Thirteen year old Steven de Gaunt looked around the great hall with a sense of mingled interest and apprehension. Before him, upon the raised platform, Lord John of Thetford laid his broad sword upon the stalwart shoulder of his eldest son.
"In the name of God and our Sovereigns, I dub thee a knight." Lord John's strong voice rang out through the crowded hall and ringing back again into the ears of every listener. "Be faithful, just, and true, according to our brotherhood and the noble pledge of chivalry."
The young man met the eyes of his father. "In the name of our blessed Christ, I shall do these things."
"Then rise, Sir Arthur of Thetford, knight of our shire!"
Sir Arthur arose to receive his father's handshake and quick embrace, whilst the crowd exploded into a wave of hearty applause. Steven reluctantly joined in the hand-clapping, his heart beating fast against his chest.
Having blessed his son, Lord John turned once again to the onlooking crowd. "Hear ye, my good people! My son must now procure an esquire, as if the custom within this shire. Wither is the youth chosen for the noble task?"
Beside him, Sir Edward de Gaunt raised his hand, as Steven had known for full many a week he would. "He is hither, sire, and is ready and willing to pledge his service unto his new master."
Steven's heart pounded wildly. He looked up at his father, as if in the silent appeal that he would not apprentice him to this strange young man.
However, Master de Gaunt did not look at him. At Lord John's beck, he pushed his son forward, compelling him to mount the platform.
Standing before Lord John and Sir Arthur, Steven felt all color wash from his face. His hands trembled wildly, and they felt both cold and clammy.
Sir Arthur had but recently returned from serving his own knight in foreign lands, and, though he had lived all of his life within Thetford Castle, Steven could scarce remember the young man that was to be his lord. Lord John beckoned to him, and, shaking, Steven advanced.
"How old art thou, my lad?" Sir Arthur asked, his tones cordial.
"I shall be fourteen one month hence, on Michaealmas," Steven replied softly, bending in a polite bow.
Sir Arthur held out his hand. "Well, let us complete our business. Henceforth, thou art my squire and I shall be thy lord."
Steven took the offered hand and pressed it, trembling, to his forehead and lips. "I shall be true unto ye," he managed, his tones scarcely audible.
Sir Arthur stared oddly at him for a fleeting moment, then, burst into a hearty laugh. "The boy shakes like one in a spasm," he said, directing his jesting tones towards Master de Gaunt. "What frightening tales hast thou told him concerning me?"
"None, sire." Sir Edward smiled dryly. "The lad hath heard much of thy regal power and strength. Methinks that be the reason for his fright."
Sir Arthur turned again to poor Steven, whose pallid color had been suddenly replaced by a tinge of embarrassed scarlet.
"Well, methinks ye need have no fear of me," he said, again uttering a short, pleasant laugh. "Take heart, my gallant Steven - I shall make a man of thee, yet, I trow thou shalt not find thy new life a very arduous one."
Steven looked up, for the first time meeting the young man's half-amused, yet kindly gaze. A new sense of well-being crossed in a wave of over him, and, slowly, he managed a smile.
"Aye, Sir Arthur," he managed softly.
Squires or Esquires were a very important aspect of the Middle Ages. Combination trainee and servant, they performed numerous tasks for their knights. A squire's duties included arming his knight, cutting his meat, maintaining his wine goblet, carrying for his horses, and even sleeping in the same room with him. (Nothing like having a servant get you a drink at 2:00 AM!) They even had the task of rousing their knight in the morning.
Any questions about squires? Feel free to post your comments or questions!