Chivalry is the generic term for the knightly system of the Middle Ages and for virtues and qualities it inspired in its followers. The word evolved from terms such as chevalier (French), caballero (Spanish), and cavaliere (Italian), all meaning a warrior who fought on horseback, but the term came to mean so much more during medieval times.

In Hungary – though knights were lived also before, and some 200 years earlier King Saint Ladislaus was considered as pure idol of christian knights in the 12th century, who even was appointed to lead the first crusade to the Holy Land –but the real chivalric life fluorished in the 14th century. At the beginning of the 1300’s a young, 15 years old king occupied (after bloody rivalries) Hungary’s throne, Anjou Charles Robert. From Buda he took his seat to Visegrád, and his sumptuous royal court represented the best of the European and Hungarian ideals of Christian chivalry, and became a centre of late-gothic culture and knighthood in the that time Europe.

Charles I founded the Fraternal Society of Knighthood of St. George, being the earliest known order of the princely subclass of Confraternal Orders , however, the precise date of its foundation is not known, but it was certainly in existence on St. George’s Day on the 23rd of April 1326. The Order was created as a sort of royal faction within the knightly class devoted to the interests of the founder King Charles Robert and his dynasty after years of tumultuous politics and wars between various factions of nobles and heirs to the throne. The members were expected to play an active role in the affairs of state with tasks as being spies for the King or political advisors to the King. This combined with his desire to establish a grand court and loyal subjects, used the order to promote the highest ideals of chivalry and christianity, possibly drawing inspiration from the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table. The design and colours of the mantles which were compulsory for members to wear at particular events had borrowed characteristics of the habit worn by the members of Order of Hospital of St. John. During the reign of King Károly Róbert, Hungary for a time was unified and enjoyed years of peace and prosperity for the people of Hungary.

The Society of St. George was a political and honorable body, but it was also a chivalric one. It most certainly intended to function as an institutional embodiment of the ideals of chivalry which Charles sought to promote among the lesser nobles of his kingdom throughout his reign. And more, than possible the Order served as strong background army for the king, just as the Templar Order, which practically helped Charles Robert to the Hungarian throne, but was indexed some years earlier, and its members fled from the country, or became knights of the St. John’s Order.

Medieval knights were equipped with a variety of defensive garments and weapons, and trained to use nearly every possible offensive weapon of the Middle Ages. Early knights wore chain mail and tunics bearing the symbol of the order to which he belonged. By the 14th century, chain mail and tunics had evolved into full plate armor that protected the chest, arms, legs knees and feet. Quality plate armor was nearly impenetrable. The armor included a visored helmet that would often be festooned with decorative plumage. Weapons included the broadsword, one of the knight’s primary weapons, often passed down through family lineage. The knight carried the sword that he was dubbed with. Many were quite elaborate, with gold, silver, encrusted with jewels or containing holy relics in the hilt. The crossbow was one of the first banned weapons by the Pope for its “unchristianlike” characteristics of causing brutal death from far away. It ranged from simple hand-drawn devices, to larger ones requiring levers, wheels and ratchets. They were replaced with the development of the longbow. Daggers, made of all shapes and sizes were often encrusted with jewels. Blades varied from round, ice-pick like daggers to those with three blades with made wounds nearly impossible to close. Mace was a club-like weapon with blades or points protruding from a heavy head. Each weapon was often given fanciful names such as Morgenstern (Morning Star), Godendag (Good-day), or the dark humored Holy Water Sprinkler. Scimitar was a curved sword, that broadened to a point with one cutting edge. The Two-handed sword was popular in the 15th century and was nearly 5-feet in length. It was used to make wide cutting sweeps in open areas. The War Hammer was a weapon similar to today’s claw-hammer, but larger, with a handle nearly two feet long with a thrusting point affixed to the top.

Medieval knights, when they weren’t busy enganging in battles or protecting the interests of their lord, wanted to keep their skills honored, and often challenged rival knights to tournaments. These have their roots in lance and shield training conducted by Charlemagne’s troops in the 8th and 9th centuries. By the time Charles Robert had inherited the throne of Hungary, the tournaments and its associated games and rituals had come to function as a festival of chivalry, which most of the qualities attributed to the ideal knight – prowess, courtesy, franchise and largesse – could be both cultivated and displayed.

The first tournaments were mock battles that had more in common with military trainin,g than they did as a spectator sport. Jousting, where two knights would face each other atop horses, and armed with lances and shields, may have began as a way to settle disputes within the ranks. These early battles were called duels of chivalry. A knight won when he hit an opponent’s shield or helmet. Striking the opponent’s legs or hitting his horse was considered a foul.  Jousting reached its height as a medieval spectator sport in the 13th century, where thousands would crowd the stands. Sword fights with blunt blades were also part of the tournament. Most medieval weapons could have been used at some point in the competition, from battle-axes and maces to daggers and fists. The winner often took the loser’s horse and at times, his armor. And a brave and lucky knight, who was in the king’s good book rept not only laures, but lordships too.

Knights going to the first crusade saw designs incorporated into the weaponry and uniforms of the Arab and Byzantine soldiers, and adopted this practice themselves. Before, only kings and member of the noble class could posses and show coats of arms, but gradually it was acceptable for knights to do the same. The symbolic designs held significant meaning. Few people in medieval society could read or write, and a family’s coat of arms often stood for an official stamp or signature. Eldest sons would inherit the family coat of arms, while younger sons could alter the design slightly for their own families. But rules on heraldry were very specific. Shields could be partitioned only in certain, specific ways. Fixed sets of patterns and colors would be adopted by families and later, by towns swearing loyalty to a lord or kingdom. Real and mythological animals graced the shields of many, from bears, lions and deer, to griffins, sea creatures and dragons. Some families later added a motto to the coat of arms as a rallying cry. Most shields were made of wood, the best being constructed of numerous wood strips with the grain of each layer running at 90-degree angles.

The glorious days of the medieval knights and court of Anjou Charles Robert’s reign revive each summer in Visegrád Castle, during the International Palace Tournament. During the tournament over two hundred knights and man-at-arms from Czech Republic, Bavaria, Italy, Poland, and the Carpathian Highlands along with the Hungarian Royal Knights of Saint George enter the contests. Horse archers and infantry archers start by showering their adversaries with their accurate and deadly arrows. The royal falconers, beautiful ladies of the court, crossbow men, Italian flag throwers, trick and show riding exhibits and other entertainment are featured for the „king” and „queen”, their „noble court” and the distinguished audiences.