Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Those belligerent jousters

In my own research on jousting  which is based on Charny's questions on the law of arms as it applies to jousting tournaments and war, I got the impression that men at arms, full-fledged warriors, were a pretty argumentative lot. But of course, since Charny's questions are about resolving arguments, Charny had to conjure up some belligerent sorts, however many there may have been in real life. A few choice passages in Froissart's Chronicles convinced me that I was right about the belligerence, but I am pleased nonetheless to find in Noel Fallows' Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia proof positive that jousters were so concerned about their honor that they often got into arguments about the rules of the game and the rulings of the presiding judges.

One of the most interesting documents in Fallows' book is a very detailed account of a deed of arms that took place in 1434, El Passo Honroso de Suero Quinones. This deed, which involved ten jousters taking on all comers, was recorded blow-by-blow by a jouster, who not only gave a detailed account of each course, and explained which of the competitors did better, and why.  I have my doubts that Froissart gave an accurate account in his famous description of St. Inglevert, but this account by Pero Rodriguez de Lena inspires confidence.

In the account  it is quite common for there to be some accident that prevents two jousters from finishing the number of courses with broken spears set forth in the rules of the occasion, or some other event takes place that inspires one of the competitors to make a plea to the judges for a special dispensation –  generally that they be allowed to ride some more courses on the field, perhaps at a later time.  The judges, in this case two senior knights, absolutely refuse to change the rules or reverse their own decision once it has been made. To the demands of the competitors, the judges oppose the fact that all of the jousters have sworn to obey them in all matters.  When the host of the event persists in defying them over a non-standard joust he wants to ride, they have him taken prisoner!

Yes, those old jousters were a willful lot, and those who presided over them had to push back hard.

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