A Medieval Knight Was Surprisingly Nimble
A Swiss museum proved it
It’s a popular misconception that a medieval knight, once knocked off his mount, could barely move and was thus vulnerable to more fleet-footed light infantry.
An October 2016 exhibition at the Swiss Military Museum at the Castle of Morges helped to disprove this myth. The museum organized a race between three men — one each outfitted as an armored knight, a modern infantryman and a present-day firefighter.
The racers met at an assault course at the Place d’Armes de Biere, a Swiss army training center. The men’s loads were of similar weight — but the differences ended there. How each racer distributed his weight varied widely.
The knight wore 64 pounds of armor. The infantryman’s load — a modern Swiss military field uniform with standard field kit — was slightly heavier than that. The fireman’s flame-resistant equipment weighed slightly less than the knight’s armor did.
The fireman finished the course fastest thanks to the most even distribution of his added weight. The knight came in second. The infantryman, carrying most of his load high and on his back, came in last.
It would have been interesting to see how the knight would have coped while carrying a weapon such as a sword or pole axe, and also a shield. After all, the infantryman carried his sidearm and rifle — and the firefighter had some of his hand-gear on him.
All the same, the contest went a long way toward dispelling the myth that the medieval knight was an inflexible, immobile warrior who, once unhorsed, was defenseless. In fact, a knight could move on his feet roughly as nimbly as a modern infantryman can do.