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A tournament, or tourney (from Old French torneiement, tornei),was a chivalrous competition or mock fight in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (12th to 16th centuries). It is one type of hastilude. The shows were held often because of coronations, the marriage of kings, births, baptisms, weddings of princesses, conquests, peace, alliances, welcoming ambassadors or people of great worth, and even other minor events, experienced by the nobility. Over time the ecclesiastical festivities were also solemnized with them, of which there is a very marked testimony in the chronicle of Don Pero Niño: When he ordered to perform very honorable parties and processions (Enrique III the Sorrowful), he ordered to perform jousts and tournaments and games of reeds and gave weapons and horses and rich clothes and garrisons to those who were to make these things.
Finally, it was celebrated for pure entertainment and one of these parties arranged in Valladolid by the Constable Don Álvaro de Luna, to which Don Juan II of Castilla came out to joust as an adventurer, the chronicle of that valid in Cap. LII. The heralds and kings of arms were in charge of publicizing the tournament, and the herald passed from castle to castle, taking letters and posters to the most renowned champions and invited all the brave who were on the way.
Old French tournment was in use in the 12th century, from a verb tornoier, ultimately Latin tornare "to turn". The same word also gave rise to tornei (modern English tourney, modern French tournoi). The French terms were adopted in English (via Anglo-Norman) by 1300.
The Old French verb in origin meant "to joust, tilt", but it came to refer to the knightly tournament more generally, while joster "approach, meet" became the technical term for jousting specifically (also adopted in English before 1300).
By the end of the 12th century, tornement and Latinized torneamentum had become the generic term for all kinds of knightly hastiludes or martial displays. Roger of Hoveden writing in the late 12th century defined torneamentum as "military exercises carried out, not in the knight's spirit of hostility (nullo interveniente odio), but solely for practice and the display of prowess (pro solo exercitio, atque ostentatione virium)."
The application of the term tournament to competition in games of skill or sports in general dates to the mid-18th century.
Medieval equestrian warfare, and equestrian practice, did hark back to Roman antiquity, just as the notion of chivalry harked back to the rank of equites in Roman times. There may be an element of continuity connecting the medieval tournament to the hippika gymnasia of the Roman cavalry, but due to the sparsity of written records during the 5th to 8th centuries this is difficult to establish. It is known that such cavalry games were central to military training in the Carolingian Empire, with records of Louis and Charles' military games at Worms in 843. At this event, recorded by Nithard, the initial chasing and fleeing was followed by a general mêlée of all combatants.
Documentation of equestrian practice during the 9th to 10th centuries is still sparse, but it is clear that the tournament, properly so called, is a development of the High Middle Ages. This is recognized by medieval sources; a chronicler of Tours in the late 12th century attributes the "invention" of the knightly tournament to an Angevin baron, Geoffroi de Preulli, who supposedly died in 1066. In 16th-century German historiography, the setting down of the first tournament laws is attributed to Henry the Fowler (r. 919–936); this tradition is cited by Georg Rüxner in his Thurnierbuch of c. 1530 as well as by Paulus Hector Mair in his De Arte Athletica (c. 1544/5).
The earliest known use of the word "tournament" comes from the peace legislation by Count Baldwin III of Hainaut for the town of Valenciennes, dated to 1114. It refers to the keepers of the peace in the town leaving it 'for the purpose of frequenting javelin sports, tournaments and such like.'
A pattern of regular tournament meetings across northern France is evident in sources for the life of Charles, Count of Flanders (1119–27). The sources of the 1160s and 1170s portray the event in the developed form it maintained into the fourteenth century.
Tournaments centered on the mêlée , a general fight where the knights were divided into two sides and came together in a charge (estor). Jousting, a single combat of two knights riding at each other, was a component of the tournament, but was never its main feature.
