Jousting originated in the Roman era, but became what we know it as today during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. As we prepare to bring the sport back to Sudeley Castle this Easter, read on to find out 9 things your probably didn’t know about this high-energy activity.
- Henry VIII Ruled the Field
Former Sudeley owner, Henry VIII, was an enthusiastic and talented sportsman and would often compete in multiple day tournaments throughout his reign. However, though he loved to win, he wanted to win fairly and demanded only skilled jousters challenge him after knights deliberately missed him at a contest in 1516.
- The Sport that Nearly Killed the King
Henry’s thirst for the sport nearly lead to his demise on several occasions. It is believed he suffered brain damage in 1536 which put a stop to his jousting career. Some suggest this as the explanation behind his tyranny later in life.
- More Than One Way to Joust
When considering a typical jousting tournament, you wouldn’t be wrong to think of two horsemen and their steeds. However, in the Tudor era there were many variations of the game – some of which didn’t even include a horse. Perhaps the most obscure tournament was fought in 1585, when knights stood at the stern of two boats that rowed quickly towards each other.
- The Sinful Sport
In 1130, Pope Innocent II proclaimed jousting was sinful and against the teachings of the church. He banned tournaments and prohibited a proper Christian burial to those who lost their lives in the sport. The ban was lifted in 1192 by King Richard I.
- A Cheat’s Game
Chivalry and courage were two words synonymous knights in the medieval era. However, many jousters cheated the rules by wearing specially made armour that was bolted to the horse’s saddle.
- In the Name of Love…
Tournaments were often held to win a lady’s honour and as such, jousting was the most romanticised form of combat. Ladies would give knights an item of personal importance – a piece of jewellery, a trinket or a token of some sort – on the promise that he will give it back to her when he returns from the joust alive.
- Or the Perfect Cover-up?
Far from the romantic notion of winning a lady’s affection, some tournaments were actually organised as an elaborate way to cover up assassinations.
- Draw Your Weapon
Whilst the lance is the first weapon that comes to mind for many, there were actually three acceptable choices on the jousting ground, including an axe and a sword. In fact, the sword became many knights’ weapon of choice due to the symbolic imagery created by the cross-guard – which resembles a crucifix.
- The Future of Jousting
English Heritage is leading the way in petitioning to make jousting an Olympic sport and has launched a campaign to have the sport recognised ahead of the 2020 games in Tokyo. Watch this space!