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  • Medieval Squires (SCA-related)

    This is an article I wrote years ago for squires in the SCA. I think some of you with medieval interests may find it useful or interesting. -- JS

    On Squires, For Squires (and others)
    By Sovany Barsci Janos

    “From what dunghil didst thou Pick up this Shakerag, this Squire of the Body?” --R Head, Eng. Rogue (AD. 1665)

    We are obligated as squires to know and understand our duties and obligations, and the historical precedences for them. You will quickly learn (if you have not already) that our Society is one which knows and draws upon a wealth of historical precedence. We all know that such a thing as a squire existed in the Middle Ages, but what exactly did he do! (Most, but not all, medieval squires were men. "He" is used here and throughout to represent the male and female genders) So what is a squire?- According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a squire is:

    "In the military organization of the later middle ages, a young man of good birth attendant upon a knight, one ranking next to a knight under the feudal system of military service and tenure.

    Additionally:

    "A young man of gentle birth, who as an aspirant to knighthood, attended upon a knight, carried his shield, and rendered him other services."

    Although many modern authors (and some SCA "authorities"-see A Crump's field Guide to the Current Middle Ages) state that squires were not fighters, these "young men of good birth" unquestionably served their knights in war as well as in peace. Crafton, in his Chronicles (AD. 1568), wrote

    "The Lord James Audeley with the ayde of his foure squiers, fought always in the chiefe of the battayle."

    At the battle of Agincourt, the major nobles of the French Army forced lesser nobles as well as squires from their places of honor in the first Battle--hardly a place for a noncombatant! (The Armies of Agincourt, by Christopher Rothero.) According to The Knights of Christ, by Terence Wise, squires of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem served under an officer called the "Military Esquire," who may have been a tactical commander of the squires of the army. “Armies of Feudal Europe”, by Ian Heath, tells us that squires fought and died as combatants at the battles of Evesham (AD 1265) and Stirling Bridge (AD. 1297)--this at a time when the squires were just evolving from lowborn servants to knight-aspirants.

    As regards the peaceful role of squires, Lord Berneers wrote, in Arth. Lyt. Bryt. (AD. 1530), "He was served rychely with many goodly squyers, who dyd nothing elles but served hym alwayes."

    More on peaceful duties later.

    It is worth noting here that the "country gentleman" version of squires was not normally used in our period, although Shakespeare, in Henry IV iii, ii, 63, wrote, "I am Robert Shallow a poore Esquire of this countie, and one of the Kings Justices of the Peace." This was written in AD. 1597. Also, according to “The Wars of the Roses”, by Terence Wise, an esquire named Lovelace rose to be Captain of Kent due to his military talents (somewhat unusual for the noncombatants we're supposed to be).

    Generally, in the Current Middle Ages we see squires as students of a knight, with knights and squires interpreting that relationship differently--some knights reaching only combative skills ("sword jockery," to coin a phrase), some teaching the well-rounded skills required of a good knight and peer. I feel that a squire is fortunate who has as his master a knight who enthusiastically stresses and instructs him in all aspects of chivalric behavior and expects the squire to learn them just as enthusiastically The taking of a squire by a knight is a contractual obligation by both, and must be viewed as such to be understood. Sir Lars Vilhjalmsson, in his article called "Squiredom" published in the 20th year edition of the known World Handbook, offers these words on the personal contract between knights and squires: "Knights take squires for much wider reasons than most people seem to think... This feudal bond, one to one, is the strongest in our Society. Even a king violates it at his peril" (p. 2112 it behooves us, as contracted employees, to understand and fulfill the terms of that contract.

