AHRTP Image Archive
Gallery 6.0
The MEDIEVAL TOURNAMENT

These five prints are among our most compelling and historically important.

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JOUSTING and TOURNAMENTS

Tournament 1
Tournament 1
Tournament 2
Tournament 2

Tournament 3
Tournament 3
Tournament 4
Tournament 4
Tournament5
Tournament 5


Armed and mounted fighting men of nobility and valor, whose ranks were often hereditary and were called 'knights', first appear in Europe in the early 14th century. Such warriors were designated by other terms in earlier centuries. Militant monastic orders of knights first arose during the Crusades. Armor first consisted of chain mail and a one piece helmet and shield that were supplanted by full plate armor in the 14th century. The cost of armor, horse and squire mandated that knights would be drawn from the wealthy class, usually lower nobility at the least. The skill and tactics of massed pikemen and bowmen greatly reduced the impact of charging knights on horseback during several great battles of the Hundred Years War. Knights wearing full plate armor were relegated to jousting in the 15th century and we can therefore date the period of these tournament prints.

As is well known, jousting is a competition between two mounted knights where each tries to knock the other off horseback. The use of the lance in combat and the cavalry charge, which first appear in the 11th century, set the 'stage' for the creation of jousting as a 'war game' and competition. One on one jousts appear in the 12th century and supplant what had been a chaotic melee taking place on a very large field of several hundred acres. Jousting was at its peak during the 14th to 16th centuries and champions gained great honor and fortune. By the 15th century, the predominant contest saw two knights charging each other on each side of a five foot high wooden fence. The entire jousting area was 300 x 100 yards and known as the 'Lists'. A complicated scoring system determined the winner, sloppy lance work and discourteous behavior were penalized. Jousting was rough and dangerous. The most tragic of recorded jousting accidents was the killing of the English Montagu Earl of Salisbury's grandson by his own father. Families of knights killed while jousting were paid a handsome sum.

Tournaments predate jousting. They were military exercises carried out to demonstrate prowess, documented in Europe by the 11th century. From the time of Richard I onward, English kings controlled tournaments by license. A successful knight could become fabulously rich participating in tournaments and could earn up to one million ducats each year. Losers paid the victors a sum equal to the ransom price in real war. In addition, if you unhorsed a knight you kept his armor and horse.

Tournaments included events in addition to jousting. there was much feasting and pageantry. Jousting knights traveled from country to country to offer their 'entertainment' and challenge rivals. The English king Edward I, before coming to the throne, led eighty knights to a tournament on the Continent. In the 15th century, the tournament merged with the pageant to create a large scale entertainment that incorporated elaborate masques that referenced both classical Greek myths and pre-Christian ritual. This elaboration ended in England after the death of Henry VIII.

Jousting degenerated in the 17th century as the advent of accurate, armor piercing firearms destroyed the effectiveness of the calvary charge in battle. Mounted knights lost their usefulness and prestige, jousting became the purvue of amateurs akin to the re-enactors of today. Dueling, parades and pageants became part of the tournament which was now a pure entertainment.

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Imperial History . IMPERIAL HISTORY MIDDLE EAST - 3,000BC to 2006AD in 90 seconds


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