The Medieval Tournamentby R. Coltman Clephan
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Complete, detailed history of English and European tournaments, based on rare manuscripts and original sources. Topics include Arthurian and other round tables, body armor, chain mail, plate armor, royal jousts, introduction of firearms in the 14th century, the tilt, effigies, trial by combat, duels and many other aspects. 24 illustrations. Bibliography. Index.
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The Mediaeval Tournament
By R. Coltman Clephan
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1995 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
IT is impossible to trace the beginnings of these martial exercises, mention of which first appears in history in chronicles of the eleventh century; but they doubtless grew out of earlier forms of the rough games and sports engaged in by the noble youth of the period as practice for actual warfare.
Du Cange in his Glossarium, under the heading "Torneamentum," cites Roger de Hoveden, who defines tournaments as being military exercises carried out in a spirit of comradeship, being practice for war and a display of personal prowess. Their chief distinction from other exercises of a kindred nature lies in the fact that they were actual contests on horse-back, carried out within certain limitations, of many cavaliers who divided themselves into contending troops or parties, which fought against each other like opposing armies.
Mention of rules for observance in the conducting of these martial games is made by more than one chronicler of the period as having been framed in the year 1066, by a French Seigneur, Geoffroi de Preuilli of Anjou, and it is stated that he had invented them and even been killed in one of them; and the very names "tourneamentum" and "tournoi" would imply a French origin. These designations would seem to have been derived from "tournier," to wheel round; though Claude Fauchet, writing in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, expresses the opinion that the word "tournoi" came about from the cavaliers running par tour, that is by turns at the quintain: "fut premièrement appellé Tournoy pource que les Cheualiers y coururent par tour; rompans premièrement leur bois et lances contre vne Quintaine...."
Military games of a similar nature are often stated to have been practised in Germany earlier than this, and Favine in Theatre of Honour and Knighthood prints a list of rules and ordinances for observance at a "tournament" to be held at Magdeburg, as having been issued by the Emperor of Germany Henry I, surnamed the Fowler, 876–936, a century and a half earlier than the date of the promulgation of the rules of Pruilli. The German text, however, bears the impress of a later period than early in the tenth century, and this view is expressed by Claude Fauchet, who gives the rules, which are curious enough for insertion here; and he mentions the authority from which Favine drew his statement.
"Sebastien Munster au troisiesme liure de sa Geografie, certifie que Henry premier de ce nom viuant enuiron Pan VCCCCXXXVI fit publier vn Tournoy, pour tenir en la ville de Magdebourg qui est en Saxe, lequel fut le premier, & tenu l'an VCCCCXXXVIII. Le mesme Munster recite douze articles de loix de Tournoy:—
1. Qui fera quelque chose contre la Foy.
2. Qui aura fait quelque chose contre le sacré Empire, et la Cesarce Majesté.
3. Qui aura trahy son Seigneur, ou sans cause iceluy delaisse fuyant en vne bataille: tué, ou meurdry ces compagnons.
4. Qui aura outragé fille, ou femme, de fait ou de parolles.
5. Qui aura falcifié vn seel, ou fait un faux serment. Qui aura esté declaré infame, & tenu pour tel.
6. Qui en repost (c'est secrettement & en cachette) aura meurdry sa femme. Qui d'aide ou de conseil, aura cósenty la mort de son Seigneur.
7. Qui aura pillé les Eglises, femmes vefues, ou orphelins: ou retenu ce qui leur appartenoit.
8. Qui ayant esté offensé par aucun, ne le poursuit par guerre, ou en Iustice: ains secrettement & par feu ou rapines. Qui gaste les bledz & vignes dont le public est substanté.
9. Qui mettra nouuelles impositions sans le sceu de l'Empereur: ou ie croy qu'il entéd parler d'vn Seigneur qui surchargera sa terre.
10. Qui aura cómis adultere, ou rauy vierges & pucelles.
11. Qui fait marchandise pour reuendre.
12. Qui ne pourra prouuer sa race de quatre grands beres, soit battu & chassé du Tournoy."
Jousts and Tournaments were classed under the heading of Hastiludia or spear-play: as also was the behourd or buhurt, Bohordicum in Mediæval Latin, a military exercise of a similar nature; though in what respect it differed from the joust or tournament is nowhere stated. That it was an exercise with lance and shield is clearly shown in a passage in Concilium Albiense.
That the behourd was practised continuously for long after the introduction of the joust and tournament is known by the fact of the issue of royal edicts for the prohibition of these exercises, as late as the reign of King Edward I.
The origin of the joust does not appear to be less ancient than that of the tourney itself, which it gradually almost supplanted; and it may have been suggested by the quintain. William of Malmesbury thus defines it:—Justa, jouste. Monomachia ludicra, hastiludium singulare. The Bayeux tapestry shows a kind of combat with spears.