    In our Society, squires learn through service. Not many squires have been free of the onerous camp duties at Pennsic or elsewhere, but they are an essential part of camp life (unless you want a lifespan shorter than Lady Jane Grey's) and they are OUR JOB as squires. Like medieval squires, we are responsible For armoring and arming our knight and serving with him in combat, among many other duties. Squires are also responsible for maintenance of the campsite--this includes positioning the tents, picking up trash from time to time, ensuring that the group dishes are washed, the camp is safeguarded, armor and other stuff is picked up and put away, and that out knight's, his lady’s, and his guests' needs are met. Medieval squires had it no better-in fact, they had it much worse. According to “Life in a Medieval Castle”, by Joseph and Frances Gies, his duties consisted of:

    “…cleaning out stables, currying horses, cleaning armor serving at table, while he learned to ride a horse and wield a sword and lance, with plenty of practice at the quintain.” William Marshal underwent this training for eight years in the household of William of Tancarville.

    Which of you has had to clean a stable at Pennsic?!! “Medieval European Armies”, also by the prolific Terence Wise, lists among the duties of a squire "[to] take charge of any prisoners ... rescue the lord ... and act as subaltern to the retinue." The book "Knights", by Julek Heller and Deirdre Headon, while miserable as a reference in every other possible respect, does offer one paragraph worth noting in the chapter on squires:

    “…The squire's whole life was governed by the notion of personal service to his knight. He would wake up in the morning and help him dress He would welcome visitors on his behalf. He would carve meat at the table according to special custom ... His last duty of the day would be to help his knight prepare for bed. He then slept on the floor by his knight's bed in case his master should want him during the night."

    We are also responsible for being a good example to others and ourselves. Should a squire break his word, he breaks his knight's word. Should he fail to accomplish a task, he fails his knight. Should he violate the rules of courtesy or chivalry, it is his knight's violation. On the other hand, when a good squire follows through on his oath, succeeds in some noble task, and shows courtesy or chivalry, it reflects well on his knight.

    In addition to the general meaning of squire, there are and were certain

    "…officer(s) charged with attendance upon a sovereign, nobleman, or other high dignitary" (Oxford English Dictionary).

    These are the squires with particular responsibilities in addition to their general student responsibilities First among these is the Squire of (or for) the body (or household), first referred to in writing in “The Rolls of Parliament in 1450:

    "John Hampton Squier for oure body." In 1477, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland make reference to "Our lovit familiare squear of houshald Johne of Ballone." In 1495, the fortunate David Philippe was referred to as "Esquyer for the body of oure Sovereign Lord the Kyng." Fleming, in 1587, spoke of the "Chiefe escuir of the kings escuir, and the other escuires of the escuir together." The squire of the body was responsible for the actions of and supervision over the other squires. According to “Medieval European Armies”, the squire of the body was the only squire to accompany the knight into battle, although it was normal to rake three on campaign, the others remaining in camp. The knight or nobleman's senior squire was the "squire of the body" (frequently called in the Current Middle Ages "body squire"). Other squires' offices referred to in the Oxford English Dictionary are the esquire of the chamber, esquire of the table, and carving esquire, whose duties are fairly obvious and refer to their more peaceful duties.

    How should a squire be called! ("Supper's ready!" is my favorite.) There are two forms of the word--squire and esquire. To start, let's look at the differences between them. The words both come from the Old French esquier or escuier, later the French ecuyer, from the Latin scutariur, derived from scutum, "shield." The Oxford English Dictionary refers to the word Esquire as a "later form" than squire, but in medieval days they both were used. There was, technically, no feminine form for the word squire until squiress, meaning "female squire" or "the wife of a squire or country gentleman." evolved in AD. 1823. (There is also the word--one of my favorite squirely words--squirina, "daughter of a squire," but it too was first used in writing in AD. 1823.) The period form, Esquiress, or "a lady esquire, was first used in AD. 1596 by J. Smyth's "Lives of Berkeley", and referred to "the principall mourneresse apparelled as an Esquieresse." Since Squiress and Esquiress have both fallen out of use in these modern times, there doesn't seem to be much difference.

