The Knight’s Bonus

Hollywood and cod fantasy do not seem to think about how a knight lived from day to day – that is, where his next meal came from. Older textbooks talk about the knight’s fee as a measure of land, giving the impression that every knight was the lord of a village and was fed by his peasants. Such a figure would, however, be useless for most purposes. In fact most knights were members of a magnate’s household, lived in his castle and ate at his table until the moment came to ride out and wreak mayhem on his enemies. I have even seen them called “wage-slaves”.

If we call their normal living a salary, however, then like the modern banking executive they were more concerned with their bonuses than their baseline. Books do mention ransom money from unhorsed opponents, but it was more general than that. The knight’s bonus was any plunder he could get, from the enemies of his employer or even neighbours and passers-by. Those banking executives who conned little old ladies out of their nest-eggs for the sake of their sales bonuses were not so very different, perhaps, except for getting away with it more – since these days we have neither hellfire nor strong kings.

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 09:29 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink

Leave a Reply