"So, we lie. How did the nobles become noble in the first place? They took it! At a tip of the sword! I'll do it with a lance... A man can change his stars. I won't spend the rest of my life as nothing."A character wishes to become a knight but cannot, either because of gender, social class, or some other limitation. Thus they either lie about being a knight, or set out to become one in secret, often using a helmet to conceal their true identity. The character's motivation for becoming a knight can vary: sometimes they seek to prove themselves, sometimes they wish to escape another fate, or perhaps they aspire to the ideal and romance of becoming a Knight in Shining Armor or Knight Errant. Often will be known by a descriptive title like "Black Knight" or similar, or may be using a suitably noble sounding alias. Generally the deceit can last a good while, whether in war or The Tourney. The knight's identity may either be revealed, normally alongside An Aesop about prejudice, or remain a mystery and become some sort of legend that inspires the people. May also involve the character actually being knighted for real at the end for their heroism. For this character to be the hero is a modern trope. In eras with actual knights, this character is very rare and a joke when he does appear, often a Miles Gloriosus, because nobility was a God-given right and the lower classes were supposed to accept their lot in life.
— William, A Knight's Tale
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Anime And Manga
- Yaiba has Frederick Luther III, who claims to be a knight. His behaviour in battle proves otherwise.
- Happens in Samurai 7, which is a remake of Seven Samurai (see below).
- Leopold Scorpos from Scrapped Princess rides around the land like a Knight Errant, despite not technically having been knighted (which he also strives to be).
- A Kid in King Arthur's Court reveals its master jouster Black Knight to be the princess!
- Two of these end up coming into A Knight's Tale. One is the classic struggling underdog, William Thatcher, the peasant who's masquerading as the knight Ulrich Von Lichtenstein, and the other is the royal in disguise, Sir Thomas Colville or Edward, the Black Prince, who just wants a chance to actually compete and earn something himself instead of being given everything because of his station. In the former case, William is warned by Geoffrey Chaucer that the officials at the tournament require proof of lineage, which Chaucer can fake. It works, until Count Adhemar witnesses him fixing the roof of his commoner father's home. The Black Prince then steps in and declares that William actually comes from a line of Impoverished Patricians and is, therefore, eligible to participate. Nobody has the guts to question him.
- In the 1954 film, The Black Knight, John, a blacksmith and swordsmith, is tutored at Camelot. As a commoner, he can't hope to win the hand of Lady Linet, daughter of the Earl of Yeoniland, so he creates a secret alternate identity as the Black Knight.
- Return of the Jedi: Luke Skywalker declares himself (repeatedly) to be a Jedi Knight. Not a single character takes his claim seriously, due to the Jedi Order's near-total destruction decades before, until Emperor Palpatine's Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
- In the Robin Hood (2010) movie, Robin takes over the identity of dead knight Robert Loxley.
- In Seven Samurai, Kikuchiyo (played by Toshiro Mifune) is the samurai equivalent. In caste-based feudal Japan, one has to be born into the samurai class, and his manners and mid-film epic rant make it clear that he was born a peasant. At one point he produces a family history scroll to prove to the other samurai that he is from a noble family, but it is obviously fake, bought, and/or stolen: according to its timeline, he would be thirteen years old, and 'Kikuchiyo' is a girl's name. It would be like a male European peasant proclaiming himself "Sir Susan".
- In William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet Romeo dresses up as a knight who travels as a pilgrim to the shrine of Juliet.
- Alanna in the first half of Song of the Lioness pretends to be a boy named Alan so that she can train for knighthood. After she earns her shield the lie becomes known and she leaves in search of adventure. Her knighthood is recognized, though, since one's worth to be a knight is really decided by a minor Eldritch Abomination that approves of her.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire
- Brienne of Tarth isn't allowed to be a knight because she's a woman, but she fights and acts like knights are supposed to act better than most of the real ones. This has gained her, on the whole, very little respect.
- It's implied that Dunk, the hero of the "Tales of Dunk and Egg" short stories, was never actually knighted by his master. He claims that his master knighted him before he died, but he is repeatedly afflicted by unexplained guilt when the issue gets raised. Ironically, he might be an ancestor to Brienne, given that his arms appear in her father's keep.
- Mystery Knights are tournament competitors who refuse to give their real names, making it ambiguous as to whether they're true knights or not. There are a few examples of people who aren't knights entering the lists as mystery knights, including Barristan Selmy when he was still a squire. There's some evidence that "The Knight of the Laughing Tree" at the Tourney at Harrenhal was actually a disguised Lyanna Stark.
- Ser Osmund Kettleblack, claims he was knighted by "Ser Robert... Stone," which is about as generic and untraceable a name as Mr. Smith. Jaime, who Kettleblack is speaking to, suspects it may be a Line-of-Sight Name, putting together the name of the dead king Robert, (who passed away a year or two before this conversation) and a look at the castle wall. Facing such a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story, Jaime more or less has to shrug and reassure himself by saying "Well, we know for sure that the guy was a mercenary, so at least he's gotta know how to handle himself in a fight."
