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Christopher VaughnStrever




Location: San Antonio, TX
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 11:59 am    Post subject: Drunk Knights         Reply with quote

I was cooking the other day and had a couple too many beers and was feeling a bit tipsy. And as I was handling a knife I thought to myself, geez I need to be careful. I havent cut myself yet... and then two seconds later my daughters come in and screaming and playing and BAM! I cut myself, jeez gotta love the thought prior to the action....

And then I thought to myself... what if a knight was drunk and all the sudden war was instantly upon him. Are there any accounts of drunken knights fighting in war or even tourney?

This had to have happened some time or another or even a drunken brawl. Knowing that knights caused alot of disruptive violence... it does sound alot like a bunch of drunk guys with swords and pole axes,

IDK, but it was a decent thought while I was tipsy, thought I would at least share my curiosity

Experience and learning from such defines maturity, not a number of age
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 12:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It has been suggested, at least by writers of popular historical fiction like Bernard Cornwell, that in Viking times warriors would get drunk on mass to steady their nerves and get ready for battle. Perhaps knights were more disciplined, but still one can well imagine that they may have had a sip before battle, and that a group of armed men and alchohol in peace-time, like your scenario, was just as bad a combination back then as it is today. I would also like to hear some more specific stories!
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Tjarand Matre




Location: Nøtterøy, Norway
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 1:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have no accounts or sources on drunk knights but I would assume that a certain amount of intoxication was culturally embedded in at least the noble classes. There is loads of documentation on the amounts of beer and wine brewed and consumed. Brewing (beer) was regulated by law even in peasant communities and neglecting this was subject to strict sanctions. Water, at least in urbanized areas, was a source of diphteria and other diseases so people of means would probably drink beer or wine, quality and level of dilution depending on economy, most of the time.
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Marik C.S.




Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tjarand Matre wrote:
Water, at least in urbanized areas, was a source of diphteria and other diseases so people of means would probably drink beer or wine, quality and level of dilution depending on economy, most of the time.


That's the point that makes this whole thing so complicated. Due to this procedure of substituting wine or beer for unclean water people must have been rather used to alcohol thus lessening the effect of what is in the end a poison.

The notion of the celtic or viking beserker who is either drunk or drugged up to achieve some sort of battle frenzy is well known - though not necessarily true - but is not what the question is about as I understand it.

I think there is some mention of a knight who was rather merry after a feast in one of the old tales. The Nibelungs, Parcival or the story of Dietrich, unfortunately I am not sure in which of those I read about it.

Europe - Where the History comes from. - Eddie Izzard
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not sure about knights, but I do remember stories of foot soldiers (English longbowmen or German landsknecht) getting involved in drunken bar fights. However this was probably viewed as behaviour unbefitting a nobleman.
Éirinn go Brách
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K J Seago




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 3:05 pm    Post subject: drunk knights         Reply with quote

i vaguely remember the knights who split thomas beckett's skull may have been drinking. could be wrong though.
just another student of an interesting subject, Happy
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 10:32 pm    Post subject: Re: drunk knights         Reply with quote

K J Seago wrote:
i vaguely remember the knights who split thomas beckett's skull may have been drinking. could be wrong though.


Probably a bit of liquid courage to put their consciences to sleep, and since they where sort of following the King's orders or just thinking they where after the King ranted about " who will get rid of this nuisance for me ", the very idea may have been fuelled by alcohol. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Did the King really wish it to happen, maybe not, or maybe it was an out for the King's conscience to be able to lie to himself that he hadn't really ordered the killing and he might have been ambivalent about being happy and sad about the death of what was a friend that turned " inconvenient ".

On the main Topic subject, a bit of alcohol does reduce anxiety, increase aggressiveness and in moderation not impair too much ..... but might make one too bold and careless in a fight. Wink On the other hand great deeds of courage and dismissing fear might be in some cases been performed through a " haze " of blurry vision, and when successful, receive great praise and reward ! Blundering semi conscious onto " Gory/Glory " maybe. Wink Razz Laughing Out Loud

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 11:19 pm    Post subject: The Hangover: 1170AD!         Reply with quote

Coming this Summer, an all new feature film:

The Hangover: The Big Knight Out!

Starring: Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton.

Synopsis: Awakening covered in late night kebabs, four friends must piece together the previous evenings shenanigans. Hilarity ensues.

Rated R for ridiculous.

Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
Host of Crash Course HEMA.
Founder of The Van Dieman's Land Stage Gladiators.
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Eric W. Norenberg





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Dec, 2011 11:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am of the opinion that a lot of the rash behavior that seems to have been the norm in the medieval period can be at least partially attributed to alcohol.
It's true that many people rarely drank anything besides beer or wine, in part due to the danger of drinking unsanitized water. Most of the "daily brew" was what was then termed "weak ale", which modern attempts to recreate yields a low alcohol content (maybe 3 - 4%), so I wouldn't assume that everyone was armed with a high tolerance. I think that when someone broke out a barrel of "the good stuff," be it wine or "strong beer," it had some definite effects. Couple that with the dietary habits of the time (typically only one big meal in early afternoon), and the combination of drink and blood sugar level swings, well, I'd bet some bad decisions were made from time to time.

I am sure I've read a handful of period criticisms of the French and their tendency to drink too much wine before a pitched battle, but at the moment I can't cite anything. I did track this down:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challenge_of_Barletta

Reading Frances Gies' Life in a Medieval Village, you'll find court and coronor records of all manner of bad things happening due to intoxication (drowning in ditches, gambling disagreements gone violent, and yes, even fatal cooking accidents!), but these are mostly "peasants".

One thing to consider about the Viking berserkers (and other "frenzy" types): they weren't drinking the same beer you and I buy at the QuickyMart. Modern beers and ales are flavored generously with hops, which are actually a mild sedative. The stuff the "Danes" drank (when it wasn't mead) was likely given its yummy bitterness with bog myrtle, mugwort, wormwood, or any number of local herbs. Some of which had stimulant and/or hallucinogenic effects, intensified by the brewing process. Today ales flavored primarily with stuff other than hops are generally called "gruits":

http://www.gruitale.com/intro_en.htm

These guys weren't just drunk, they were jacked up on what was essentially a Dark Age "Four Loko."

I'll let you all know how the homebrewing turns out...
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Josh S





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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 12:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric W. Norenberg wrote:
http://www.gruitale.com/intro_en.htm

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. That site is awesome! The "wonderful possibilities" picture is quite funny...
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 6:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric.

Some good points. I do not think that most people realize how low the alcohol content was in much beer and ale, almost to the same level as the stuff sold as non-alcoholic beer.

I agree on the outcome as well. Just like today people hit the bottle too hard and it leads to sometimes pretty bad results.

In the Weardale campaign Froissart also mentions a fight between English archers and Men-at-arms from the Low Countries. Several men get killed and does much to alienate the two groups.

Maximilien employs some English archers and over drink they get in a fight with some of his men and when he comes they almost kill him when he comes to stop the fight.

Henry V forbids such activity in his campaigns in France but one wonders on how this was applied in many respects.

I'd say this was far from the norm though, if the paucity of accounts is a good indication.

RPM
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 10:15 am    Post subject: why forbid ?         Reply with quote

I would read Henry 's ordonnance differently. Prohibition usually comes as a reaction to a perceived problem, never as a simple precaution.
Also, given the short life expectancy, and the way men react even today in times of high stress ( drink, drugs...) I would think that Henry was trying to put a little order in what was otherwise chaos.
The tolerance argument is a two way sword. If you tolerate the 0.08% buzz better than most, in your own mind, you will only need more for that warm fuzzy feeling you are seeking. So it would stand to reason that people living in a society where beer, ale , mead and wine were the norm, because of the sanitizing effects of fermentation, would overdo their consumption without thinking too much about it.
If you read accounts of the life of poets like François Villon in his student days, and the later accounts of excesses by Rabelais, it would seem as if drunken brawls were the normal activities of future priests, jurists and most University educated men. I would expect the soldier class to be at least at par with students.

Bon coeur et bon bras
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 10:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Eric.

I do not think that most people realize how low the alcohol content was in much beer and ale, almost to the same level as the stuff sold as non-alcoholic beer.

RPM


As a home brewer I am interested in any historical information that you may have on this point of period alcohol being weak. I would agree that period drinks could have been close to 3% ABV, and that people can drink this fairly regularly/steadily and be fully functioning alcoholics by today's standards. My reasoning on the strength is below.

In modern terms. alcohol has to be close to 3% ABV to kill off harmful bacteria....... or else you may as well just take your chances with the local water. 2.75% can be kept a few months refrigerated (assuming some hops, which we don't know for a fact were used universally in specific medieval periods.) I don't normally risk brews less than 4% ABV since I bottle condition my ales.

