Cavalry - Social Status

Social Status

From the beginning of civilization to the 20th century, ownership of heavy cavalry horses has been a mark of wealth amongst settled peoples. A cavalry horse involves considerable expense in breeding, training, feeding, and equipment, and has very little productive use except as a mode of transport.

For this reason, and because of their often decisive military role, the cavalry has typically been associated with high social status. This was most clearly seen in the feudal system, where a lord was expected to enter combat armored and on horseback and bring with him an entourage of peasants on foot. If landlords and peasants came into conflict, the peasants would be ill-equipped to defeat armored knights.

In later national armies, service as an officer in the cavalry was generally a badge of high social status. For instance prior to 1914 most officers of British cavalry regiments came from a socially privileged background and the considerable expenses associated with their role generally required private means, even after it became possible for officers of the line infantry regiments to live on their pay. Options open to poorer cavalry officers in the various European armies included service with less fashionable (though often highly professional) frontier or colonial units. These included the British Indian cavalry, the Russian Cossacks or the French Chasseurs d' Afrique.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries most monarchies maintained a mounted cavalry element in their royal or imperial guards. These ranged from small units providing ceremonial escorts and palace guards through to large formations intended for active service. The mounted escort of the Spanish Royal Household provided an example of the former and the twelve cavalry regiments of the Prussian Imperial Guard an example of the latter. In either case the officers of such units were likely to be drawn from the aristocracies of their respective societies.

Read more about this topic:  Cavalry

Famous quotes containing the words social and/or status:

    Satire exists for the purpose of killing the social being [for the sake of] the true individual, the real human being.
    —D.H. (David Herbert)

    Anthropologists have found that around the world whatever is considered “men’s work” is almost universally given higher status than “women’s work.” If in one culture it is men who build houses and women who make baskets, then that culture will see house-building as more important. In another culture, perhaps right next door, the reverse may be true, and basket- weaving will have higher social status than house-building.
    —Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. Excerpted from, Gender Grace: Love, Work, and Parenting in a Changing World (1990)