This article is about the tournaments of the Middle Ages. For the general article on tournaments, see tournament.
Tournament, or tourney (Fr. tournement, tournoi, Med. Lat. torneamentum, from tourner, to turn), the name popularly given in the middle ages to a species of mock fight, so called owing to the rapid turning of the horses (Skeat). Of the several medieval definitions of the tournament given by Du Cange (Glossarium, s.v. "Tourneamentum"), the best is that of Roger of Hoveden, who described tournaments as "military exercises carried out, not in the spirit of hostility (nullo interveniente odio), but solely for practice and the display of prowess (pro solo exercitio, atque ostentatione virium)." Men who carry weapons have in all ages played at the game of war in time of peace. But the tournament, properly so called, does not appear in Europe before the 11th century, in spite of those elaborate fictions of Ruexner's Thurnierbuch which detail the tournament laws of Henry the Fowler. More than one chronicler records the violent death, in 1066, of a French baron named Geoffroi de Preulli, who, according to the testimony of his contemporaries, "invented tournaments." In England, at least, the tournament was counted a French fashion, Matthew Paris calling it conflictus gallicus.
By the 12th century the tournament had grown so popular in England that King Henry II found it necessary to forbid the sport which gathered in one place so many barons and knights in arms. In that age we have the famous description by William FitzStephen of the martial games of the Londoners in Smithfield. He tells how on Sundays in Lent a noble train of young men would take the field well mounted, rushing out of the city with spear and shield to ape the feats of war. Divided into parties, one body would retreat, while another pursued striving to unhorse them. The younger lads, he says, bore javelins disarmed of their steel, by which we may know that the weapon of the elders was the headed lance. William of Newbury tells us how the young knights, balked of their favourite sport by the royal mandate, would pass over sea to win glory in foreign lists Richard I relaxed his father's order, granting licences for tournaments, and Jocelin of Brakelond has a long story of the great company of cavaliers who held a tournament between Thetford and Bury St Edmunds in defiance of the abbot. From that time onward unlicensed tourneying was treated as an offence against the Crown, which exacted heavy fees from all taking part in them even when a licence had been obtained. Often the licence was withheld, as in 1255, when the king's son's grave peril in Gascony is alleged as a reason for forbidding a meeting. In 1299 life and limb were declared to be forfeit in the case of those who should arrange a tourney without the royal licence, and offenders were to be seized with horse and harness. As the tournament became an occasion for pageantry and feasting, new reason was given for restraint: a simple knight might beggar himself over a sport which risked costly horses and carried him far afield. Jousters travelled from land to land, like modern cricketers on their tours, offering and accepting challenges. Thus Edward I, before coming to the throne, led eighty knights to a tournament on the Continent. Before the jousts at Windsor on St George's Day in 1344 heralds published in France, Scotland, Burgundy, Hainault, Flanders, Brabant and the domains of the emperor the king's offer of safe conduct for competitors. At the weddings of princes and magnates and at the crowning of kings the knights gathered to the joustings, which had become as much a part of such high ceremonies as the banquet and the minstrelsy. The fabled glories of the Round Table were revived by princely hosts, who would assemble a gallant company to keep open house and hold the field againvt all corners, as did Mortimer , the queen's lover, when, on the eve of his fall, he brought all the chivalry of the land to the place where he held his Round Table. About 1292 the "Statute of Arms for Tournaments" laid down, "at the request of the earls and barons and of the knighthood of England," new laws for the game. Swords with points were not to be used, nor pointed daggers, nor club nor mace. None was to raise up a fallen knight but his own appointed squires, clad in his device. The squire who offended was to lose horse and arms and lie three years in gaol. A northern football crowd would understand the rule that forbade those coming to see the tournament to wear harness or arm themselves with weapons. Disputes were to be settled by a court of honour of princes and earls. That such rules were needful had been shown at Rochester in 1251, where the foreign knights were beaten by the English and so roughly handled that they fled to the city for refuge. On their way the strangers were faced by another company of knights who handled them roughly and spoiled