- While "any knight can make a knight" in-universe, the Brotherhood Without Banners stretches this far beyond the spirit of the law, knighting absolutely anyone willing to fight alongside them, regardless of whether they have any formal knightly training. Nobody outside the group is particularly impressed.
- Sandor Clegane (a.k.a. The Hound) is an inversion. He's totally eligible but refuses to be knighted because he views the whole institution as a sham because even monsters like his brother are knighted.
- Don Quixote de la Mancha who reads novels about Chivalry and sets out to revive chivalry as a self-proclaimed knight. This example is Played for Laughs (before the onset of Cerebus Syndrome) as in the time Don Quixote takes place, wandering knights no longer exist.
- Bear in mind, however, that Don Quixote's status as a member of the landed gentry is not in question (he's an hidalgo); it's the whole "knight-in-shining-armor" thing that qualifies him.
- To elaborate: Don Quixote is truly Genre Savvy at Chivalric Romance books. Chapter III shows him aware of this trope and he tries to defy it when he insists to an innkeeper (who he thinks is a castellan) to knight him after he has watched his armor in the castle chapel -- that is, in the stable of the inn. So Don Quixote believes he has averted this trope. However, Las partidas de Alfonso el Sabio, the spanish chivalry code, states that a man cannot be knighted if he is too poor or if he is knighted as a joke… so, Don Quixote, being an Impoverished Patrician trying to defy this trope, only has enforced it.
- In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Braggadocio. A Miles Gloriosus whose name is the origin of the noun.
Live Action TV
- Game of Thrones: The Hound is an inversion of this trope. He's totally eligible to be a knight, but isn't because he doesn't want to. He views the entire institution of Knighthood to be deeply hypocritical because they claim to have lofty ideals yet monsters like his brother are knighted without issue.
- Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and Power Rangers Samurai use samurai instead of knights, but the situation's the same. Where the Rangers came from long lineages of samurai, the Sixth Ranger is an old friend of the Red Ranger's; teaching himself to fight and building his own gear to fill a promise to help his buddy. The Rangers are reluctant to involve him in the fighting at first, but they soon accept his help.
- Lancelot in Merlin (2008). He isn't a noble, so he can't become a knight, but lies about it to enter the tournament. Uther finds out and only spares his life because he believes Lancelot killed the griffin. Later, Arthur knights him for real. Gwaine zig zags the trope: He is a noble but does not reveal that, so he can't be a knight and eventually gets exiled after trying to stop a couple of guys impersonating knights with magic (further examples of the trope). Later, he gets knighted like Lancelot did.
- Arthur also hires a commoner to act as a knight and enter the jousting tournament. While the commoner, William, would show his face in between jousts it would be Arthur, with his face covered, who actually did the jousting. Arthur does this to show he can win a jousting tournament without any favoritism due to his station.
- The House episode "Knight Fall" starts in a medieval reenactment community. A knight collapses in battle. While in the hospital William tells how he tries to live by the knight's code of honor.
- In Legend of the Five Rings lore:
- It's not entirely unheard of for a peasant to scavenge (or "scavenge") a samurai's katana and wakizashi from a battlefield and present themselves as a wandering ronin. Since many ronin travel to lands outside of their original families' (if they had much of a family to begin with) and any documentation would be difficult if not impossible to confirm, the swords are treated by law and tradition as incontestable proof of samurai heritage. Although it goes without saying that a commoner actually caught doing this will be executed in creative and exciting ways.
- Toku was one such "ronin" who didn't really realize what he'd done until he was thoroughly ensconced in Toturi's army. Deciding that Toturi needed every soldier he had, he kept his secret until the end of the war, when Toturi offered Toku a position in command of the Emperor's Guard. Toku then revealed his deception and asked to be allowed to commit seppuku, but Toturi ordered him to take the job and gave him a place at the head of his own Minor Clan. Ever since, the Monkey Clan has been known for producing Determinators, even by the standards of other samurai.
- Mazoga the Orc from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion says she's a knight, she just sort of decided she'll call herself that one day when her best friend was murdered - deciding she was a knight and taking an oath to avenge him. If she survives the two quests on which she accompanies you, she'll have a chance to become a real knight (as will you) when the local count is impressed by her and your honorable attitude.
- Sterkenburg Cranach in the Arland trilogy of the Atelier series. He was an actual knight in Atelier Rorona, but between that game and Atelier Totori, Arland has changed from monarchy into a Republic, and disbanded the knights. He travelled the lands trying to find the disappeared former king, while keep calling himself a knight. He continues this in Atelier Meruru.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has Sir Ronvid of the Small Marsh, who constantly challenges Geralt (who is an actual Knight) to duels but never poses much threat.
- Fernando from Paladins became one after assuming the identity of a knight whom he once served.