Medieval knight: superstar

On the website for History Today, Nigel Saul explains the appeal of medieval knights and why they were the superstar celebrities of their time. His article is entitled Chivalry and the Birth of Celebrity.

Nigel Saul writes:

Celebrity, however, is associated with a certain glitziness which underlies and informs a relationship between the celebrity and an admiring audience. A celebrity is someone possessed of charisma, someone whose appeal to the public transcends the sum of his or her deeds and achievements and turns as much on their personality and personal story. A celebrity has to have the sorts of qualities and abilities that would bring him or her success in today’s ‘show business’. While a statesman can enjoy fame, only the most charismatic personality can enjoy celebrity. If the existence of a well-oiled publicity machine undoubtedly aids in the attainment of celebrity, nonetheless the right sort of personality has to be present in the first place.

When we look for the earliest periods, or the earliest societies, in which we encounter these prerequisites for the emergence of celebrity, we find ourselves in the Middle Ages. It is tempting to say that the first English celebrity was not the Georgian dandy or metropolitan courtesan, but the questing knight who caught the attention of the heralds and onlookers watching him show off his prowess in arms.