The Medieval Joust

A couple of weeks ago I took a poll of my readers asking what topics you’d like to see me write on for the blog. The number 1 response was Historical Topics (not truly surprising), so today I’m posting about the medieval Joust, in honor of my medieval series Time Enough to Love (Books 1-4) on sale right now for .99 each. I hope you enjoy.

Knights on horseback racing full tilt toward each other with lances fixed may be the most iconic image most of us have of the Medieval period, and for good reason.  Jousting was one of the most popular and dramatic entertainments people of all classes could enjoy at a time when life was uncertain.

Jousts were usually part of a tournament, held by royalty usually during the summer months of the year.  They were major events where knights were pitted against each other for honor, for glory, and for prize money.  They may had had their roots in Roman games at the Coliseum.

On the opening day of a tournament, which may have lasted from 3 to 5 days, there was a formal procession out to the lists (the barriers that defined the field of combat).  This procession could be quite elaborate.  In Time Enough to Love, the knights and their ladies are dressed in costumes as members of King Arthur’s Round Table and it was a great honor to be chosen to ride. I modeled this procession after an actual procession in which 25 ladies on horseback rode beside their knights who walked to the lists (at least a couple of miles) in full armor while tethered to the ladies by silver chains.  King Edward III, at whose court the major action of the first half of the book takes place, had in fact given a grand tournament in 1344, which gave me the idea for one in my book.

Once on the field, the spectators were seated in a grandstand called a berfrois, built a story above the lists. Knights were assigned to brightly colored tents called pavilions, where they rested, waited, and donned their armor, with assistance from their squire, in preparation for the joust.  As a side note, the armor typically worn weighed about 60 pounds, but was so well-articulated that the combatants had much more mobility than we would believe.

One of my favorite medieval movies is A Knight’s Tale. Even though it’s got tons of anachronistic details and inaccuracies, the jousting sections were done fairly correctly (if you disregard some of the audience’s responses). Here’s a look at what a joust might have very well looked like:

The horses used by knights were a special breed, called destriers, who could manage the great weight of knight and armor and still maneuver on the field.  The horses were draped with a cloth called a comparison that covered them from nose to tail, designed in the knight’s colors and emblazoned with his heraldic design.

Of course, as with any contact sport, the potential for injury and death in jousting was great. The most famous death occurred when King Henry II of France was killed when a lance broke on his helmet and a wooden splinter pierced his eye and brain.  Oddly enough, the almost exact same thing happened in January 2011 when a jousting re-enactor was killed when a lance splintered on his helmet and a large piece of it 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, Book 1 of Time Enough to Love?  You’ll find the procession—which becomes a serious conflict in the first part of the book—the joust itself, and a stunning injury that threatens the happiness of the hero and heroine.

If you love the color and pageantry of the Middle Ages, you’ll love Betrothal and all of the Time Enough to Love series. You can find Betrothal and the rest of the series on Amazon, Smashwords, and B & N.

This entry was posted in Betrothal, Historical Romance, Medieval Romance, On Time Enough to Love and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Medieval Joust

  1. Hywela Lyn says:

    I love watching jousts! I am lucky enough to live near to the Wychwood Stud, home of ‘The Devils Horsemen’. A very talented family of horse riders and re-anactors, everything from Cossacks to The Wild West and, of course medieval jousting. Their horses and riders have been used in some well known films, including Lord Of The Ring and Zorro. A few years ago we went to a medieval banquet at the Stud, which was fantastic, and they gave displays or horsemnship and jousting in the arena below us while we ate. I’m so looking forward to reading ‘Betrothal’!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      You are lucky, Hywela! I’d love to go to a medieval banquet some time. I’ve been to Medieval Times, but that’s more show than anything else, not a real joust.I hope you enjoy Betrothal!


  2. daryldevore says:

    Great post. There is a jousting tournament going to happen here is the next week or so. It comes around every summer. I cringe every time one of the riders hist the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      Wow, I would love to watch one, but I think I’d also be scared to death something would happen to one of them. The guy that got killed a few years ago really makes you stop and think. But people will live dangerously.


  3. Lori Dykes says:

    Thank you Jenna! This was really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.