A squire is an attendant of a knight who may act as their shield-bearer and assist them in various other ways. Traditionally, they are ranked below the knight but higher than a gentleman. There is no guarantee that they will ever become a knight themselves.
It came to also mean an English country gentleman. A related term "esquire" still exists in England to this day and is widely used in the US by attorneys (male and female!) to designate their profession.
Squires in the SCA
"Squiredom" is a hard topic to discuss, as being a squire can mean many things to many different people in the SCA. This is partially because "Squire" is not a title in the SCA and therefore carries no precedence.
Essentially, squiredom is a personal relationship between a Knight and his Squire. Each Knight choose squires for different reasons and expects different things from their squire. These expectations should be discussed before the relationship is formalized, but there is an element of mutual benefit. At the bare minimum, this relationship means that the knight will help the squire in their combat training, but also aim to help the squire better understand and practice chivalric behaviour.
- Cecily ferch Madog's tuppence on squires:
- Without disagreeing with any of the above, I would say that the most important thing in a knight/squire relationship is that both parties are clear on what their expectations and requirements are from the outset and that there is ample opportunity as time passes and circumstances change for free discussion on whether the relationship is still working, and if not, what improvements could be made. A squire is not a slave and being in fealty should not mean that one must follow blindly and without the right to question or give feedback in an appropriate manner. "Fealty doesn't mean you follow the King when he decides to gallop over a cliff. It means you're holding him back." On the other hand, becoming a squire, especially to a "hot" knight, should not be viewed as some guaranteed fast-track to becoming a knight oneself, that can be readily abandoned if that doesn't happen.
Some Knights hold a public (or semi-public) "Squiring Ceremony" to formally recognize the relationship of taking a Squire in the SCA, but this is neither required nor particularly period. In this ceremony, the knight and squire exchange vows of fealty and obligation, and the Knight may give his new squire a red belt in token of his service.
Whether or not a ceremony is held, in many Kingdoms squires can be recognized by these red belts (sometimes marked with their knight's device), though not all knights have followed this unofficial custom. For this reason, red belts tend to be reserved for squires, and others avoid wearing this colour to avoid appearing presumptuous.
Squire Humor in the SCA
Humorous references to squires abound in SCA humour, particularly references to the "tendency" (mostly fictional) of Knights abusing their squires or giving them mundane duties outside the SCA; Master Hector of the Black Height includes a number of classic squire jokes in many of his songs. Most of this humour is good-natured, and any squire jokes shouldn't be taken personally by those wearing red belts.