A Knight Is Made, Armed, or Dubbed

August 1, 2019

In our old poets we find many expressions to denote the entry or admission to chivalry. One is girt with the sword or the baldric; one is made, armed, or dubbed knight. The last expression appears to have been the most usual at the same time as it is the most technical, but it, nevertheless, presents to us some little difficulties. That it is derived from the Anglo-Saxon dubban, that it signifies to strike, that it carries the allusion to the famous “blow” which the investor bestows upon the shoulder of the newly-made knight, I am ready to admit; but, at the same time, I must say that the meaning is in our language somewhat “prehistoric,” for, in the most ancient testimony in our national poetry, we find the word dub is simply used in the sense of “arming.”

A medieval image of David I of Scotland knighting a squire.

However, no matter what word was used to signify the admission of the youthful aspirant into the ranks of chivalry, the prospect was equally alluring to our youthful damoiseau, who anticipated it with impatient enthusiasm. It was the all absorbing idea, his sole thought. The squire asked himself when should he become a knight; and the wedded knight, some years married, would murmur to his wife, “When shall our children become knights?” The old baron, contemplating with lackluster eyes the youngest of his children, would say, “Look, behold, my sons. If Providence will only spare me to see them knights, my heart, my old heart will rejoice!”

Chivalry was then the dream, the end, the regal honor. It has been said, and truly, that our century had the “torment of the infinite.” This expression of Schlegel cannot be applied to the Middle Ages because they possessed nothing peculiarly tormenting; but we can truly say that if our forefathers had not the “torment” of chivalry they had the passion for it.

León Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1891), 213–4.

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