Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jousting Through the Ages

Jousting started in Europe in the Middle Ages around the 10th century with the emergence of knights as a fighting force. The joust offered knights a means to practice his horsemanship skills and his prowess with a lance and sword against other knights.

The first recorded reference of a tournament was dated in 1066 and refers to Godfrey de Preuilly, who is described as having invented the medieval tournament. In the same year the Normans conquered the English at the Battle of Hastings. The division of English lands amongst the Normans saw the emergence of the Medieval feudal system. The feudal system demanded that everyone owed allegiance to the king and their immediate superior. Every noble was expected to pay for his land by providing trained knights to fight for the king. The tournament came about as a means of practice that eventually became a form of entertainment. Early jousts had the knights lined up, facing each other on horseback, in full armor. They tilted their lances at each other and charged. This form of jousting was called a "lance charge" which began the melee. A dangerous but spectacular sight.

By the 12th century the tournament had grown so popular in England that King Henry II found it necessary to forbid the sport because it gathered so many knights in arms in one place, and it caused unnecessary injuries to the kings fighting force.

King Richard I relaxed his father's order a bit by granting license for five tournament areas in England. Those who wished to tourney there had to obtain a license and make a payment for the privilege.

In 1292 the Statute of Arms for Tournaments was ordained by King Edward I, banning pointed weapons from being used. All lances had to be blunted. These new lances were called the lance of peace. Those knights who did not abide the rules were to be seized with horse and harness.

After 1400, the style of jousting changed to reduce injuries. A cloth was stretched along the length of the lists, soon to be replaced by a strong barrier of timber. The knight in full armor would charge along one side of the barrier jousting with his opponent. This is what we see today in jousting tournaments.

Jousting took its toll on the participants. Many were injured. Some died, including French King Henry II. Henry II was an avid participant in the joust. A jousting tournament had been arranged by the king to celebrate the Peace Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis and to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth of Valois to King Philip II of Spain. On July 1, 1559 King Henry jousted against Gabriel Montgomery, captain of the King's Scottish Guard. During the joust, the king's eye was pierced by a sliver from Montgomery's lance. The sliver penetrated the king's brain, and he died an agonizing death nine days later.

The decline in jousting came with the invention of the musket in 1520. Also contributing to the downfall was the emergence of new ideas in art and literature. Renaissance men, such as William Shakespeare, took entertainment from the jousting field to the theatre.

Yet even into the Renaissance and beyond, tournaments continued, however they took on a the form we see today at Renaissance Faires and in fairgrounds around the world. I attend the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire every summer in Kings Valley Oregon as a participant. The pictures are from this year's tournament featuring the Imperial Knights.

Do you like attending tournaments? If so, where have you attended?


EmilyBryan October 17, 2009 at 7:43 AM  

We took the kids to a Renaissance Fair when we lived in NC. The jousts were a highlight and the onlookers were divided into sections so we could cheer for our Champion. We ended up in the "Black Knight's" section and had to chant his motto ~ "Cheat to win!" It was hilarious!

Patricia Barraclough October 17, 2009 at 9:56 PM  

We attended our first tournament in Maryland about 1990. Jousting is the state sport. The competition was a bit different. A single rider would run the line with his lance trying to catch a series of successively smaller rings. A steady had and a good seat were necessary.
About three years ago, we went to the TN State Renaissance Fair just south of Nashville. The grounds are in a grove of trees, and a couple is building a reproduction of a medieval march castle nearby. There is a permanent jousting course. We watched the preliminary tournament and like Emily were assigned a knight to cheer for.

Terri October 18, 2009 at 11:15 AM  

As Patricia said, jousting is Md's state sport so being a native Marylander, I grew up attending our modern tournaments. Some of my favorite memories are watching the jousters come to the sidelines requesting a favor. It may be a different style but the skill to hook a small ring on the end of your lance has to be tremendous.

I've seen the jousts at the Ren Faires and they're okay.
It always seems like the outcome is already determined and there isn't the skill I expected.

Gerri Russell October 18, 2009 at 12:06 PM  

Emily, Patricia, Terri,

Thanks for stopping by! Jousting is a state sport in Maryland? I must get myself to Maryland sometime. :-) One of the best jousts I've been to was part of the Medieval show in Vegas. Great pagentry.

At a renaissance faire I attended one year, the knights were jousting, when one of the horses in the charge got spooked or something and the knight ended up with a lance in his face. They had to cut his helm off. It reminded me that even though the jousts are fairly staged, animals can add an unknown element to it all. The knight was okay, but after the medics checked him out for a head injury, he ended up with a black eye that last quite a while!

Patricia Barraclough October 18, 2009 at 6:58 PM  

Terri -
I agree with you about the Ren Faire tournaments being staged rather than a true contest.

We were amazed that anyone could hold the lance still enough to hook those small rings. Much more competitive. Now that you mentioned it, they did ask for favors, but I think just from the "royalty" on stage. We need to go back again, it has been too long and our grandson hasn't had the experience, although we did take him to the Ren Faire with us.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner October 22, 2009 at 12:43 PM  

We have a Renn Faire in AZ that runs the entire month of Feb and March with jousts at the end of each day. Staged, but still fun (did they do the wave in the Middle Ages?)

Thanks for explaining about the English Henry II banning jousts and tournaments. I had read that somewhere and didn't know the details. It also underlines that guys have obsessed about sports for centuries!! :-)

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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