    How then, to call a squire! Frequently we hear references to "Squire [name]" (e.g., Squire Janos). This is not a medieval practice, nor was it used in later periods to refer to squires of our type. It was used to refer to a country gentleman, and the first recorded written records of the word date from AD 1645. Proper forms in writing are those listed previously and the following medieval examples:

    "Walter Begood, Squyer” AD. 1382
    “John Standisch, Squyer” AD. 1440
    “John Wilcotys, squier" AD. 1460
    “Thomas Middleton, squier " AD. 1541
    “Walter Wrotchely & Edward Lyttylton, esquyors” AD. 1552-3
    “Richard Pultenham Squier” AD. 1586
    “Davy Gam, esquire” AD. 1599
    Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
    Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


    "Never pet a burning dog."

    RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
    http://www.mormon.org
    http://www.sca.org
    http://www.scv.org/
    http://www.scouting.org/

  • #2
    There seems to be a pattern here. You may have noticed that the spelling of the words varies quite a bit (as did the spelling of everything else in our period), so I'm listing here every pre-1600 version of the words squire and esquire in the Oxford English Dictionary.

    Esquyer esquire Esquire escuir Esquyer
    Squier swyer sqwyer Squyer squyer
    Squeer squere swyr squire Squire
    Squeyer suier sqwyere esquire skuyer
    Skyer squear Squier

    Now, I challenge thee, "gude sqwyeres," to serve your knights through knowledge and service, and answer the challenge made in Ipomydon in AD. 1440:

    "And euery man sayd to other there, 'Will ye se (th]e proude squeer ... !' "


    This article was initially written as an instruction text for the squires of His Excellency Sir Alrick von Baeker. Many of the duties of SCA squires herein refer to duties of squires in His Excellency's service. Other Knights, Esquires of the Body, and Esquires will need to understand this when reading this article and modify it as need be/or their own Households.

    Sovany Barsci Janos (CSM. Sable Crane. PCS. Lindquist Ring) is a 10th C. Hungarian who is squire of the body to His Excellency Sir Alrick von Baeker.


    http://www.stamaria.com/onSquires.asp
    Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
    Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


    "Never pet a burning dog."

    RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
    http://www.mormon.org
    http://www.sca.org
    http://www.scv.org/
    http://www.scouting.org/

    Comment


    • #3
      Jeff, excellent article sir. Maybe when you retire, you should go into journalism or write of your experiences.
      Govenour Of Texas and all southern provinces. Kepper Of The Holy Woodchipper.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jeremy Scott
        Jeff, excellent article sir. Maybe when you retire, you should go into journalism or write of your experiences.
        Thanks Jeremy. I've written some chapters in books already and have had some magazine articles published (this is one of them). I've also won a number of national and state awards as a newsletter editor. I really like writing, and look forward to doing more when I retire and have the time.

        JS
        Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
        Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


        "Never pet a burning dog."

        RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
        http://www.mormon.org
        http://www.sca.org
        http://www.scv.org/
        http://www.scouting.org/

        Comment


        • #5
          Janos I thought you might find this interesting about 2 months ago I was driving past the old Ohio State Reformatory on a Saturday. I noticed that there was a medieval reenactment in progress and I noticed that the signs posted on the road for directions for the event said "SCA" Anyway here is a website you may find interesting: http://www.graveaddiction.com/osr.html Let me know what you think.
          Governor of Sinister Correction Centre.
          ______________________________________________
          "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Winston Churchill
          B. FETT

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Thomas McPeek
            Janos I thought you might find this interesting about 2 months ago I was driving past the old Ohio State Reformatory on a Saturday. I noticed that there was a medieval reenactment in progress and I noticed that the signs posted on the road for directions for the event said "SCA" Anyway here is a website you may find interesting
            The SCA covers nearly all of the world, we are quite strong in Ohio.

            That's an eerie looking place...reminds me of The Addams Family. There is a similar looking building, but much smaller, in Springfield MO -- I think it's the old National Guard Armory.

            Thanks for the link!

            JS
            Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
            Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


            "Never pet a burning dog."

            RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
            http://www.mormon.org
            http://www.sca.org
            http://www.scv.org/
            http://www.scouting.org/

            Comment

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