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Knights & Castles

Knights & Castles

We know knights from the tales and adventures we have read about in books and have seen on the silver screen. Where do these stories come from? The history of the knight goes way back. Many of the romanticised stories we know do not paint a true picture of knighthood. Before the start of the Middle Ages, the word “knight” referred to “a mounted warrior following of a king or other superior”. From the twelfth century onwards, stricter rules applied to knighthood. There were certain behavioral codes that applied during the hunt, at dinner and in battle. The five virtues of knighthood are “generosity, courtesy, chastity, chivalry and piety”.

In the Middle Ages, knighthood was only obtainable by those of the highest social classes. The knight’s armour was rather expensive and the lower classes could simply not afford this (any more). For this reason, chivalry and nobility became more and more entwined. Pages and squires polished the knight’s armour and weapons to keep them from rusting and as a result the knight always looked impeccable. Castles were built for protection which was executed by knights who (later) also lived in them, creating an unbreakable bond between the two.

The Silver Ducat always depicts a knight. The series Dutch Castles emphasises the bond between knights and castles by showing both on the obverse of the coin. 

Godard de Ginkell (1644 –1703)

The knight featured in this series is Godard de Ginkell (1644 – 1703), in the Netherlands known as Godard van Reede. At a very young age Godard de Ginkell was already prepared for a military career. When he was only 14 years old he became the cavalry captain of his own company of riders.

In 1683 Ginkell was promoted to lieutenant-general. In 1688, he accompanied William, Prince of Orange, in his expedition to England. Upon the King's return, General Ginkell was entrusted with the conduct of the war in Ireland. In 1691 Ginkell started a campaign against the remaining allies of king James II. On 3 October of the same year, victory was won. Ginkell received the formal thanks of the House of Commons, and was created by the king 1st Earl of Athlone and baron of Aughrim.

Upon return to the Netherlands, Ginkell became the commander in chief of the Army of Flanders. He fought at the sieges of Namur in 1695 and the Battle of Neerwinden, and assisted in destroying the French magazine at Givet. In the War of Spanish Succession, Ginkell succeeded the Prince of Nassau-Usingen in 1702 as first Field Marshal of the Dutch States Army. He died in 1703.

Godard de Ginkell is an important historical figure and therefore righteously enters the stage in the new series Dutch Castles.
Godard de Ginkell
Are there any famous knights?
There certainly are historical and/or fictional knights that are still well known today. A good example can be found in the Knights of the Round Table. Their leader, King Arthur, is portrayed in many Celtic legends and in medieval literature but is most likely an unhistorical figure. There is still doubt as to whether King Arthur was a real person, or if his character has merely been based on other historical figures.

Arthur, his wife Guinevere, his right hand Lancelot, cousin Gawain and the magician Merlin featured in medieval literature but also in modern day stories. The Arthur-tales inspired many serious and less serious adaptations and the stories are still (re)told in our time. Examples are the films: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), King Arthur (2004), the TV series Merlin (2008-2012) but also the comical Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). 

Did knights use Silver Ducats themselves?
Knights in armour were already a thing of the past at the time the Silver Ducat was introduced. In the Late Middle Ages (1240 – 1500) military inventions reduced the importance of traditional knights on the battlefield. One of these changes is the invention of the crossbow and the longbow. Military developments such as the canon and a big, professional infantry with broadswords further reduced the role of the knight and led to such high costs that warfare was only accessible for the rich. In 1659, the year the Silver Ducat was introduced, knights as depicted on the Silver Ducat were no longer relevant.

Who did use the Silver Ducats?
The Silver Ducat was used as a trade coin. The knight on the Silver Ducat in the series Dutch Castles, Godard de Ginkell, lived from 1644 until 1703. As the Silver Ducat was introduced in 1659 it is very well possible that Ginkell has held this coin in his hands at some point.

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