amtgard, it is possible for a person to be of service in office and earn a lot of awards for such. Once they have earned enough, they are technically eligible to be knighted. From there, the patient and sociable candidate pretty much can wait their turn, expecting to one day be rewarded with a belt for their service. Again, I say, this just isn't enough. I also feel that this could be said about any one of the paths to knighthood. Good stick does not make a knight anymore than good organizational skill does. Making a masterwork craft project should not be enough either.

In the SCA you have to show some skill as a crafter, hold offices for your local group or kingdom, have skill in combat, and live as an example for others to learn from before you will be considered for knighthood. Even then, you may not be granted the honor.

I propose that if there were to be a change to knighthood in Amtgard, that it should be this: combine all the paths into one. There should be only one kind of knighthood. What I mean by that is simple. To earn the right to be considered for knighthood, you need to achieve quality in all four paths. I do not think you should have to earn ten box tops in all four categories, but perhaps you should come close. We do not have to change the award system. We should just require more from our prospective knights.

I am not suggesting we just switch to the SCA system, which has its own flaws. One flaw in my opinion is that the SCA knighthood system seems to leave out women. I have heard a statistic saying that the knighthood in the SCA has only about one percent of women who hold knighthood. The cause of this is the heavy requirement for sword skill. My fix for knighthood addresses that. Using the current system of awards I suggest that we require mastery in at least two, maybe even three of the four paths before becoming eligible for knighthood consideration.

One challenge to this change is: what do we do with the knights we have right now? I suggest we do nothing. They are still knights and earned their titles under the system as it stood at that time. This change would apply to anyone who is to be considered in the future. The current knights will have to teach their squires this new standard. In time, this change would lower the total number knights in Amtgard, and raise their overall quality, while not taking anything away from those that hold the title now.

My vision of knighthood is that a knight is an example of the best that Amtgard has to offer. They should show the social virtues, be of service to the people, should always strive to master crafts of the hands and mind, and indeed even have some skill in combat. While no one can be a master of all these things, a knight can and should be better than average in all these things and a master of more than one. The achievement of ten awards in a path could still be rewarded. Just call it a masterhood. After more than one masterhood is earned, then perhaps we look at a person as a possible knighthood candidate.

The real change I suggest here is not one that has to be written into the rulebook or corpora, as much as it is a change to what we perceive a knight to be. Let’s hold the idea of knighthood to a higher standard, making those who strive for it have to achieve more before they are granted the belt.

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