As many readers know, I have been participating in the Society for Creative Anachronism for decades. One of the things I have done in that time is designed and run medieval – style tournaments. So my scholarly work on formal combats ( deeds of arms) has been paralleled with attempts to re-create, for fun and for interest, various kinds of formal combats. The distinction between running an SCA event that has some pretensions to a medieval atmosphere and running, either in SCA context or elsewhere, something closely modeled on an actual medieval event may be a little bit fuzzy, but let it suffice to say that I've tried to get closer to medieval exemplars as time goes along. Christian Cameron, novelist and reenactor, has similar ambitions and this past weekend I was privileged to take part and indeed help design an effort at re-creating late 14th century formal combat. Christian wanted to experience a close reenactment to help him understand and write about such an event in one of his upcoming novels, part of a Red Knight series. He also wanted to invite some of the most interesting reenactors he knew to a special party. Did he ever succeed! Christian happens know some very creative people, and also has access to a lakefront property of great beauty in Prince Edward County, Ontario. So this past weekend, some serious but fun-loving folk showed up with pavilions, armor, and civilian costume of the highest level. He asked Cole Cioran and I, who ran a Roland-inspired deed at the Pennsic war about 10 years ago, to come up with a usable and satisfying set of rules and competitions that would appeal to Western martial arts aficionados, historic reenactors, and serious SCA people. We were also given the task and the authority to manage the fighting aspect. Cole was the chief Herald and the marshal of the lists, while I played "the Duke," a presiding noble who with his Duchess Judith, (in real life the owner of the site and a most gracious patron) acted as the final authority as to what took place in the lists. Duchess Judith and I also, with the jury of ladies, gave awards and honorable mentions to the fighters who were the most impressive. These were satisfying roles to play, especially considering the quality of the competitors and their general good attitude and desire to re-create a chivalric deed of arms. Duchess Judith, whom as far as I know has no experience with such events, turned out to be an enthusiastic and sensible contributor to the action. Besides the combat in the lists, there was also archery and a rather marvelous feast prepared on the spot in a rather wonderful outdoor kitchen which is a permanent part of the site. As we ate we were entertained by the Schola Magdalena, who performed 14th century choral music at the highest level of skill and beauty. But the greatest pleasure was simply being there overlooking Lake Ontario and chatting and drinking with like-minded happy people. And there were no disasters, thank heaven. Even though I was there as an experienced hand, in one sense I was a complete novice. I had never before seen that much combat with steel weapons, nor such a large group of people using actual armor for actual protection. SCA style combat has its virtues, but here it was steel (mostly) swords against (almost entirely) mail and plate. Impressive. I may have more to say about it in a bit
Image: Cole at work.