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J. Bedell

Location: Maryland, USA
Joined: 06 Jan 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Tue 25 Jul, 2006 11:52 am    Post subject: 15th Century Tournaments         Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

I am mostly a viking enthusiast, but lately I have become increasingly interested in tournaments in the 1400's. I was hoping that some of the folks here could help me out with some general info.

1. Who participated in tournaments? Was it limited to nobility or could anyone with the arms and armor needed to participate compete?

2. What kinds of tournaments were there? I know there was the joust, pollaxe, and sword competitions but what about other types?

3.Why were tournaments held? Were they mostly for holidays and special occasions or just because knights got bored?

4. How were combatants scored? (in foot combat, I'm not particularly interested in the joust.)

5. Was tournament armour plain armour used in battle or was it etched and gilded like tournament armour of later centuries? Also, were plumes and other helmet decorations popular during tournaments?

Lastly, if anyone could recommend good books for researching 15th C. tournaments that would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you everyone,

The pen may be mighter, but the sword is much more fun.
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Todd Eriksen

Location: Osceola, IA
Joined: 15 Nov 2004
Reading list: 14 books

Posts: 64

PostPosted: Sat 29 Jul, 2006 8:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As there are numerous experts in the field on this forum, I'm slightly intimidated to give any response, but I'll give you what I know.
To answer your last question, first: For a quick, brief overview of the tournament circuit, read Osprey's "Knights in Tournament". For more detail and great historical pictures and museum photo's, read Richard Barber and Juliet Barker's book, "Tournaments". Also, Barber has a book called "The Reign of Chivalry" which gives you the whole view plus other insite to the tournaments.

1. Only nobles participated in the tourney. Kings, princes, large landholders, minor knights and up and coming men at arms (those recognized by their employers) were allowed into the lists.
The only ones who could afford armour were the royalty and nobles as to the expense, the exception being those soldiers who fought and won any set battle and collected what was left of the enemies armour, after their noble took what he wanted.

2. Tourneys included the joust, foot combat, and the melee. The joust as many are familiar with, was the Super Bowl of the Middle Ages, as it pitted man against man. Even into the 1500's, Henry VIII was an avid and very reknowned jouster and surrounded himself with men who were good at jousting. The foot combat was regulated by a type of referee, similar to modern day boxing, who would keep the fighting fair, as the combat at times got out of controll, driven by personal vendettas. But the most controversial and later most outlawed form of tourney was the melee. It consisted of two sides, either noblemen or nationalities, who would team up and have a 'sportsman' bout with their opponents, which many times would spill out of the set ring, and continue out into the surrounding country side. This form was very much despised by the royalty and church as it caused so much death to good soldiers. Very strict constraints were put on such tourneys in later years.

3. Tourneys were held for special occasions for the noblty, such as weddings, anniversaries, treaties, etc. They were also held, as you suspected, to keep the idle soldiers in peek condition, and to hone their skills. But this led to so many personal duels and such that the leaders needed to keep a sharp eye on the who's and why's of the motives behind the tourneys.

4. I honestly do not know the scoring for foot combat. Sorry.

5. Armour was not combat ready, per se, but reinforced in areas that were more prone to heavy contact and lighter or lacking in areas that were not to receive heavy blows. You wanted to win, yet didn't want to get maimed for life. The etching styles were really only for parade and not for the tourney.
For example, many jousting armours that survive, have extra thick armour on the left side of the jousting helm, as that is where the blow might take place, yet no armour in the back or sometimes on the legs as the saddle protected that area.

Hope my measley info helps you. I'm sure that I'll be corrected somewhere, but that's the tourney world as I know it.

Ich Dien
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Jonathon Janusz

Joined: 20 Nov 2003

Posts: 467

PostPosted: Sun 30 Jul, 2006 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

check out this link; I think it might help:
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J. Bedell

Location: Maryland, USA
Joined: 06 Jan 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Sun 30 Jul, 2006 6:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks alot for the info. This all pretty much fits in with what I know or assumed so thanks for confirmation, and some new info! Also, thanks for the book references, I will be checking out those titles real soon.

Thanks for the link, it is very informative.


The pen may be mighter, but the sword is much more fun.
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