The standard form of a tournament is evident in sources as early as the 1160s and 1170s, notably the Life of William Marshal and the romances of Chrétien de Troyes. Tournaments might be held at all times of the year except the penitential season of Lent (the forty days preceding the Triduum of Easter). The general custom was to hold them on Mondays and Tuesdays, though any day but Friday and Sunday might be used. The site of the tournament was customarily announced a fortnight before it was to be held. The most famous tournament fields were in northeastern France (such as that between Ressons-sur-Matz and Gournay-sur-Aronde near Compiègne, in use between the 1160s and 1240s) which attracted hundreds of foreign knights from all over Europe for the 'lonc sejor' (the tournament season).
Knights arrived individually or in companies to stay at one or other of the two settlements designated as their lodgings. The tournament began on a field outside the principal settlement, where stands were erected for spectators. On the day of the tournament one side was formed of those 'within' the principal settlement, and another of those 'outside'.
Parties hosted by the principal magnates present were held in both settlements, and preliminary jousts (called the vespers or premières commençailles) offered knights an individual showcase for their talents. On the day of the event, the tournament was opened by a review (regars) in which both sides paraded and called out their war cries. Then followed a further opportunity for individual jousting carried out between the rencs, the two lines of knights. The opportunity for jousting at this point was customarily offered to the new, young knights present.
At some time in mid morning the knights would line up for the charge (estor). At a signal, a bugle or herald's cry, the lines would ride at each other and meet with levelled lances. Those remaining on horseback would turn quickly (the action which gave the tournament its name) and single out knights to attack. There is evidence that squires were present at the lists (the staked and embanked line in front of the stands) to offer their masters up to three replacement lances. The mêlée would tend then to degenerate into running battles between parties of knights seeking to take ransoms, and would spread over several square miles between the two settlements which defined the tournament area. Most tournaments continued till both sides were exhausted, or till the light faded. A few ended earlier, if one side broke in the charge, panicked and ran for its home base looking to get behind its lists and the shelter of the armed infantry which protected them. Following the tournament the patron of the day would offer lavish banquets and entertainment. Prizes were offered to the best knight on either side, and awarded during the meals. [ page needed ]
Melee ( // or /ˈmeleɪ/, French: mêlée [mɛle] ; in English frequently spelled as mêlée or melée) is a modern term for a type of mock combat in medieval tournaments. The "melee" was the "mass tournament" where two teams of horsemen clashed in formation. The aim was to smash into the enemy in massed formation, with the aim of throwing them back or breaking their ranks. Following a successful maneuver of this kind, the rank would attempt to turn around without breaking formation (widerkere or tornei); this action was so central that it would become eponymous of the entire tradition of the tourney or tournament by the mid-12th century.
The Middle High German term for this type of contest was buhurt (adopted in French as bouhourt); some sources may also make a distinction between melee or mass tournament and buhurt, as the latter could refer to a wider class of equestrian games not necessarily confined to the formal tournament reserved to nobility.[ clarification needed ] Some sources[ who? ] distinguish between the buhurt as more playful and the turnei as, while still nominally "mock combat", much closer to military reality, often leading to fatalities.
The Old French meslee "brawl, confused fight; mixture, blend" (12th century) is the feminine past participle of the verb mesler "to mix" (ultimately from Vulgar Latin misculāta "mixed", from Latin miscēre "to mix"; compare mélange ; meddle, medley). The modern French form mêlée was borrowed into English in the 17th century and is not the historical term used for tournament mock battles.[ clarification needed ] The term buhurt may be related to hurter "to push, collide with" (cognate with English to hurt) or alternatively from a Frankish bihurdan "to fence; encompass with a fence or paling").
Tournaments often contained a mêlée consisting of knights fighting one another on foot or mounted, either divided into two sides or fighting as a free-for-all. The object was to capture opposing knights so that they could be ransomed, and this could be a very profitable business for such skilled knights as William Marshal.
The melee or buhurt was the main form of the tournament in its early phase during the 12th and 13th centuries. The joust, while in existence since at least the 12th century as part of tournaments, did not play the central role it would acquire later (by the late 15th century).
