An Elizabethan Tournament
was a series of mounted and armoured combats, fought as
contests, in which a number of combatants compete and the
one that prevails through the final round or that finishes
with the best record is declared the winner and is awarded
the prize. Tournaments were imported from France during the
12th century and formed an important element of Elizabethan
military and social life. The contests in the tournament
were fought with blunted swords or lances. However there
were still many casualties, as many as 10% were injured, and
there were also fatalities. The number of fatalities dropped
as the tournaments became better regulated. Elizabethan
physicians were always at hand during the tournaments.
Knights would fight as individuals but there would also be
team events. There were many different types of Elizabethan
Tournaments which each had a different type of combat
method. The events of the tournament were the joust, the
melee, and fighting on foot. The Tournaments were the favorite sport of Elizabethan Knights. The tournaments kept
the knight in excellent condition for the role he might need
to play during warfare.
Tournaments - The Different Types of Combat
There were different types of Elizabethan Tournaments, joust
or melees, which each had a different type of combat method.
Joust a plaisance Tournament
- A series of elimination jousts which lasted over several days and an
overall winner would be determined. Every Knight would run the lists
three times with each opponent
Pas d'armes (Passage of Arms
Tournament) - A Knight would send out a proclamation that he would take
on all challengers at a specific time and place
- Melee a pied Tournament -
Teams of knights fighting on foot
- Melee a cheval Tournament -
Teams of knights fighting on horseback
No pointed weapons should be
used - they should be blunted. And that tournaments had to be properly
organised and only authorised combatants were allowed to carry arms.
Tournaments - The Locations
The Elizabethan Tournaments lasted over several days. As the tournaments
became more organised, so did the event itself. The location of the
tournament would be allocated by the sponsor. The sponsor was often a
rich noble who would finance the prize. The tournament would therefore
be located on a field near to the noble's castle and local village. The
Lists were the designated area for jousting fenced off in the centre of
the field. Wooden bench seats were sometimes erected but usually
villagers sat on the ground in view of the lists. The Nobles sat in the
galleries - pavilions erected to provide shelter. The whole area would
be blazoned with color. The tents and blazons of the Knights. Even the
horses were draped in flowing cloth, called a caparison, which was
patterned according to its owner's heraldic signs.
Elizabethan Tournaments - The
Ladies Favours, Courtly Love and the Chivalric Code.
Elizabethan tournaments were governed by pomp, ceremony and
chivalric conduct. Ladies attended Elizabethan tournaments. Watching the
exploits of the men during the day and attending the feasts and banquets
in the evening. The rise of the ideals of courtly love was dominated by
the concept that that honor should be done to a lady by her champion.
The Rules of Courtly Love allowed a Knight to express his admiration
even for married ladies. Knights begged "tokens" from ladies. And were
presented with "favours" such as a veil, ribbon, or the detachable
sleeve of a ladies dress. These 'favours' would be displayed by the
Knight attached to his arm, his helm or tied to his lance. The lady
thereby showed her favour to the knight who would dedicate his
performance at the tournament to the lady.