Egbert the Reluctant Knight

Egbert was a knight, many centuries ago in 15th century England. This period of time relates to the middle ages, in the era of knights, squires, peasants, and maidens. Knighthood was an occupation that most young men of this time aspired to be, due to its high standing within the community. Many tales demonstrating the esteemed status of this title fuelled the imagination of the people, detailing acts of chivalry, conquests, and battles. They certainly captured the attention of all, so prolific were they in number.  However none of this mattered to Egbert, he was indeed reluctant, and did not share the enthusiasm for such activities, he preferred instead to chase fair headed maidens, rather than pursuing fair headed Vikings. Participating in dangerous liaisons did not appeal to him at all.

Egbert’s family had encouraged him to widen his horizons and initiated a meeting with the local prioress of Plympton Priory. The priory was well known, and formed an independent, self -supporting community. This was one of the few places, where women held positions of authority. Their work included healing the sick, acts of charity, feeding the hungry and distributing medicines. Egbert was happy within the safe and supportive quarters of the Priory.  Unfortunately however due to a rumpus over the untimely disappearance of a large amount of communion wine, he was politely asked to leave his position.  Although nothing definite could be found against him, circumstances such as Egbert’s passion for red wine, observed by others close to him led to suspicious rumours, which  seemed to fit the verdict. Of course it  may have also been supported by the considerable amount of cheap red wine on offer at a local tavern, which just happened to be the place where he spent a great deal of his time. Unfortunately the balance seemed weighted against him.

It seemed Egbert would need to continue his search once more for a new suitable occupation. In his pursuit of pastures new, he frequently looked up at Plympton Castle and thought, maybe just maybe, this would be the new beginning, he had dreamed of. One day, while passing the entrance to the Bailey, he noticed a sign on the wall, which read, “Knights required, apply within.” As Egbert gazed at the sign, he began to feel a new excitement with this proposition, and the very good salary on offer. With enthusiasm, Egbert decided to walk through the gate, and apply for the job. “Ah, Egbert”, said a man with a loud voice. “You have decided to apply for the job,” “yes” replied Egbert! “Where do I go,” he continued. “This way young man” said the voice. Egbert eagerly followed the voice into a small building. “So you want to be a knight Egbert,” said the voice. Egbert stopped momentarily to consider the demands and expectations, the new role would entail, but with excitement, and of course some hesitation Egbert replied “yes.”  “Very good” came the reply.  As there were no other applicants, Egbert was offered the job.

Plympton Castle was only a little one and Egbert satisfied himself in the knowledge, that he was safe and secure, far from the preying eyes of invaders. Egbert thought that no one would want such a small and discreet castle, and he began to feel quite at ease with his new quiet and humdrum life. This suited Egbert, and he felt quite at home, safe and settled in his new surroundings. Life couldn’t get any better, Egbert thought.


Time passed by and Egbert was invited to take part in a crusade. This of course concerned Egbert greatly. Apart from the huge inconvenience to his lifestyle, it would pose a serious health risk. It was not Egbert’s intention to participate in such aggressive and lengthy pursuits away from home. Egbert preferred a quieter and risk-free existence, away from any challenges. If this was not enough to contend with, there was also the extra expense of acquiring suitable clothing. Egbert would also need to consider purchasing a suit of armour at considerable expense to himself. This he thought would surely eat into his wine money. This presented Egbert with a dilemma “What am I to do” he thought. He didn’t want to risk his new honorary position at the castle and the accompanying new comfortable and easy lifestyle, which he had become accustomed to. So Egbert tried to look on the bright side, he decided that it couldn’t be that expensive or dangerous, so maybe he ought to comply with the request.

