- "Hedge knights, now, are a different breed. Take a sellsword and remove the sense. They get their name from where they sleep: under the hedges of the Seven Kingdoms and ditches and stables. They do not have the family name or the purse like real knights, so they spend all their money on armor and a horse and riding tourney after tourney in the hope of impressing some lord or winning some prize."
Hedge knights are independent knights who wander the Seven Kingdoms seeking employment with major lords. They are so-called because it is said they are so poor that they cannot afford to stay at inns, but sleep under hedges by the roadsides. They also sleep in ditches and stables.
Unlike knights who are are sworn to the service of a lord, they have little money and no family name. For this reason they spend what money they have on armor and a horse and ride in tournaments in the hope of impressing a lord and being accepted into his household or winning a prize.
Known hedge knights
- Ser Duncan the Tall lived as a hedge knight prior to winning the favor of House Targaryen and becoming a member of the Kingsguard.
- The grandfather of Petyr Baelish was a hedge knight who owned a small portion of land and a keep in the Fingers.
In the books
George R.R. Martin said that it is a real-life term that he saw frequently in Irish histories, and that it is a general term for any itinerant worker, i.e. there are "hedge teachers" and "hedge musicians" wandering around between towns.
Less scrupulous hedge knights put their martial training to use by resorting to banditry. For this reason, hedge knights are often mistrusted and considered disreputable. The term "hedge knight" itself is considered disparaging and some hedge knights can be described as "upjumped" - bandits who were knighted by other hedge knights, with no real prestige to their title. Nonetheless, there are some chivalrous hedge knights who value their honor and who try to uphold their vows; in fact, sometimes more so than other knights, who are higher up in the social strata and feel that their status means they don't have to strictly follow their vows.
The first novella in the Tales of Dunk and Egg series is entitled The Hedge Knight.