The terms "tourney" and "joust" are often confounded with each other, but they are sharply different, the former being a battle in miniature, an armed contest of courtesy on horseback, troop against troop; while the other is a single combat of mounted cavaliers, run with lances in the lists; though jousting was by no means confined to these enclosures; indeed, such contests were sometimes run in the open street or square of a town. Jousts were often included with the tourney, though frequently held independently; and as the lance was the weapon of the former so was the sword greatly that of the latter. The lance was to be directed at the body only, otherwise it was considered foul play. The joust more especially was run in honour of ladies. These martial games were much practised in all the countries of chivalry.
The chroniclers are vague in their definitions of the Round Table game, the Tabula Rotunda, or as Matthew Paris calls it "Mensa Rotunda." He expressly distinguishes it from the tournament, though in what respect it differs from it he does not enlighten us. He describes a tabula rotunda, held at the Abbey of Wallenden in the year 1252, which was attended by a great number of cavaliers, both English and foreign, and states that on the fourth day of the meeting a knight named Arnold de Montigney was pierced in the throat by a lance "which had not been blunted as it ought to have been." The lance-head remained in the wound and death soon followed. We see from this incident that already in the middle of the thirteenth century it was customary to joust with blunted or rebated lances! In 1279 (8 Ed. I) a Round Table was held by Roger Earl of Mortimer, at his castle of Kenilworth, which is thus described in Historia Prioratus de Wigmore:—"He (Mortimer) invited a hundred knights and as many ladies to an hastilude at Kenilworth, which he celebrated for three days at a vast expense. Then he began the round table; and the golden lion, the prize for the triumphant knight, was awarded to him." Dugdale states that the reason for the institution itself was to assert the principle of equality and to avoid questions of precedence among the knights.
In some "Observations on the Institution of the Most Noble Order of the Garter," printed in Archæologia of the year 1846, it is stated that in 1343, King Edward III in imitation of King Arthur, the traditional founder of British Chivalry, bent on reviving the fabled glories of a bygone age, determined to hold a Round Table at Windsor on the 19th of January, 1344. The intended meeting was proclaimed by heralds of the king, in France, Scotland, Burgundy, Hainault, Flanders, Brabant, and in the German Empire, offering safe-conducts to all foreign knights and esquires wishful to take part in it. King Edward fixed the number of the tenans at forty, enrolling the bravest in the land; and he appointed that a "Feast" should be kept from year to year at Windsor on every following St. George's Day. Walsingham, writing about half a century after Froissart, states that in 1344 the King began to build a house in Windsor Park, which should be called the "Round Table"; that it was circular in form, and 200 feet in diameter. It is also stated that a circular table, made of wood, was constructed at Windsor sometime before 1356; and that the Prior of Merton was paid L26-13-4 for 52 oaks, taken from his woods near Reading, for the material. Walsingham relates that Philip of France, jealous of the fame of our king, had a table made on the Windsor model.
Matthew of Westminster chronicles that a round table was held in 1352, which had a fatal ending.
There is an actual round table of ancient provenance hanging on the eastern wall of the hall of the royal palace at Winchester, the reputed "painted table of Arthur," and there are some remarks concerning it in the Winchester volume of the Archaeological Institute, 1846, telling all that is known concerning it. The hall itself may have been standing in the reign of Henry III; and in the sixteenth century, and probably long before, a round table was an appendage to it; but as to the approximate date of its make there is no reliable evidence. The earliest historic reference to the table is by Hardyng, late in the reign of Henry VI or early in that of Edward IV, who alludes to it as "hanging yet" at Winchester; and Paulus Jovius tells us that the table was shown to the emperor Charles V in 1520, when it had been newly painted for the "last" time, but that the marginal names had been restored unskilfully. In the reign of Henry VIII a sum of L66-16-11 was expended in repairing the "aula regis infra castrum de Wynchestre, et le Round tabyll ibidem." John Lesley, bishop of Ross, said that he saw the table not long before 1578, and that the names of the knights were inscribed on its circumference; and a Spanish writer, who was present at the marriage of Philip and Mary, thus describes the painting on the table:—
"Lors du mariage de Philip II. avec la reine Marie, on montrait encore à Hunscrit la table ronde fabriquée par Merlin: elle se composait de 25 compartemens teintés en blank et en vert, lesquels se terminaient en pointe au milieu, et allaient s'elargissant jusqu'à la circonférence, et dans chaque division étaient écrits le nom du cavalier et celui du roi. L'un de ces compartemens appelé place de Judas, ou siége Périlleux, restait toujours vide."
The forms of the lettering and general decoration of the table point to a date in the reign of Henry VII or early in that of Henry VIII, but this, of course, only applies to the painted enrichment. Whatever may be the date of this table and its painting, they are both undoubtedly to considerable antiquity, probably from five to six centuries old.