The very next day, Egbert decided to acquire a different and more positive outlook about the whole situation. He decided to view it as an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience, after all it might impress the local maidens, adding to his esteem. With a new interest unveiled, he began to consider the best deals on offer for a suit of armour, and with this in mind he headed off in the direction of Smithy George’s workshop. George was a blacksmith, and considered cheap in the surrounding area. He was not widely known, or thought of as particularly good, therefore his costs, were kept low to attract business.  Nevertheless Egbert felt a kinship with George, and his costs were acceptable, and within budget, which suited Egbert. So Egbert wandered into George’s shop that morning. “Morning George, can you design me a suit of armour please,” asked Egbert. “I surely can” George eagerly replied. “I’ll measure ‘ee up.”

A few weeks later, the suit was ready, much to Egbert’s annoyance and disappointment as he did not wish to go abroad just yet. After all he thought; why should he be expected to leave his home. He was happy with the sleepy hollow of the Castle. The thought of actually undertaking some work as a Knight, and the challenges it presented concerned him considerably. “’Ere it is” said George, “try it on for size.” Egbert placed the parts of the armour around him. “Perfect” said George. After paying over some money, Egbert clanked his way out of the shop. It was fine, except for a slight miss-measurement on the visor. Egbert had rather a large nose, and as he walked, the visor went up and down catching the end of it. No time for changes now he thought, so he tied a large bandage to the end of his nose to protect it.

The previous week Egbert had purchased himself a fine horse at Tavistock Market. He was assured that he was a trusty steed called “Buttercup.” Named for appropriate and obvious reasons, and as it was a bargain, it was irresistible to Egbert. The fact that no one put a bid in for him did not bother Egbert at all. He looked alright, and although quite partial to buttercups, was otherwise reasonable to feed.

On the day of departure Egbert once again tried on his armour. “Do you know” he said, “I feel like a baked bean in here.” This statement was quite remarkable, as the baked bean was not invented until several centuries later. But all in all it was fine. Off he went, with a bandage tied to the end of his nose, aboard Buttercup, to the port of departure, for France.  Unfortunately after several days away, Buttercup could not trot or gallop too well, due to a spot of arthritis. Egbert reached the port of Southampton and booked a passage aboard the good ship Misty Vision. The skipper to this vessel was an old mariner, of many years, who had earned the nickname; Lucky Arthur.  He had been nicknamed Lucky because he was rather short sighted, and passengers were lucky to arrive at the correct destination. But he was cheap and therefore in demand.

The next day the Misty Vision docked. “All ashore” shouted Arthur, although he did not know for sure which shore it was. Egbert and Buttercup went down the gangway to the quay. “Bonsoir” said Egbert to the two men standing nearby. He had learned this word especially for this moment. “’Haven’t got a clue what you mean” came the reply. Egbert explained “I am Egbert the Knight, on route to the Holy Land.” “Not this way,” came the reply, “You’re on the Isle of Wight.” “What do you mean” exclaimed Egbert, “I paid to go to France, how dare you take me to the Isle of Wight. Later seeing this mistake as a good omen, Egbert decided to return to Devon and forget about the Crusade altogether, with great relief.

On returning home to Plympton, Egbert was amazed by the lack of reception. He had expected to be welcomed home with a fanfare or merriment and rejoicing.  Instead life continued just as it always did. Egbert arrived at the castle, to be greeted by the sound of. “Egbert your back,” “Yes” he replied. “That’s good,” continued the voice. “We found out that the crusade had been cancelled, apparently the previous one had been a nightmare.” “Thank goodness for that” replied Egbert, “I have a bit of a bladder problem, which would have caused me a few logistical problems in this suit.” “Here let me take off your helmet” said the voice. The voice looked at Egbert his nose still bandaged in a big bow.

“Welcome home, you are no longer Egbert the Reluctant”.

Egbert wearily opened his eyes to notice the plush surroundings of his hotel bedroom. He dressed and went downstairs to breakfast. There in the hall was a suit of armour just standing there. Egbert had noticed it as he had passed by the night before after leaving the bar. Was this the suit of armour that he had bought from Smithy George, he wondered. Who knows, after all there are many stories about Borringdon Hall.

By Ray Steed


Edited by Marie Weston.

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