There is no doubting the massive popularity of the tournament as early as the sources permit us to glimpse it. The first English mention of tourneying is in a charter of Osbert of Arden, Lord of Kingsbury of Warwickshire, which reveals that he travelled to Northampton and London but also crossed the Channel to join in events in France. The charter dates to the late 1120s.The great tournaments of northern France attracted many hundreds of knights from Germany, England, Scotland, Occitania and Iberia. There is evidence that 3000 knights attended the tournament at Lagny-sur-Marne in November 1179 promoted by Louis VII in honour of his son's coronation. The state tournaments at Senlis and Compiègne held by Philip III in 1279 can be calculated to have been even larger events.
Aristocratic enthusiasm for the tournament meant that it had travelled outside its northern French heartland before the 1120s. The first evidence for it in England and the Rhineland is found in the 1120s. References in the Marshal biography indicate that in the 1160s tournaments were being held in central France and Great Britain. The contemporary works of Bertran de Born talk of a tourneying world that also embraced northern Iberia, Scotland and the Empire. The chronicle of Lauterberg indicates that by 1175 the enthusiasm had reached the borders of Poland.
Despite this huge interest and wide distribution, royal and ecclesiastical authority was deployed to prohibit the event. In 1130 Pope Innocent II at a church council at Clermont denounced the tournament and forbade Christian burial for those killed in them. The usual ecclesiastical justification for prohibiting them was that it distracted the aristocracy from more acceptable warfare in defence of Christianity. However, the reason for the ban imposed on them in England by Henry II had to have lain in its persistent threat to public order. Knights going to tournaments were accused of theft and violence against the unarmed. Henry II was keen to re-establish public order in England after the disruption of the reign of King Stephen (1135–1154). He did not prohibit tournaments in his continental domains, and indeed three of his sons were avid pursuers of the sport.
Tournaments were allowed in England once again after 1192, when Richard I identified six sites where they would be permitted and gave a scale of fees by which patrons could pay for a license. But both King John and his son, Henry III, introduced fitful and capricious prohibitions which much annoyed the aristocracy and eroded the popularity of the events. In France Louis IX prohibited tourneying within his domains in 1260, and his successors for the most part maintained the ban.
As has been said, jousting formed part of the tournament event from as early a time as it can be observed. It was an evening prelude to the big day, and was also a preliminary to the grand charge on the day itself. In the 12th century jousting was occasionally banned in tournaments. The reasons given are that it distracted knights from the main event, and allowed a form of cheating. Count Philip of Flanders made a practice in the 1160s of turning up armed with his retinue to the preliminary jousts, and then declining to join the mêlée until the knights were exhausted and ransoms could be swept up.
But jousting had its own devoted constituency by the early 13th century, and in the 1220s it began to have its own exclusive events outside the tournament. The biographer of William Marshal observed c.1224 that in his day noblemen were more interested in jousting than tourneying. In 1223, we have the first mention of an exclusively jousting event, the Round Table held in Cyprus by John d'Ibelin, lord of Beirut. Round Tables were a 13th-century enthusiasm and can be reconstructed to have been an elimination jousting event. They were held for knights and squires alike. Other forms of jousting also arose during the century, and by the 14th century the joust was poised to take over the vacancy in aristocratic amusement caused by the decline of the tournament.
It is a vexed issue as to what extent specialized arms and armour were used in mêlée tournaments. A further question that might be raised is to what extent the military equipment of knights and their horses in the 12th and 13th centuries was devised to meet the perils and demands of tournaments, rather than warfare. It is, however, clear from the sources that the weapons used in tournaments were initially the same as those used in war. It is not by any means certain that swords were blunted for most of the history of the tournament. This must have changed by the mid 13th century, at least in jousting encounters. There is a passing reference to a special spear for use in jousting in the Prose Lancelot (c. 1220). In the 1252 jousting at Walden, the lances used had sokets, curved ring-like punches instead of points. The Statute of Arms of Edward I of England of 1292 says that blunted knives and swords should be used in tournaments, which rather hints that their use had not been general until then.
