Considering the everyday life that the knight actually endured, a thorough investigation reveals his existence to be more rigorous, dangerous, and demanding than that described in stories.
One of the most easily-recognized aspects of the life of the knight is his castle. The romantic notion of a shiny building on a hill is not so realistic. The idea of even having a castle was rooted in the need to defend the land; it was a necessity for protection from Viking or other foreign raiders as well as rival political factions in the kingdom. Early castles were little more than dirt berms reinforced with timber beams. As civil society developed, the castle evolved into a center of commerce, more comfortable quarters for the knight's family and servants as well as a key military defense post. In terms of its protective role, Singman notes that an "[e]ffective response to the military challenges of the medieval world required the power of a great lord...[and] the castle had arisen as the distinctive seat of a great feudal lord's power" (105).
The family of the knight also lived in the castle, and the local village populations looked to it as a source of protection, provision, and justice. In addition to providing military support for the kingdom, the knight was charged with overseeing the provision of the necessities of life and arbitrating the quarrels of the residents within his area. When he wasn't fighting, the knight was ensuring that enough food, fuel, supplies, and entertainment were there for his people. He would also spend time sitting in a large room and settling the disputes of his serfs, much like a modern-day judge. His daily life, in addition to fighting or practicing his combat skills, was filled with family and social obligations.
In terms of his management responsibilities, the knight was required to ensure that the land under his rule was used efficiently. This meant that he oversee the serfs' planting, harvesting, and storage activities. Further, he was responsible for protecting his people from common criminals and raiders. The agricultural and social management of a large section of land, with its many residents, is often under-appreciated or unmentioned by those who portray the life of a knight. It is a fact, however, that being a knight involved far more than just fighting. His castle was an important and rigorous part of his life, and the upkeep, maintenance, and general management of the estate formed a large element of his daily concerns.
The second key component for a knight's daily life was focused upon his combat duties. These included training for war, engaging in tournaments, and fighting actual battles.
The knight had a large personal choice of weapons, and his duties on the field of battle required that he be adept at both using and defending himself with the developing weapons of the day. It wasn't just about swords. As Kagay points out, "longswords still faced competition from other popular weapons including the battleaxe, poleaxe, spear, and various [other weapons]..., the choice of weapons was a highly individual matter" (460). This meant that the knight was re