Knights Tournaments in the Middle Ages
A Tournament was a series of mounted and armoured combats, fought as contests, in which a number of knights competed and the one that prevailed through the final round or finished with the best record was declared the winner and awarded a prize, or purse of money.
Roger of Hoveden was an English chronicler, who was employed by King Henry II (1133 - 1189) described tournaments as "military exercises carried out, not in the spirit of hostility but solely for practice and the display of prowess". The Tournaments were the favorite sport of Medieval Knights. The tournaments kept the knight in excellent condition for the role he would need to play during medieval warfare. Tournaments were exciting and colorful pageants. Hundreds of Knights participated in this popular entertainment of the Middle Ages. Jousts, Melees, Pageantry, Courtly Love and the Chivalric code all played a part in Medieval tournaments.
Tournaments - Injuries to Knights & the 1292 Statute of Arms
All of the contests fought in tournaments 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. Medieval physicians were always at hand during the tournaments. In 1292 the "Statute of Arms for Tournaments" was ordained " which provided new laws for tournaments. The Statute of Arms ordained that 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.
Types of Tournaments
Knights would fight as individuals in tournaments but there would also be team events. There were many different types of Tournaments during the Middle Ages which each had a different type of combat method. The events of the tournament were:
- The Joust - an individual tournament event
- Joust a plaisance Tournament - A series of elimination jousts over several days and an overall winner would be determined. Each Knight would run the lists three times with each opponent
- Pas d'armes or passage of arms Tournament - A Knight would send out a proclamation that he would take on all challengers at a specific time and place.
- The Melee - a Team event at the tournament
- Melee a pied Tournament - Teams of knights fighting on foot
- Melee a cheval Tournament - Teams of knights fighting on horseback
Knights Tournaments - The Kippers and the Spoils
Tournaments during the Middle Ages were a good source of revenue for a successful Knight. The champion knight's prize money could yeald a considerable purse. But at the tournaments of the early Middle Ages they were allowed to claim the armor and weapons of a fallen adversary during the tournament. (Later the tournaments were governed by pomp, ceremony and chivalric conduct and this right was waived.) To claim the armour and weapons the knight employed a vassal or squire as his 'Kipper'. A Kipper was expected to collect the 'Spoils of Combat' as the tournament proceeded. The word 'Kipper' originated from the Scandinavian word 'Kippa' which means to snatch or to seize. The weapons and armor of a knight were very expensive and a fallen knight would not give them up easily. The Kipper was therefore armed with blunt, but heavy clubs, with which they could knock the unfortunate Knight into an unconscious state and collect the spoils of combat.
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