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Basic Information

The squire was - at least initially - an apprentice knight.

Normally, a young boy whose parents intended him for knighthood would seek to have him placed as a page in a household that offered decent prospects for progression - the boy could be as young as eight years old at this stage - where he would live and work until his early teens, at which point he would, if found suitable, be esquired to one of the household knights as soon as a vacancy arose.

As a squire, he would spend most of his time as a general dogsbody - definitely of higher status than the common servants, but still expected to do a great deal of menial work. He would maintain the knight's weapons, armour and equipment, look after his horse(s) and run general errands for him. He would often be responsible for the knight's meals and clothing as well - although he probably didn't actually cook and wash, he would be keeping tracks on the relevant servants. Much the same would apply to the knight's tent on campaign.

In combat, squires would usually follow behind their knight's conroi, ready to render assistance as required, whether supplying replacement weapons from the baggage, fetching drink, catching or replacing horses if the knight was dismounted or carrying messages. If the knight did well, the squire could be told off to guard prisoners for ransom, if not he could find himself providing first aid and casualty evacuation or seeing to the burial or repatriation of the knight's corpse. Other jobs, such as picket work, scouting or baggage guarding could also fall to squires.

In between all of this, the squire would continue developing his skill at arms, learn to interpret heraldry and generally study all the skills he would need to become a knight.

At some point, based on a mixture of competence and age, a squire could normally expect to be knighted. This was generally a major ceremony, involving quite a lot of financial outlay by somebody (generally the squire's father or some other patron), at which the young man would be awarded a full set of weapons and armour - and a horse1. At this point, he would normally also be in the market for a squire of his own.

Squires could also be attached to a knight in name only - especially when that knight was also a feudal magnate who did little or no actual knight service. Sometimes such a lord could take on several squires at once, mainly for social reasons. This usually occurred in fairly large households where the actual training of the young men was done by masters at arms and suchlike but such squires were frequently under supervised and under employed. Another possibility, often found where a magnate had a significant number of household knights, would be a pool of squires serving the household knights as a group rather than being individually assigned.

In the later middle ages, as the feudal system2 started to break down, it became increasingly common for men to remain as "graduated squires" - retaining the status (if not the duties) of a squire long after their forefathers would have been awarded their spurs. There were a variety of reasons for this, but many of them hinged around the desire to avoid the military obligations of knighthood - if a man could hold a knight's fee (either by purchase or inheritance) without doing knight service for it (or paying scutage) then it often made sense for him to do so.

By the early modern period, it was quite normal for landed gentry to be known as a Squire on a purely honorific basis, acknowledging their armigerous status but noting that they were not actually serving knights. Something of the squire lingered on, almost into the 20th century in the form of the Naval Midshipman and Army Ensign.

The distaff equivalent of the squire is the lady in waiting.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • For other "classes" this role is fullfilled by the acolyte (clerical types), wizard's apprentice (magic users) and various other species of apprentice.
  • For PCs, a competent squire may take care of a lot of the day to day tasks - a younger, or less competent one may need him to hire a valet as well.
    • Sucession planning may be a major issue to avoid the shock of going from a fully trained assistant in his early twenties to a ham-fisted thirteen year old. Some knights may have more than one squire, others a page on standby who is a squire in all but name.
    • There may even be poaching of squires.
  • Not to mention poaching by squires - and various other problems for the PC to rescue them from (since they are, after all, teenage boys). Actually, this can be quite a good way for a GM to foist a dependant on an unsuspecting PC, especially if the foister is someone he can't readily refuse.
    • See, for example George R. R. Martin's The Hedge Knight, where a very low status knight accquires a positively alarming squire.
  • It should be remembered that squires are (at least) gentry - annoying child one moment, powerful aristocrat the next in some cases.
  • PCs could conceivably play squires in the right sort of campaign - probably one set in or around a large castle.
    • This certainly makes adventure hooking easier, but limits scope somewhat.
    • Older squires, attached to disreputable (or oblivious) knights, might get up to all sorts of hijinks, either in despite of their masters or, for a more modern take, trying to keep their masters out of mischief.
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