“Will we see knights at the castle or on the tour?” It seems that all of the guests at the Ozark Medieval Fortress have some interest in knights and tournaments. That is why we have a trail sign and stop dedicated to those questions about knights. People generally think of knights in the Middle Ages as being like American rodeo riders - on the road going from tournament to tournament. In reality, the knights were more like the American plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South. During the Middle Ages the Franks of Western Europe beginning with King Charlemagne began the system which in modern times is called “feudal” but in the Middle Ages was called “vassalage”. It is a pyramid social system based on the exchange of loyalty and service for protection and land. At the top is the King who, in theory, owns and controls everything. Below the King were the powerful lords, then their mounted warriors (knights). Knights were landowners. At the Ozark Medieval Fortress it is more accurate to picture a knight as the owner of the castle who keeps busy supervising and overseeing all the activity rather than a man in armor or chain mail.
Of course, all knights were expected to serve their vassalage of military service to their lord or the King, which might be to defend their own castle or to travel to a distant fight. At the time of the historical setting of the Ozark Medieval Fortress, tournaments were melees and very violent and so were soon outlawed. Later they became the more regulated events that are so often depicted in movies like “Knight’s Tale”. All this varied by region. In Germany, for example, there developed un-landed mounted warriors like knights called “servicemen” who were paid wages. In general, however, it is best to picture the knight as the lord of the manor, to whom the serfs owed their vassalage duty.
Knights, armor and weapons are interesting and definitely a part of the Middle Ages. At the Ozark Medieval Fortress many volunteers come to display weapons and talk about Medieval warfare. For Michel Guyot, our French founder, the focus is on the building of the castle with its architecture, artisans and authentic Medieval techniques, rather than on knights and war.