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According to wikipedia, a normal squire daily job included:

  • Carrying the knight's armour, shield, sword,
  • Holding any prisoners the knight takes,
  • Rescuing the knight should the knight be taken prisoner,
  • Ensuring an honorable burial of the knight in the event of his death,
  • Replacing the knight's sword if it were broken or dropped,
  • Replacing the knight's horse or his own horse, if either be injured or killed,
  • Dressing the knight in his armor,
  • Carrying the knight's flag,
  • Protecting the knight if needed,
  • Taking care of the knight's horses,
  • Accompanying the Knight to tournaments and during the time of war to the battlefield,
  • Ensuring the armor and weapons of the knight were in good order

But I'm not sure how he could perform these job during a battle. My understanding is that in a battle, knights normally acted as the heavy cavalry, who were required to ride in formation, hold certain position and charge when necessary. Did the squires just trail behind? How could he manage stuff like carrying the knight's paraphernalia, replacing the knight's horse or weapons, protecting the knight etc. when there was a battle going on, the knight was in his own formation, and he was also supposed to protect himself?

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2 Answers 2

That's not exactly how it worked. As not everybody was able to become a knight (especially without richness), many squires were adult, sometimes more than 30 years old, and because of their experience, they were well-trained fighters. Don't think of heavy cavalry only as knights.

For example, the regular heavy cavalry unit in Poland was called Chorągiew (that's the name for a very big flag), in 15th century counting around 500 riders. But not all of them were knights. Each knight was leading so called Poczet, which counted not only at least one squire under his command, but also other "fighting servants", who were providing support, guarding backs of the knights. More important knights could have Poczet counting even 30 horses.

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The painting Battle of Grunwald by Jan Matejko, which you can see in Warsaw's National Museum, depicts the Battle of Grunwald, one of the biggest in medieval times, between Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania vs Teutonic Order in 1410. On the left side you can see Casimir V, Duke of Pomerania on his horse, fighting with Polish knight Jakub Skarbek and his squire (below, hanging on prince's horse).

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Barbara Tuchman provides a a partial answer in A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century:

At fourteen or fifteen, when [the young noble] became a squire, the training for combat intensified. He learned to pierce the swinging dummy of the quintain with a lance, wield the sword and a variety of other murderous weapons, and know the rules of heraldry and jousting. As squire he led his lord's war-horse to battle and held it when the fighting was on foot ...

Because of the necessity of donning armor with all its straps and buckles, battle was a more or less fixed engagement, arranged by the logic of approaching positions. The invention of plate armor early in the 14th century now supplemented chain mail, which as penetrable by the crossbow ...

[The knight] began battle with the lance used for unhorsing the enemy, while from his belt hung a two-handed sword at one side and a eighteen-inch dagger on the other. He also had available, either attached to his saddle or carried by his squire, a longer sword for thrusting like a lance, a battle-ax fitted with a spike behind the curved blade, and a club-headed mace with sharpened, ridged edges, a weapon favored by martial bishops and abbots on the theory that it did not come under the rule forbidding clerics "to smite with the edge of the sword."

The war-horse carrying this burden was itself armored by plates protecting nose, chest, and rump and caparisoned with draperies that got in the way of its legs. When his horse was felled, the knight, weighed down by by his armor and tangled in weapons, shield, and spurs, was likely to be captured before he could manage to rise.

I get the impression that squires would have remained at the periphery of the core battle zone, helping their knights in preparations as they mounted their horses or drew new weapons. Battles would have begun as highly stylized affairs, but as these things go: once one side gained a decisive advantage, all gloves would have been off and squires and other bystanders would have had to "improvise" and struggle for survival.

Tuchman includes accounts where the strength of a lord's force is head-counted in knights, squires, other men-at-arms, archers, and foot soldiers, which may indicate that squires (along with their knights an other force elements) became involved in battle fairly regularly and perhaps (also) at early stages.

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I realize Barbara Tuchman is a respected historian, but I think the above quote is a case of following misinformed peers. Where is there a reference to a knight with such a pile of weapons all being brought to battle at once on their horse? Seems to me the standard was a lance, shield, and maybe one or two others (sword and one hafted weapon), and a dagger. Or to a warhorse's dress being allowed to foul its movement? Battle armor (as opposed to heavy jousting armor) being hard for a trained person to stand up in, has been extensively debunked. –  Dronz Aug 19 at 4:02

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