The fête d' armes held by Boucicaut at St. Ingelbert in 1389 (which is described in Chapter III), is called in the account of the meeting a "table-ronde"; and the text would imply that the holding of a round table meant ahastilude at which the challengers or tenans kept open house to all comers, as well as meeting them in combat in the lists; and the institution is thus coupled with the banquet. The passage runs:—
"Ainsi feit là son appareil moult grandement et très-honnorablement messire Boucicaut, et feit faire provisions de très-bon vins, et de tous vivres largement, et à plain, et de tout ce qu'il convient si plantureusement comme 'pour tenir table rond à tout venans' tout le dict temps durant, et tout aux propres despens de Boucicaut."
The same lavish hospitality was extended here as at Kenilworth in 1279, and at Windsor in 1344.
It is clear from various records that the tenans at a round table of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries sometimes fought under the names of King Arthur's knights, indeed, "Sir Galehos" appears among the names of the knights inscribed on the actual round table at Winchester; and they also sometimes adopted the names of other legendary heroes, for at a round table held at Valenciennes in 1344, at which the prize was a peacock, victory was achieved by a band of cavaliers which fought under the names of King Alexander's knights. The accounts given of King Edward's tournament at Windsor, and that of the later Boucicaut's pas d'armes, both of which are called round tables, may be said to define sufficiently what a "Round Table" of the fourteenth century really was; and we fail to find any material difference from other meetings of the kind and period.
Favine in Theatre of Honour and Knighthood refers to "Hastiludia Rotunda" as being practice for cavaliers "to sit well their horses, to keepe themselues fast in their saddles and stirups. For, if any man fell, and his Horse upon him, at these encounterings with their lances, lightly worse did befall him before he could any way get forth of the Preasse. But others came to heauior fortune, their liues expyring in the place, being trod and trampled on by others"—but all this would apply to the ordinary mê/ée. This form of tourney was much in favour during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but we hear no more of round tables after that.
The Quintain (quintana) and Running at the Ring (Ringelrennen, Corso all 'Annello) were closely allied with the joust, and were practised in preparation for it; the chief objects for attainment in the former being a correct aim, to remain steady in the saddle after impact with the figure, and deftly to get rid of the stump of the broken lance. The quintain was a more ancient game than the joust, and indeed, not improbably, it gave rise to it; and being free from the risk of personal danger, was a sport and pastime of the people. The game assumed many forms, though it was chiefly a means of practice with the lance, sword, baston and battle-axe, indulged in by the young aspirants for knighthood as well as by the citizens and yeomanry. The original quintain was merely a post set up, against which the strokes were directed or against a shield hanging from it, with the same object in view. Later, the post developed into a human figure, usually fashioned as a Turk or Saracen, who held a wooden sword in his hand. The objective of the lance was the space between the eyes; and the figure was placed on a pivot, and so constructed that a misdirected stroke, that is a hit too much on one side or the other, would cause it to spin round with great velocity, dealing the tyro a smart blow with the sword. Another form was a bag of sand, from which the clumsy operator was apt to receive a buffet as it swung round or to have the contents expended over his horse and person; and there were other similar varieties of the game. The water quintain was practised from a boat, rapidly propelled by rowers; while the player stood at the bow, his lance couched and directed towards a shield, hung from a post standing in the water. The quintain continued to be a popular game right through the seventeenth century, and could be played on foot as well as on horseback. A picture of a quintain is given on a miniature in the Chroniques de Charlemagne, in the Burgundian Library at Brussels, and is reproduced by Lacroix in Military and Religious Life in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Running or Tilting at the Ring was merely a later form of the quintain. An upright shaft or post was holed at intervals for the reception of a rounded bar, socketed into it at right-angles, from which hung the ring placed on a level with the player's eye; and the horseman, couching his lance, rode towards it at full gallop with the object of transfixing it. When fairly hit the ring became detached by the action of side springs and remained on the head of the lance. Pluvinal gives particulars of the game as practised at the beginning of the seventeenth century; it was much in vogue at the court of Louis XIV. For running at the ring the lance was much shorter than that employed in jousting, its length was 10 ft. 7 in. and weight 7 lbs. There is a specimen at Dresden, tipped with a cone to hold the ring when hit, and there is naturally no vamplate. It will be realised what excellent practice these sports afforded for the joust and tourney. Both games are described in Strutt's Sports and Pastimes. MS., Ashmole 837, fol. 185, furnishes an instance of the game :—
"These persons here vnderwrytten / beinge one the kinges parte the playntyff/ And the other wt therle of Rutland defendant / dyd Run at ye Rynge 111j course every man / at wch tyme none toke the Ryng but only Mr hayward/ and Mr Constable beinge wt the defendant/ whome are apoynted when yt shall please his grace/ for them to Rune agayne/ he wch shall take the Ring furst shall have the prysse /
Excerpted from The Mediaeval Tournament by R. Coltman Clephan. Copyright © 1995 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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