Today, celebrities are pretty much actors and actresses that we admire, like Ryan Reynolds or Johnny Depp, maybe The Rock. Athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lebron James, and Usain Bolt also have celebrity statuses. In the olden times, the equivalent of these famous people was the gallant, captivating, and strong medieval knights of the era. They were truly impressive, brave warriors, wise leaders, and scholars. The people’s admiration for them was evident in the novels and other literary pieces that featured them. With that, here were some of the most famous knights of their time that could probably rival our attractive men of today.

William Marshal

Sometimes also referred to as William the Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, he was an Anglo-Norman soldier and statesman. He spent his younger years as a knight errant and a tournament competitor before he was knighted in 1166, and he was a famous combatant. His father’s family held the hereditary title of Marshal. In his father’s time, it was considered a chief or master Marshalcy, which involved managing other Marshals and functionaries. As for William, he would be known as “the Marshal,” although the role already changed during his time, more to being a specialized representative.

Château de Tancarville in Normandy, where William Marshal began his training as a knight. (John Sell Cotman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

He embarrassed himself with his impatient and hot-headed behavior William Marshal was our best boy, and Archbishop Stephen Langton could attest to that, as he said he was the “best knight that ever lived.” He rose to power from minor nobility and became the most respected knight in the whole of England, which was truly outstanding.

When King Henry II’s son, named after him, died, Marshal went on a crusade in memory of his friend. When he returned. he fought for Henry II and helped rule the country. After King John’s death in 1216, he was assigned as the protector of Henry III. He was already 70 when he fought in the Battle of Lincoln but still managed to defeat the rebellion and invasion of the French that threatened the young Henry III. Before he died, he became a member of the Knights Templar and was buried in the Temple Church.

Geoffroi de Charny

The third son of Jean de Charny and Marguerite de Joinville, Sir Geoffroi de Charny, was a French nobleman known for being the “true and perfect knight.” He also wrote about three books about knighthood, as he was a scholar of it. One of which was his semi-autobiographical poem titled The Book of Geoffroi de Charny, as well as a set of questions on the chivalric matter for the Company of the Star, the Order of the Garter’s counterpart French counterpart.

Brass tomb effigy of French knight Geoffroi II de Charny. (unknown (Image taken from “Monuments français inédits pour servir à l’histoire des arts,” Nicolas Xavier Willemin, Paris, 1839.), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

He was part of the Hundred Years’ War against the English, where he was captured not only once but twice. Soon, he was let out of captivity to find the money for his own ransom, which doesn’t sound like a good idea, but his reputation for honesty was what made his captors decide to trust him. Charny died while fighting at the Battle of Poitiers after his advice was ignored. So, he died while gallantly upholding the French Royal banner called Oriflamme until his very last breath. King Jean had to surrender immediately after.

James Douglas

Eldest son of Sir William Douglas, James Douglas was known as “le Hardi” or “the bold,” who was a supporter of William Wallace. When his father died, he was sent to France for his own safety at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. In Paris, he learned the ways of knighthood after William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, took him as a squire. On his return to Britain with Lamberton, he discovered that his lands had been seized and awarded to Robert Clifford. Lamberton presented him at the English court to petition that the lands be returned just shortly after the capture of Stirling Castle, but in 1304, when Edward I found out whose son he was, he went mad and basically ordered Douglas out. Because of that, he decided to join Robert the Bruce in the first Scottish war of Independence.

Statue of Sir James Douglas, Scottish National Portrait Gallery. (StephencdicksonCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

He became a leading fighter in the Scottish guerrilla war and became known to the English as the Black Douglas. Before King Robert I (Bruce) died, he asked Douglas to bring his heart to Jerusalem, and he did, but then his crusade was diverted against the Saracens in Spain when he saw a fellow knight surrounded by enemies at the Battle of Teba. He threw King Robert I’s heart before him among the enemy and said, “Now pass thou onward as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow thee or die.”   His men followed him and he was killed in battle, but what a moment!