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Knights and Coats of Arms

Shakespeare for Kids

Child's fingered gauntlet, Germany, 1560-1570

Knights were considered the best fighters for hundreds of years, during a time known as the Middle Ages or medieval period. They were experts in using many kinds of weapons, including spears or lances, swords, and battleaxes, and fought on horseback.


Knights carried coats of arms with them on the battlefield as well as during practice matches called tournaments. These coats of arms were special designs that sometimes also included a logo or motto that helped to identify the knights. Noble families passed down coats of arms from one generation to the next.


By Shakespeare's time, soldiers with guns and other types of new weapons  were replacing the knights on horseback. However, people still wanted to have coats of arms to show that their family was important. William Shakespeare applied for a coat of arms on behalf of his father, John Shakespeare. The Shakespeares received approval from the College of Heralds for a coat of arms in 1596, allowing the family to be officially recognized as members of the gentry, a class of people between commoners and the aristocracy.  



Peter Le Neve. Shakespeare's coat of arms. Manuscript, ca. 1700

Laurence Cromp. Genealogy of the ancient family of Bohun. Manuscript, 1690

Did you know?

Sir Henry Lee was Elizabeth I's champion for 31 years. He organized tournaments, games and other events to celebrate her accession to the throne, and represented the queen when he competed in the events.

Just for Kids

Knights and Armor

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