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Jousting: From Medieval Times To Full Metal Jousting: Part Two

Updated on July 11, 2012

Jousting the Sport of Kings

Jousting was once a training method for young knights. It involved teaching them how to ride and control their horse and lance. When man and horse combined to rise in battle, the intent was for them to be the perfect fighting machine. Over time, different kinds of jousting emerged.

Basic Types of Jousting Events

During the Middle Ages, a jouster may take part in potentially two different types of jousting events. These were the Joust a plaisance and the Pas d'armes.

  • Joust a plaisance - This event lasted several days. It consisted of several jousting competitions with one goal – elimination of the jousters until only a few remained. In the end, only one would be the master of the tournament.
  • Pas d'armes or passage of arms – This required one knight to send forth a challenge to a specific or knight or any and all jousters to meet him at a certain time and place.

The result of either form of jousting tournament was the declaration of a winner. The prizes would vary according to the event, its purpose and the lord who held it. A prize for the successful jouster could be money. It could also be something far more valuable – land and titles.

Another way of dividing jousting into types focuses on the types of tournaments. It divides them into the following categories:

  • The tourney proper
  • Individual Jousts
  • Practice Tournament

All three terms are self-explanatory in their description of the kind of tournament.

Why Challenge?

Challenging the enemy to a joust – a combat, had been an integral part of medieval warfare. The actual fighting was important, but so, too was the psychological impact of such challenges. It was also a tactical matter. It could delay an upcoming battle. It could also work to demoralize the opposing side if your knight won.

Combat jousting could help raise the spirits of the troupes. It could help ease the tension of a siege. It could also reinforce the enemy’s perception of how strong and determined the defense within the besieged castle was.

Friendly or tournament jousting was also a psychological affair. Knights expressed such things as the courage and skill they possessed. They may also be demonstrating their loyalty and capability for their liege lord or lady. In both instances, the element of danger remained. Froissart describes a friendly match when an Englishman, Sir William Masquelee ran against the French champion Boucicaut at St. Inglevert

The two knights took good aim, and mutually gave such strokes on their helmets that fire sparkled from them; and, though the points of the lances slipped off, the joust was much praised by all present. They continued their career to their different stations, but did not make any long stay before they again spurred their horses and couched their spears, for they did not drop them, and met with such violence, that their lances must have pierced the shields, if the horses had not swerved. [A third time] they set off as fast as their horses could carry them, and, on their meeting, hit the visors of the helmets severely. The joust was loudly applauded, for they were both unhelmed, and bare-headed all but the coifs: they finished their career, and then returned to their friends, for they had done enough.


Only those who were considered of the right class could participate in a tournament. Essentially, the event was for the knight class. Their liege Lords managed it and the best of their knights took part. Some knights were experienced; others were still learning their craft. Moreover, those involved could call on the service of the equivalent of a mercenary to take part. This individual had no liege lord or master. He was, essentially a lance-for-hire, a lance without a master, a freelancer.

Freelancers often became famous. They and other winners of tournaments achieved popularity similar to that of any current sport’s celebrity. Bards, heralds and other early versions of journalists sang (literally and figuratively) the praises of their favourites and, of course, of the winners. In fact, the people followed their antics and watched favourites face-off against each other as they made what soon became regular jousting circuits.

The Sport of Kings and Nobility

Over the years, jousting became the platform for nobility. Not simply knights laid their lives on the line. Kings, Princes and Counts also fought to prove their valour, courage and honour. Among the most famous to do so – and not escape unscathed were the infamous King Henry VIII of England, King Henry II of France, Geoffrey, Count of Brittany, Son on Henry II and Leopold, Duke of Austria, who was slain by a fallen horse.

In 1186, Geoffrey was killed while jousting. Leopold befell the same fate when a horse fell upon him during a joust. Henry II also died in rather unpleasant circumstances when. During a tournament celebrating the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth of Valois to King Philip II of Spain in 1559, a sliver of the lance of his opponent, captain of the King's Scottish Guard - Gabriel Montgomery, entered his eye and then pierced the King’s brain. In England, the jousting prowess of the aging King Henry VIII was ended when he fought in a tournament in 1536. He had had another narrow escape in 1524 when he jousted against the Duke of Suffolk. A record of this earlier event tells how …the splinters of duke's spear str[uck] the king's headpiece.” At that moment, the king was in serious danger since he had neglected to pull down the visor or barbette.

Splinters flew everywhere, but the King was not greatly disturbed or even hurt. In fact, the King, as the chronicler so succinctly put it “called his armorers and put all his pieces of armor together and then took a spear and ran six courses very well, by which all men could see that he had taken no hurt, which was a great joy and comfort to all his subjects present.”

In the 1536 joust, however, the consequences were more serious. King Henry VIII was unhorsed and fell unconscious. He lay in this condition for several hours. Henry was never to joust again, but the sport continued.


Jousting was the sport of nobility. Kings, princes, earls, dukes and other men of rank fought in tournaments. They placed their trust in the ability of their horse and in their own personal skill. Jousting was a means to train young fighters but it also became popular as a means of settling grudges and impressing others. Yet, its appeal was soon to vanish. Jousting, like other methods of waging war, was to decline and fade away.

Consider the following sources:

Barber, Richard andJuliet Barker. Tournaments: Jousts, Chivalry and Pageants in the Middle Ages.Boydell Press, 2000.

Crouch, David. Tournament.Continuum, 2007.

Coltman, R. C. The Medieval Tournament.Dover Publications, 1995.

Clephan, R. Coltman (Robert Coltman). The Tournament: Its Period And Phases. London: Methuen and Co. .Available online.

Dom Duarte of Portuga. The Royal Book of Horsemanship, Jousting & Knightly Combat: Dom Duarte's 1438 Livro da Ensinana de Bem Cavalgar Toda Sel (Antonio Franco PretoTranslator).Tra edition, 2006.

Edge, David and John Miles Paddock, Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight, Crescent Books, 1988

Froissart, Jean. The Chronicles Of Froissart. Available online at several sites.


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      Diane Ward 5 years ago

      Very good continuation of the first part. An excellent series