700 years ago today, one of the great events of the Middle Ages took place in Westminster Abbey: the knighting of 267 men, the largest mass knighting in medieval England, described by one contemporary chronicler as the 'most splendid event since King Arthur was crowned at Caerleon'.
Foremost among the new knights was the man who would become King Edward II just over a year later, but at the time was 'merely' Edward of Caernarvon, Prince of Wales, Duke of Aquitaine, Earl of Chester and Count of Ponthieu. Now a month past his 22nd birthday, it was high time that he was knighted, and his father Edward I - who was almost 67 but had just become a father again, for about the 19th time - sent out a writ that "all who are not knights but wish to be" should come to London to be knighted.
267 men were accepted, and accordingly arrived in London with their retinues. The logistics of housing all these men were difficult, and required a great deal of preparation: wheat, oats, sheep, oxen and swine were purveyed in five counties, many new utensils were bought for the king's kitchen, and fifty carpenters were hired to build temporary structures at Westminster and elsewhere. Most of the men were housed at the church of the Knights Templar, the 'New Temple', where walls were levelled and fruit trees cut down to make space for all the tents and pavilions which were required, some as robing-rooms.
As was customary in knighting ceremonies, the men spent the night before the ceremony in vigil, in church - most of them at the New Temple, but a few in the Abbey church with Prince Edward. The vigil was supposed to be spent in silent prayer and meditation, but in the Temple there was a great deal of talking, shouting and trumpet calls. Tsk, young men, eh?
The following morning, Whitsunday, 22 May 1306, Prince Edward was knighted by his father in a private ceremony in the chapel of Westminster Palace. The king touched his sword to his son's shoulders, girded him with the belt and sword of knighthood, and the earls of Lincoln and Hereford - the latter Prince Edward's brother-in-law - fastened on his golden spurs. The royal party then made their way into Westminster Abbey.
In the meantime, all the other knights-to-be had processed through a huge, excited crowd from New Temple to the Abbey. More noise and chaos reigned, to the extent that great war-horses were brought in to clear a path and restore order. Finally, in front of the high altar, the men were called forward in pairs, made their vows of knighthood, and Prince Edward touched the sword to their shoulders and fastened on the belt, sword and spurs.
The banquet held afterwards in the Great Hall of Westminster Palace was equally splendid. 80 minstrels had been hired for the occasion, which cost Edward I £130, a huge sum (more than three times the minimum annual income for knighthood). The highlight of the feast came when some musicians brought in a huge platter bearing two swans (I'm not sure if they were real or not) and those present took vows on the swans. The king's was to avenge the injuries done by Robert Bruce, after which he would never take up his sword again except in the cause of the Holy Land. The Prince of Wales' vow was to never sleep in the same place twice till he reached Scotland, in his attempt to help his father keep his vow.
Many of the men who would play a vital role in Edward II's reign were present on that day, though apparently Piers Gaveston was knighted a few days later, not during this great ceremony.
Roger Mortimer of Wigmore was there, just turned 19 but already long married and a father, probably several times over.
His uncle Roger Mortimer of Chirk, about 50 but never knighted. He was imprisoned with his nephew in the Tower in 1322, and died there.
Hugh le Despenser the Younger, aged between 16 and 19 and due to marry the king's eldest granddaughter, 13-year-old Eleanor de Clare, 4 days later. Late May 1306 was a big month for Hugh: knighted on the 22nd, married on the 26th, and his mother Isabel Beauchamp died on the 30th.
As far as I know, Roger Damory, Edward II's favourite between 1315 and 1318 (he was described as a knight in a document of 1306)
John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, aged almost 20. Surrey would marry another granddaughter of the king, Joan of Bar, 3 days later.
Edmund Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, aged just 21. One of Gaveston's killers, but executed by Mortimer and Isabella in 1326.
John Maltravers, later notorious as one of Edward II's jailers at Berkeley Castle.
Bartholomew Badlesmere, who was Steward of Edward's household between 1318 and 1321, turned against him, and was hideously executed in 1322.
John Mowbray, one of the many of Edward's enemies (or rather, Hugh le Despenser's enemies) executed in 1322.
And well over 200 others! :)