The tournament had a resurgence of popularity in England in the reign of the martial and crusading king, Edward I (1272–1307) and under his grandson, Edward III (1327–77), yet nonetheless the tournament died out in the latter's reign. Edward III encouraged the move towards pageantry and a predominance of jousting in his sponsored events. In one of the last true tournaments held in England in 1342 at Dunstable, the mêlée was postponed so long by jousting that the sun was sinking by the time the lines charged. .A tournament was held in Norwich in 1350 which was attended by Edward, commonly known as the Black Prince. The tournament was held at the expense of the citizens of Norwich and cost £37.4s.6d.;approximately 5 years wages for a skilled craftsman. The tournament survived little longer in France or Burgundy. The last known to be held was at Bruges in 1379. That same year the citizens of Ghent rioted when the count of Flanders announced a tournament to be held at their city. The cause of their discontent was the associated expense for them.
By using costumes, drama and symbolism, tournaments became a form of art, which raised the expenses for these events considerably. They had political purposes, to impress the populace and guests with their opulance, as well as the courage of the participants. Loyalty to a lord or lady was expressed through clothes and increasingly elaborate enactments. Tournaments also served cultural purposes. As the ideals of Courtly Love became more influential, women played a more important role in the events. They were often held in honour of a lady and they participated in the playacting and symbolism.
Edward III of England regularly held tournaments, during which people often dressed up, sometimes as the Knights of the Round Table.In 1331, the participants of one tournament were all wearing green cloaks decorated with golden arrows. In the same year one was held at Cheapside, in which the king and other participants dressed as Tartars and led the ladies, who were in the colours of Saint George, in a procession at the start of the event. His grandson, Richard II, would first distribute his livery badges with the White Hart at a tournament at Smithfield.
Mythology and storytelling were popular aspects of tournaments. An example of this is the tournament in 1468 that was organized by Charles the Bold to celebrate his marriage with Margaret of York. The tournament was supposedly at the bidding of the 'Lady of the Hidden Ile'. A golden tree had been erected with all the coats of arms of the participating knights. They were dressed like famous figures from legend and history, while their squires were dressed as harlequins. A notable example of an elaborate costume was that of Anthony of Luxembourg. Chained in a black castle, he entered the lists. He could only be freed with a golden key and approval of the attending ladies.
In Florence, the military aspect of the tournaments were secondary to the display of wealth. For a tournament honouring his marriage to Clarice Orsini, Lorenzo de Medici had his standard designed by Leonardo Da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio. He also wore a large amount of jewelry, including the famous Medici diamond 'Il Libro'.
Royalty also held tournaments to stress the importance of certain events and the nobility's loyalty. Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York presided over a series of tournaments when their son Henry was created Duke of York. These tournaments were noted for their display of wealth. On the first day, the participants showed their loyalty by wearing the King's colours on their bodies and the Queen's colours on their helmets. They further honoured the royal family by wearing the colours of the King's mother, Margaret Beaufort, on the next day.
In 1511, at the court of Henry VIII of England, a tournament was held in honour of Catherine of Aragon. Charles Brandon came out of a tower which was moved onto the battlefield, dressed like a pilgrim. He only took off his pilgrim's clothes after the queen had given him permission to participate.
The decline of the true tournament (as opposed to the joust) was not a straightforward process, although the word continued to be used for jousts until the 16th century forced by the prominent place that tourneying occupied in popular Arthurian romance literature.
A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state or representative for service to the monarch, the church or the country, especially in a military capacity.
The Round Table is King Arthur's famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his knights congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status. The table was first described in 1155 by Wace, who relied on previous depictions of Arthur's fabulous retinue. The symbolism of the Round Table developed over time; by the close of the 12th century it had come to represent the chivalric order associated with Arthur's court, the Knights of the Round Table.