them, thrashing them with staves in revenge for the doings at a Brackley tournament. Even as early as the 13th century some of these tournaments were mere pageants of horsemen. For the Jousts of Peace held at Windsor Park in 1278 the sword-blades are of whalebone and parchment, silvered; the helms are of boiled leather and the shields of light timber. But the game could make rough sport. Many a tournament had its tale of killed and wounded in the chronicle books. We read how Roger of Lemburn struck Arnold de Montigny dead with a lance thrust under the helm. The first of the Montagu earls of Salisbury died of hurts taken at a Windsor jousting, and in those same lists at Windsor the earl's grandson Sir William Montagu was killed by his own father. William Longéspee in 1256 was so bruised that he never recovered his strength, and he is among many of whom the like is written. Blunted or "rebated" lance-points came early into use, and by the 14th century the coronall or cronell head was often fitted in place of the point. After 1400 the armourers began to devise harness with defences specially wrought for service in the lists. But the joust lost its chief perils with the invention of the tilt, which, as its name imports, was at first a cloth stretched along the length of the lists. The cloth became a stout barrier of timber, and in the early 16th century the knight ran his course at little risk. Locked up in steel harness, reinforced with the grand-guard and the other jousting pieces, he charged along one side of this barrier, seeing little more through the pierced sight-holes of the helm than the head and shoulders of his adversary. His bridle arm was on the tilt-side, and thus the blunted lance struck at an angle upon the polished plates. Mishaps might befall Henry II of France died from the stroke of Gabriel de Montgomeri, who failed to cast up in time the truncheon of his splintered lance. But the 16th-century tournament was, in the main, a bloodless meeting.
The 15th century had seen the mingling of the tournament and the pageant. Adventurous knights would travel far afield in time of peace to gain worship in conflicts that perilled life and limb, as when the Bastard of Burgundy met the Lord Scales in 1466 in West Smithfield under the fair and costly galleries crowded with English dames. On the first day the two ran courses with sharp spears; on the second day they tourneyed on horseback, sword in hand; on the third day they met on foot with heavy pole-axes . But the great tournament held in the market-place of Bruges, when the jousting of the Knights of the Fleece was part of the pageant of the Golden Tree, the Giant and the Dwarf, may stand as a magnificent example of many such gay gatherings. When Henry VIII was scattering his father's treasure the pageant had become an elaborate masque. For two days after the crowning of the king at Westminster, Henry and his queen viewed from the galleries of a fantastic palace set up beside the tilt-yard a play in which deer were pulled down by greyhounds in a paled park, in which the Lady Diana and the Lady Pallas came forward, embowered in moving castles, to present the champions. Such costly shows fell out of fashion after the death of Henry VIII; and in England the tournament remained, until the end, a martial sport. Sir Henry Lee rode as Queen Elizabeth's champion in the tilt-yard of Whitehall until his years forced him to surrender the gallant office to that earl of Cumberland who wore the Queen's glove pinned to the flap of his hat. But in France the tournament lingered on until it degenerated to the carrousel, which, originally a horseman's game in which cavaliers pelted each other with balls, became an unmartial display when the French king and his courtiers pranced in such array as the wardrobe-master of the court ballets would devise for the lords of md and Africk.
The tournament was, from the first, held to be a sport for men of noble birth, and on the Continent, where nobility was more exactly defined than in England, the lists were jealously closed to all combatants but those of the privileged class. In the German lands, questions as to the purity of the strain of a candidate for admission to a noble chapter are often settled by appeal to the fact that this or that ancestor had taken part in a tournament. Konrad Grunenberg's famous heraldic manuscript shows us the Helmschau that came before the German tournament of the 15th century--the squires carrying each his master's crested helm, and a little scutcheon of arms hanging from it, to the hall where the king of arms stands among the ladies and, wand in hand, judges each blazon. In England several of those few rolls of arms which have come down to us from the middle ages record the shields displayed at certain tournaments.
Based largely on an article from 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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