Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coming up in a hard school, 1247

An entry in Matthew Paris's English History shows that even king's brothers might have to earn respect from other knights the hard way:

Of a tournament held at Newbury.
On Ash-Wednesday, a grand tournament was held at Newbury amongst the knights of England, to try their knightly prowess and strength; and as the king was favourable to it, it began and ended well. At this tournament, William de Valence, the king's uterine brother, a novice, conducted himself with great daring, in order to acquire a famous name in chivalry; but being of tender age, and not able to sustain the force of the hardy and marshalled knights, he was thrown to the ground, whereby he suffered considerable losses, and was well batoned, in order that he might receive his apprentisage in knighthood.
Image: A Matthew Paris illustration.

Update: A reader asks, in comments, what "well batoned" meant. To me it means that the tourneyers were using batons instead of sharp weapons. In other words, they beat the snot out of him, but not in a way that would leave permanent damage.

Update 2: Will McLean on "well batoned."

Update 3:
After looking at available Latin dictionaries, classical and medieval, I think baculatus, the word Matthew Paris uses, is best translated by the phrase Will cites, "thoroughly beaten." I can't find any citations of a word in bac- that means a sword or sharp weapon.


  1. what the heck does "well batoned" mean?

    I doubt it has anything to do with a heraldry reference to bastardy, or a scepter passed to the next generation, or anything like that.

  2. This continues to inform us that, in the middle ages, very real and strenuous violence was a major part of the lordly culture; not just some sort of literary convention to be dismissed. You show up in the lists as a young aristo pup, you discover you are up against some pretty hard people, and they whack the heck out of you as an admission ritual. And this is what they did to their peers, friends, and leaders in the sport of good fun!

  3. I don't think we can be sure that blunt weapons were implied, because baston/baton can also mean weapon in the generic sense

  4. I guess we should look at the Latin, and some good scholarly dictionaries. I have never seen that usage.