Chivalry, or the chivalric code, is an informal and varying code of conduct developed between 1170 and 1220. It was associated with the medieval Christian institution of knighthood; knights' and gentlemen's behaviours were governed by chivalrous social codes. The ideals of chivalry were popularized in medieval literature, particularly the literary cycles known as the Matter of France, relating to the legendary companions of Charlemagne and his men-at-arms, the paladins, and the Matter of Britain, informed by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written in the 1130s, which popularized the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. All of these were taken as historically accurate until the beginnings of modern scholarship in the 19th century.
Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horseriders wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each participant trying hard to strike the opponent while riding towards him at high speed, breaking the lance on the opponent's shield or jousting armour if possible, or unhorsing him. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism. The participants experience close to three and a quarter times their body weight in G-forces when the lances collide with their armour.
In medieval tournaments a kipper was a person employed by a knight, usually a vassal of the knight such as a slave, serf, or peasant. Kippers might also be fighters of non-knightly status, who therefore did not fight on horseback.
Historical European martial arts (HEMA) are martial arts of European origin, particularly using arts formerly practised, but having since died out or evolved into very different forms.
The pas d'armes or passage of arms was a type of chivalric hastilude that evolved in the late 14th century and remained popular through the 15th century. It involved a knight or group of knights who would stake out a traveled spot, such as a bridge or city gate, and let it be known that any other knight who wished to pass must first fight, or be disgraced. If a traveling venan did not have weapons or horse to meet the challenge, one might be provided, and if the venan chose not to fight, he would leave his spurs behind as a sign of humiliation. If a lady passed unescorted, she would leave behind a glove or scarf, to be rescued and returned to her by a future knight who passed that way.
Geoffroi de Charny was the third son of Jean de Charny, the lord of Charny, and Marguerite de Joinville, daughter of Jean de Joinville, the biographer and close friend of France’s King Louis IX. A renowned knight who fought on the French side during the early years of the Hundred Years’ War, Charny wrote a semi-autobiographical poem The Book of Geoffroi de Charny and a set of questions on chivalric matters for the short-lived Company of the Star, France’s counterpart to England’s Order of the Garter. Although a prose treatise called the Book of Chivalry has also long been accredited to him recent findings indicate this to have been more likely by his son of the same name, Geoffroi II de Charny, who died in 1398. Charny is also widely associated with the first known showings of the Shroud of Turin, though there are now doubts that he was responsible for these. He took part in a successful crusading expedition to Smyrna in 1344 and shortly after his return from this King Philip VI appointed him a royal councillor and bearer of the Oriflamme, the sacred battle-standard of France. This rôle, one in which he continued under King Jean II, made its holder an automatic target for enemy forces on a battlefield, and it was thus that he met his heroic end during the closing moments of the battle of Poitiers on September 19, 1356. Geoffroi de Charny was one of Europe's most admired knights during his lifetime, with a widespread reputation for his skill at arms and his honour. The Tournai-based abbot-chronicler Gilles le Muisit wrote of him: ‘a vigorous soldier, expert in weaponry and much renowned both overseas and here. He has taken part in many wars and in many mortal conflicts, in all of them conducting himself with probity and with nobility’.
A coat of plates is a form of segmented torso armour consisting of overlapping metal plates riveted inside a cloth or leather garment. The coat of plates is considered part of the era of transitional armour and was normally worn as part of a full knightly harness. The coat saw its introduction in Europe among the warring elite in the 1180s or 1220s and was well established by the 1250s. It was in very common usage by the 1290s. By the 1350s it was universal among infantry militias as well. After about 1340, the plates covering the chest were combined to form an early breastplate, replacing the coat of plates. After 1370, the breastplate covered the entire torso. Different forms of the coat of plates, known as the brigandine and jack of plates, remained in use until the late 16th century.
The Eglinton Tournament of 1839 was a reenactment of a medieval joust and revel held in North Ayrshire, Scotland between 28 and 30 August. It was funded and organized by Archibald, Earl of Eglinton, and took place at Eglinton Castle in Ayrshire. The Queen of Beauty was Georgiana, Duchess of Somerset. Many distinguished visitors took part, including Prince Louis Napoleon, the future Emperor of the French.
