Gravett cover

De Re Militari | Book Reviews

Christopher Gravett

Knight: Noble Warrior of England 1200-1600

Oxford: Osprey, 2008. 288pp. ISBN-10: 184603342X ISBN-13: 978-1846033421. US$25.95/CD$30.00/UKú20.00.

It is always a great pleasure for anybody with an interest in history to dive deeply into the impressive wealth of knowledge contained in the books of the familiar Osprey series.  Although this volume offers all the recognizable aspects of the proven Osprey formula, its format will surprise anyone who has become accustomed to Osprey’s concise, 96-page softcover books.

Knight Noble Warrior of England 1200-1600 is a hard-bound two hundred and eighty-eight page volume written by Christopher Gravett.  Although the book itself is a new publication, most of the information presented within has been previously published in four volumes of the Warrior series by the same author: Warrior 35: English Medieval Knight 1400-1500, Warrior 48: English Medieval Knight 1200-1300, Warrior 58: English Medieval Knight 1300-1400, and Warrior 104: Tudor Knight.  The four volumes from the Warrior series have been chronologically organized to cover more than four hundred years of the history of the English knight and repackaged at a very attractive price.  The book contains a new introduction and text linking the four volumes from the Warrior series.

Knight Noble Warrior of England 1200-1600 opens with a six page chronology of the history of the English knight, starting with Richard I’s death in 1199 and ending with the end of the Nine Years War in 1603.  The scope of the project is tremendous and the book is divided in four parts, each devoted to about one century of knightly evolutions.  Each part is in turn divided into several sections which allow the reader to explore many aspects of the life of knights in England: “Organization,”  “Training, Armour and Weapons,” “Ideal and Customs,” and “Campaigning.”  The third part deviates slightly from the first two parts by adding three sections titled “Into Battle,” “Chivalry,” and “Medical Care, Death and Burial” to the sections previously mentioned.  The fourth part, which focuses on the Tudor knight, covers the same fields under slightly different titles.  The book ends with a five page section (two pages of pictures and three pages of text) on the “End of the Knight.”

The book is concise and a pleasure to browse with its pages adorned by many pictures of artifacts and sites, manuscript illustrations, and superb original color artwork by Graham Turner.  General readers and medieval enthusiasts will enjoy the amount of information disseminated through out the book and the many aspects of the life of English knights covered.  But academics and serious historians will find this book to be lacking footnotes or endnotes.  Although many subjects are tackled, which is one of the greatest strengths of this work, each section gives a good introduction rather than a complete study of its subject.  The final pages, devoted to the “End of the Knight,” could have been used to compose a fifth part of length equal to that of all the other parts; although it might argued here that the book is about the English knights and not their demise.  But is not the decline of the English knight just as an important part of its history as its birth and evolution?  The task assigned to the author, to cover the history of the English knight, is indeed a daunting one.  But both Osprey and Richard Gravett have managed to put together a volume that is attractive not only by its price (the price of two volumes of the Warrior series) but also by the easily accessible information it contains.  The many well-researched illustrations wonderfully spike the reader’s imagination while the text offers a good overview and illustrates efficiently the period covered. 

Knight Noble Warrior of England 1200-1600 is a great reference work which is filled with compact and accurate information.  The mix of text and illustrations should be interesting and delighting for novice historians and be found enjoyable by specialists.

Matthieu Chan Tsin

Costal Carolina University <matthieu@coastal.edu>

Page Added: September 2008