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Knights

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KNIGHTS' service, this species of servi tude was the consequence of the weak ness and decay of the feodal system throughout Europe, and was invented as a remedy. Fiefs, which had previously been held for long terms of years, were made hereditary, and the holder was com pelled to afford, without exception or a possibility of denial, as many soldiers to be maintained by the produce of the lands, as the lord proprietor was disposed to think proper ; this became the tenure of knights' service ; but a single soldier de rived, as the service of a certain portion of land was termed, a knight's fee, and an estate furnishing a number of men trained for the field was said to contain an equal number of knights' fees ; this system, ex tending in every direction, rendered each nation acting under it formidable and dan gerous to the adjoining, as numerous armies might be assembled at a very short notice, and much blood spilt before reason had time to subdue sudden resentment, besides the means of oppression it afford ed to men of large possessions. The armies thus assembled were commanded by the monarch, the nobles acted as officers, and all the varieties of vassals were considered and sorted as private soldiers. Exclusive of the tyranny of exacting personal ser vice, the holders ofknights' tenures were subject to all the ancient hardships of the old system, under the name of incidents, for chief aid, escheat, wardship and mar riage, and they were compelled to bind themselves to their oppressor by oaths of homage and fealty.

It is supposedthat knights' service had been universally established in Europe by the year 987 ; if so, there cannot be the least doubt that it was introduced into England by William of Normandy obtain ing the absolute right of disposing of the territory of the conquered chiefs of this country ; the obvious policy of the monarch was the distribution of it to those persons who had adopted his for tunes ; and in what way could he more firmly bind them to his future support than by compelling them to furnish men by the prevailing tenure ? Pursuing this policy, the old tenants received fresh grants, and were thus se cured by the subtle king from attempting to wrest his conquests from him ; indeed it has been asserted, that the system was generally approved, as but few of the Anglo-Saxon fiefs were hereditary. The knights were bound to appear completely armed, with a lance, sword, shield and helmet, and well mounted, at the shortest notice from their superiors, and to re main in the field forty days at the expense of the chiefs of their fees. At length similar causes to those which have been mentioned to have actuated the Roman equites, induced the English knights to commute their personal services fur fines, and hence arose the system of taxation. An act of parliament was passed in the reign of Edward II. which required all

persons possessed of 20/. per annum to appear and receive the honour of knight hood from the king. This cause and others operated to produce such numbers of knights throughout Europe, that it be came necessary to invent different orders of knighthood, to render some of the members at least of importance in the estimation of the community.

Charles I. strangely infatuated and mis taken in his conduct, adopted the obso lete practice of his ancient predecessors, and issued " a warrant to the sheriffs in 1626, to summons all persons that had for three years past held 401. per annum, or more, of lands or revenues in their own hands, or the hands of feoffees, and are not yet knights, to come before his majes ty by the thirty-first of January, to re ceive the order of knighthood." January 28, 1630, the king issued a commission to the Lord Keeper, Lord High Treasurer, &c. to compound with those who had made themselves liable to forfeiture, by neglecting to receive knightood according to act of parliament; alluding to the act of Edward II. This commission, absurd and oppressive be yond modern conception or endurance, produced above one hundred thousand pounds to the royal treasury, but did the king infinite injury in the opinion of his subjects, who had long considered the statutum de rilditibus a nullity, and which was afterwards repealed by parliament. Charles, rather alarmed at the general expression of abhorrence excited by his conduct, published " a proclamation for the ease of his subjects, in making their compositions for not receiving the order of knighthood according to law, dated in the preceding July ;" this however was nothing more than an attempt to soften the displeasure of the public, and failed of its effect. The ancient ceremony of making a knight consisted of giving the party a blow on the ear, and striking him on the shoulder with a naked sword, after which he had a sword girded round him, and spurs attached to his heels, and being otherwise completely armed as a knight, he was conducted in solemn procession to hear the offices of religion.

Since the above period knighthood has been considered a proper method of re warding persons who have rendered slight services to the state, but the very fre quent opportunities afforded of confer ring the honour, has operated in cing the little estimation in which it is held, and from which there is no present prospect of its recovering. The observa. tions just made must not at the same time be supposed to apply to the more honour.. able orders which have already been noticed under the article of Knights of the Bath, and Knights of the Garter, ex clusive of the numerous foreign orders which have existed, and do still exist, in different parts of Europe.