Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pastyme With Good Companye: Jousting and The Tournament

Henry VIII jousting, while Katherine of Aragon and her ladies look on.

Jousting was one of the most popular sport at the Tudor Court. Originating as a way for soldiers to practice their equestrian skills and maintain their military prowess, jousting eventually developed into a sport played at tournaments within the Royal Court during the Middle Ages. By the Renaissance, the sport had grown so much in popularity that specialized armor had been developed especially for it. It was much heavier than combat armor, weighing as much as 100 pounds.

Henry VIII's jousting armor
Jousting, however, was only a part of the "Tournament." The Tournament involved a series of events, beginning with a Vespers Tourney. This was held in the eve of the actual jousting tournament, and involved the younger knights and squires competing with one another before the experienced knights and court. It gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.

The first day of the Tournament opened with a formal procession called an Invocation. The Tree of Shields was placed at the end of the tournament field. It displayed the shields of all of the competitors. As the competitions  were completed, the shields of the winners were moved up the "tree" until the final two competitors were side by side.

The second day of the Tournament, the helms of the competitors were displayed and inspected by the Ladies of the Court. On the third day of the Tournament, the Chevalier d'honneur was chosen. This position served as a type of umpire for the Tournament. On the last day of the Tournament, the winner was awarded a prize, and all participants embraced as a sign of companionship. Each day, as the Tournament ended, competitors and members of the court were met with feasting and dancing. The biggest celebration followed the last day of competition.

Melee fighting
Other types of sports were also performed during a Tournament, like melee, which involved a group of  knights combating on foot.

Despite the festive mood of the Tournament, it could also be very dangerous. Henry VIII was hurt several times competing in jousting matches. The last injury occurred in 1536. While jousting, Henry fell from his horse, which then fell on him. He was knocked unconscious for two hours. The court thought he would die. However, he pulled through. Soon after his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was arrested, charged with treason, and executed. His reign of tyranny had begun. Some scholars think this accident caused a deep brain injury, which changed his personality and profoundly changed him for the rest of his life, causing him become tyrannical, paranoid, and unpredictable. He also suffered from a leg injury, which chronically plagued him the rest of his life, causing severe pain and horrible mood swings.

Henry VIII wasn't the only King injured in jousting. In 1559, King Henry II of France suffered severe wounds from a jousting accident. He died soon after. This ended jousting as a sport in France. Pin It

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