Anyhow, I have heard that watering down the beverages was common. I suppose that this could have been done at serving time.. However, the problem remains that if you water an alcoholic drink down to less than the above guidelines the condition of the water again becomes a factor.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Bernard Delor




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 1:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Makes me think of the french comics "Asterix le gaulois" who drinks the "potion magique" before fighting...
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Iagoba Ferreira





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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
How a man shall be armed for his ease when he shall fight on foot

A tent must be put in the field
Also a chair
Also a basin
Also five loaves of bread
Also a gallon of wine
Also a "messe" of meat or fish
Also a board and a pair of trestles to sit his meat and drink on
Also a broad cloth
Also a knife to cut the meat
Also a cup to drink from
Also a glass with drink made
Also a dozen tresses of arming points
Also a hammer and pincers and a bichorn
Also a dozen arming nails (rivets)
Also a spear, long sword, short sword and dagger
Also a kerchief to [hele] the visor of his bascinet
Also a pennant to bear in his hand during his avowing


Taken from here

Even if the transcription is correct [original: Also ij galones of wyne] and if the knight's valet drinks a bit, there should be still enough cuantity to get drunk...the doubt I have is if this is meant to be drank before, during or after the combat...with the friends and fans... Laughing Out Loud
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I always find these sort of discussions a little funny, particularly the part about nobody drinking water because water is instant death or something. Look at all the third world countries today who have people drinking what we would consider unsafe water. Somehow they're surviving, and even running into population problems.

Now I can't argue with any sort of historical record stating people drank watered down alcoholic beverages for these reasons, but I'm a little untrusting of any arguments that say they must have because they couldn't have survived otherwise. (I don't see any in this thread, but I've seen it elsewhere and since it's the only thing I have to contribute...)

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean,

I do not know if we have any evidence of issues. Why should we suppose they had an incident or more if we do not have accounts supporting this? There are all sorts of laws and such instituted during the medieval period that are not reactionary but preventative.... and I am not just saying this. I read all the main royal records for late medieval England.


Jared,

I remember back during my MA I read an article on some gent who examined remnants of the fermentation process on the inside of these containers. I will have to dig around and look for it as it has been 6 years since I have seen it.

Colt,

Yep. I have drank water from unfiltered sources on many occasions and am still typing. That said one time one of the guys drank some water and lets just say he was not doing so well, but he is alive.

RPM
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 5:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:

As a home brewer I am interested in any historical information that you may have on this point of period alcohol being weak. I would agree that period drinks could have been close to 3% ABV, and that people can drink this fairly regularly/steadily and be fully functioning alcoholics by today's standards. My reasoning on the strength is below.

.


Don't know so much about weak beers but locally, here in Québec, there are some very strong beers at 9% to 10% and you can't drink a large bottle of one of those without really feeling impaired.

Here is a review of my favourite one that might interest you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxqbP_Rp6gM&feature=related

Relevant to period " Weak Beers ", I have found that when drinking typical American beers the effect, or lack of effect, was pretty close to drinking water. Wink Laughing Out Loud Always, interesting to see the results of an American tourist drinking 3 or 4 of our beers and then seeing their stunned expressions when they first attempt to get up ........ Wink Laughing Out Loud

Level of tolerance where one feels like the alcohol hasn't impaired one I guess increases as one develops a tolerance to alcohol, but the actual objective impairment is still higher than the perception.

Naturally someone who never drinks can feel very drunk on just a 3% beer if they are having it on an empty stomach.

Brawling was probably considered normal, and even some bad behaviour " tolerated " or excused if nothing really dreadfully violent had occurred, I sort of " assume ", but I guess some localities might have frowned on public drunkenness more than others depending on local customs ?

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 9:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A bit later period then we are discussing here, but this topic reminds me of these videos:

Fighting Resolute Men Half Drunke 1
Fighting Resolute Men Half Drunke 2

Wink

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2011 9:51 pm    Post subject: prevention vs repression         Reply with quote

Randall,
prevention is a noble concept, but laws do not get enacted on the basis of prevention. First one needs to realize that a certain situation is causing a problem, then the powers that be are nudged and lobbyed into acting against the problem and what is believed to be the root causes of the problem one wishes to address. I don't think that Henry woke up one morning thinking that maybe drinking might be a problem in the forthcoming campaign in France. Rather, he knew that the excesses of alcohol would impair his troops, so he acted against the risk at hand by decreeing that his troops should abstain from imbibing.
Whether or not the troops heeded his orders is another kettle of fish. I would guess that some were flogged or otherwise punished for failing to do so.

Bon coeur et bon bras
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