Joust in Time!
Thank you so much, D’Ann, for hosting me on your blog today! I hope you and your readers enjoy this little look into the dangerous and delightful sport of jousting!
Knights on horseback, racing full tilt toward each other with lances fixed may be the most iconic image most of us have of the middle ages.
Jousting was one of the most popular and dramatic of entertainments during the long medieval period. They were major events at tournaments where knights were pitted against one another for honor, for glory, and for prize money. These “sporting events” probably grew out of military games or exercises and may even have roots in the Roman games at the Coliseum.
But the jousting I’m talking about today is the form found in the mid-14th century--the time period in which my medieval romance Betrothal, Book I of Time Enough to Love is set.
At this point in its evolution, jousting was as much training exercise as it was entertainment. A Vespers Tourney, held on the eve of a major tournament, was a chance for young knights bachelor and their squires to demonstrate their prowess before an assembly of more experienced knights. And the business of jousting always gave knights a chance to hone their skills before a cheering audience.
On the opening day of a tournament, there was a formal procession out to the lists (the barriers that defined the field of combat). This procession could be quite elaborate. I read an account (which I cannot find at the moment) in which the procession consisted of 25 ladies on horseback each accompanied by a knight in armor, tethered to the ladies by a silver chain, who then walked from the castle out to the lists (at lease a couple of miles).
Once out on the field, the spectators were seated in a grandstand called a berfrois, built a story above the lists. The knights were assigned to brightly colored tents, called pavilions, where they rested, waited, and got into their armor in preparation for the joust. The armor they wore weighted about 60 pounds and was actually so well articulated the knights had much more mobility than we would believe. This Youtube video demonstrates the mobility and shows a exhibition joust as well.
Just imagine the impact of that lance! Ouch!
The horses used in jousting were specially trained warhorses called destriers. Originally brought to England by William the Conqueror, this breed of horse had a rounded body with a broad back bred for strength. They had long, powerful legs trained to trample the bodies of fallen enemies (they would also bite and kick on command). The colors of these massive horses ranged from black to brown to bay and gray and they measured up to 24 hands high.
For jousting, destriers were fitted with a covering called a cloth comparison. The fabric covers the horse from head to tail and is emblazoned with the knight’s colors and possibly his heraldic design. Check out this video demonstration of how to dress a horse for a joust.
Once attired in the comparison, the horse and knight made quite a sight racing down the lists, hurtling toward their opponent.
As with any contact sport, the potential for injury in jousting was great. There were many documented deaths. The most famous was king Henry II of France, who was killed when a lance broke on his helmet and a long wooden splinter pierced his eye and entered his brain.
Eerily, just recently, a similar fate befell a modern day jouster. Paul Allen, a re-enactor, was killed during the filming of a Time Team segment on Edward III’s round table. Allen, who had no jousting experience, suffered the exact same fate as Henry II. His opponent struck him on the helmet and a long sliver of the shattered balsa wood lance penetrated his helmet and pierced his eye and brain.
With such a rich heritage of jousting, is it any wonder that I incorporated a joust and as many details of it as possible into Betrothal, my medieval romance? You’ll find the procession--which becomes a serious conflict in the book--the joust itself, and a stunning injury that threatens the happiness of the hero and heroine.
I hope you enjoyed this little look into one of the most popular contact sports of medieval times! If you leave a comment telling me what your favorite contact sport is, you’ll be entered to win a book of your choice from my backlist today, and entered in the Release Week giveaway of a $25.00 gift certificate. Please remember to leave your EMAIL ADDRESS! J
You Tube Link on Jousting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM6YbJ4XpjE&NR=1&feature=endscreen
Dressing a Horse: http://www.equestrianlife.com/videos/watch/1228/How_Is_a_Horse_Dressed_for_Jousting
Blurb for Betrothal:
Lady Alyse de Courcy has fallen in love with Lord Braeton, a nobleman in King Edward III’s court and a man to whom she has barely spoken. Fate, however, has decreed her betrothal to his best friend, Sir Geoffrey Longford—a handsome and imposing knight, yet hardly the man she wants to wed.
When Sir Geoffrey is bound in betrothal by his father, he could not have expected the beautiful stranger to win his heart the moment they meet. Nevertheless, the fascinating Lady Alyse has done exactly that, and his feelings for her only grow as he learns more of her gentle yet spirited nature. But Alyse’s infatuation with his friend casts doubt on whether she can ever return his regard and their wedding day is fast approaching…
Will he have time enough to win her love?
Excerpt for Betrothal:
“What do you require of me, Majesty?” Her mouth so dry she could taste sand, Alyse fought to speak in a normal tone. With a sigh of relief, she dropped into a deep curtsy, hiding her face in the folds of her skirt. If only she could remain bowed thus before His Majesty for the remainder of the evening.
King Edward laughed. “Obedience, Lady Alyse, as I require of all my subjects. As your father requires of his daughter.”
Her heart thumped wildly in her breast. That could mean but one thing.
“Rise, my lady.”
She did so on unsteady feet. “I am ready, as always, Your Majesty, to obey my father as I would you.”
Holy Mary, let it be Lord Braeton.
King Edward lifted an eyebrow toward Alyse. “A very pretty answer, my lady. And are you ready to accept your father’s decree for your betrothal? His messenger has today reached me with the contract, as I am to stand in his stead in this matter.”
Alyse took a deep breath and hoped her voice did not tremble. “Yea, Majesty, I will obey my father.”
King Edward nodded and leaned over to whisper something to Queen Phillipa, who sat beside him, heavy with their twelfth child.
Mere seconds before she learned her fate. She could scarce affect an indifferent pose before the court when inside every inch of her quivered with anticipation of the name. His name, pray God, on the king’s lips.
In her mind, she heard the word.
The king straightened, glanced at her then at the man by her side.
“What say you then, Sir Geoffrey? Does the lady not speak fair? I vow she will make you a proper wife and a dutiful one as well.”
Alyse turned, until that moment unaware that Geoffrey Longford stood beside her. Chills coursed down her body as the king’s words echoed in her mind. The sensation of falling backward assailed her, as though she rushed away from the tall man at her side even as his figure loomed larger and larger in her sight.
Not Lord Braeton.
Her numbed brain repeated the phrase, trying to comprehend that instead he would be her husband. Geoffrey Longford.
God have mercy on me, for by the look of him, this man will not.
Fearful, she cringed as her gaze climbed higher, over his chest, over his chin, finally resting on the dark blue eyes turned toward her.
Geoffrey returned her appraisal, his gaze sweeping her figure as a smile crept over his face. “Your Majesty.” He spoke to the king but his attention remained fixed on Alyse. “When my father told me of the betrothal contract before I left his home, I resolved to play the dutiful son. Now, however, I find I do not wish to act that role after all.” His eyes held hers as he paused.
Dear God, does he mean to renounce me here before the entire court?
Alyse stared at the man beside her, willing herself to remain upright, despite the waves of ice and fire alternating through her body.
“Now I find I would rather play the ardent lover.”
An amused murmur ran through the Hall at his words. Sir Geoffrey grinned, his eyes sparkling with humor and something more. Despite the uneven light, Alyse saw an unfathomable promise in their dark depths. She took a shaky breath and looked away.
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance, She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her medieval romance, Time Enough to Love, is being published this summer as a series of three novellas. The first book, Betrothal, released on April 19th., the first in a series of five interconnecting novels, was released in July 2012. Her contemporary works include Hog Wild, Almost Perfect, and 7 Days of Seduction.
Jenna has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.