Knighthood was introduced to England at least as early as the reign of Alfred the Great. When Alfred made his grandson, Athelstan, a knight, he gave him a scarlet mantle set with precious stones, and a sword with a golden scabbard.
The birth and growth of the concept of knighthood in Europe is obscure, but from its earliest days the word knight had an affinity with horsemanship. Knighthood eventually became associated with the medieval institution of chivalry, which was both religious and military in character. With the arrival of the Normans, knights formed an integral part of the feudal system. In the Conqueror's time there were about 5,000 knights, who served as fighting men under the command of the king's barons, in return for grants of land.
In the Middle Ages knighthoods were frequently conferred on the battlefield. The knight elect knelt before the commander of the army, who struck him with the sword on his back and shoulder whilst uttering words such as 'Avancez chevalier au nom de Dieu'. Such knights became known as Knights Bachelor.
Today a Knight Bachelor is someone who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the Orders of Chivalry. He therefore ranks below Knights of the Orders of Chivalry. There are no post-nominal letters associated with the award.
There is no female equivalent of the Knight Bachelor; women deserving the rank are appointed Dame Commanders of the British Empire (DBE) instead.