There was a question on a radio quiz this morning asking which shoulder is dubbed first when knighting someone. I was quite surprised that the answer was the right one but can find no explanation as to why. Can anyone help?

  • 2
    I'm fairly certain there's no real reason, some things just became standardised traditions over time. Older descriptions just say touching the blade on the knight's shoulder and back; and before that it was a blow to the neck.
    – Semaphore
    May 27 at 10:07
  • Which radio show? Are they likely to be credible, or merely repeating Victorian fantasy?
    – MCW
    May 27 at 12:09
  • 2
    Previous H:SE answer supports and cites a rotten link from British Monarchy (who plausibly would know more about knighting than about web maintenance) It appears that (!) the Royal Monarchy UK website is offline today. Hope ElizabethII is ok.....
    – MCW
    May 27 at 12:15
  • 1
    There's a video here (at 1m22sec) showing the QEII tapping the right and then the left shoulder. May 27 at 12:20
  • 1
    Though I have no source to back this up as an answer my understandings from studying back in college was that the night served the crown as the right hand of God. Thusly, they would start their knighthood on the right. Since the Knight (in Christian empires) was seen to do God's work, they kept with it. Additionally some people think that it was the switching from squire to knight. Squires were to walk on the left of their knight so that the night could grab their shield quickly in their left hand. By knighting a person, they were just left of the crown, the crowns shield. The protector.
    – EvanM
    May 27 at 12:43

Right (dextra) was always considered more honourable than left (sinistra). Left was something to be avoided, from the devil, etc. Look at the Latin name.

The medieval order of battle was usually the main force in the centre, with right and left flanks. The right position was considered the more honourable place.

Not that long ago, left-handed people were forced to write right-handed. I vividly remember my first grade teacher observing me trying to write with my left hand. She switched my pencil to my right hand. I looked angry at her, and switched back to my left hand. She left it at that. A few (2-3 years!) before, she would have forced me to write with my right hand.

I'm not surprised this (right: good - left: bad, evil) played a role in a knighting ceremony.

  • 4
    You may be on the right track, but without a good source to back this up, it seems speculative. If left is seen as 'bad', 'evil', 'to be avoided' in the context of knighting, why dub the left shoulder at all? May 28 at 0:57
  • 1
    It's not "left" per se that is regarded as bad or evil; but the specific attribute of being left handed. To follow your analysis forward, the left hand side of everything would be bad or evil, and to be avoided: the left hand side of a piece of paper; the left hand side of a cow to be discarded instead of eaten; everyone's left arm and leg to be amputated at birth. The immediate absurdities easily disprove this hypothesis. More likely: Because the dubber has just drawn the sword from a sheath on their left hip, and wish to go over the head of the dubbee with it only once. May 29 at 3:14
  • Robert Graves speculated and wrote a lot about this kind of thing. Also see the Frazer's Golden Bough. It seems the old religions attributed esoteric significance to just about everything. This is why soldiers set off marching on the left foot - "left, right..." - and holy stairs have an odd number of steps. So the right shoulder will have some dark hidden meaning...
    – RedSonja
    May 31 at 17:16
  • 1
    as an aside, everyone ued a sword right handed and castle staircases were comminly built to give an advantage to the defender (example Colchester castle) Jul 1 at 12:45
  • @bigbadmouse I never understood why they didn't raise units trained in left hand fighting. :-)
    – Jos
    Jul 1 at 23:57

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