Medieval knights generally lived in the castles of noble families, serving under the lord or baron while providing military service and protection in exchange for lodging, weapons, armor, food, money and horses. The king could also grant knights, who were also called "vassals," their own fiefdom.
The feudal system allowed for men to advance through knighthood and service in the military. Knights held their place in society above the peasantry but were not only made up of royalty or members of the noble or ruling classes. Knighthood had to be earned; it could not be inherited in most countries, although there were systems of hereditary knighthood in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Ireland and Belgium at certain times during the Medieval period. The young sons of a lord oftentimes advanced themselves by becoming knights. The knight could earn his fortune for his professional service to the lord or noble or by being granted land of his own by the king. Training for knighthood began in childhood, with most boys starting on the official path to knighthood at age 7.
Although not common, women were sometimes appointed as knights. In fact, 68 women were appointed knights between 1358 and 1488 in England's Order of the Garter.