Hastilude is a generic term used in the Middle Ages to refer to many kinds of martial games. The word comes from the Latin hastiludium, literally "lance game". By the 14th century, the term usually excluded tournaments and was used to describe the other games collectively; this seems to have coincided with the increasing preference for ritualistic and individualistic games over the traditional mêlée style.
The Order of the Star or Company of the Star was an order of chivalry founded on 6 November 1351 by John II of France in imitation of the Order of the Garter founded in 1347 by Edward III of England. The inaugural ceremony of the order took place on 6 January 1352 at Saint-Ouen, from which it is sometimes called the Order of Knights of the Noble House of Saint Ouen.
The Book of Chivalry was written by the knight Geoffroi de Charny (c.1306-1356) sometime around the early 1350s. The treatise is intended to explain the appropriate qualities for a knight, reform the behavior of the fighting classes, and defend the chivalric ethos against its critics, mainly in clerical circles.
Brian R. Price is an American university professor, author, editor, publisher, martial arts instructor of the Italian school of swordsmanship, reconstructive armorer, and member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. He is Associate Professor of History at Hawai'i Pacific University, where he offers courses in the history of warfare, in counterinsurgency, and in strategy at the graduate and undergraduate levels. He speaks regularly at conferences both for his current field on counterinsurgency and in his earlier, and now secondary field, on chivalric topics. His page at https://hpu.academia.edu/BrianRPrice lists his current and recent research projects. He began his studies of medieval history in 1990, but began to shift his interests as the Afghan and Iraq wars progressed, increasingly emphasizing aspects of modern military theory, especially ways through which culture, doctrine and military practice interweave. These modern topics have been a prominent part of his work since his graduation from the University of North Texas and deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Human Terrain System in 2011-2012. He has spoken at the UK Ministry of Defence, at the Society for Military History, the World History Conference, several academic martial arts symposia, and appeared on television to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
An equestrian seal is a type of seal used in the European Middle Ages, characterized by the depiction of the owner as a mounted warrior in full armour. Originating in the high medieval period, the type was frequently used throughout the 13th to 14th centuries. Continued use into the 15th and 16th centuries was mostly limited to high nobility, especially royalty, while lower nobility switched to the use of simple heraldic seals.
Jean IIIde Werchin, called the Good, was a knight errant and poet from the County of Hainaut in the Holy Roman Empire. In 1383 his father died and he inherited the baronies of Werchin, Walincourt and Cysoing, as well as the hereditary office of seneschal of Hainaut, which had been in his family since about 1234.
Louis V (1235-1299), Count of Chiny (1268-1299), the youngest son of Arnold IV, Count of Looz and Chiny, and Jeanne, Countess of Chiny. He became Count of Chiny in 1268 when his parents entrusted him with the county before their death.
The Tournament of Chauvency was held in 1285 to bring together the greatest knights of France and Germany for six days of jousting and other activities, a social event of primary importance at the end of the thirteenth century. Dedicated to Henry IV, Count of Salm, the tournament was organized by Louis V, Count of Chiny, and held in the small village of Chauvency-le-Château, near Montmédy.
Freydal is an uncompleted illustrated prose narrative commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I in the early 16th century. It was intended to be a romantic allegorical account of Maximilian's own participation in a series of jousting tournaments in the guise of the tale's eponymous hero, Freydal. In the story, Freydal takes part in the tournaments to prove that he is worthy to marry a princess, who is a fictionalised representation of Maximilian's late wife, Mary of Burgundy.
Tobias Emanuel ("Toby") Capwell FSA is an American historian who lives and works in London. His principal interest is in European arms and armour of the medieval and Renaissance periods. He is Curator of arms and armour at the Wallace Collection in London. He has written and spoken extensively on both the historical and the practical aspects of his subject. He is a skilled jouster, and has claimed to be the world's only jousting curator.
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