We’ve had Jousting in Leeds for quite some time now, the Royal Armouries opened in 1996. I started going on a regular basis to watch with my children in 1999. I made them look in the museum too, not sure they enjoyed that as much as I did. They did however love the jousting and the Falconry displays.
The joust in Leeds is very popular and I like to see the final, some years we would go to more than one joust of a Tournament. Now with the joust being less frequent it is essential to book ahead for the final, I was remiss and had to settle for booking for the last of the preliminary rounds.
Let me assure you the Royal Armouries put the welfare of the horses very high in its priorities and the horses appear to genuinely enjoy the sport.
All images in this article were taken by myself.
Terms and Equipment
Allow me mention some of the technical terms that you may not be aware of before I get on to the details about this event in particular. If you are aware of these I trust you will indulge me as I feel it is important information.
The arena used for jousting is called a Tiltyard. In the Tiltyard there is a wooden rail running through the centre, this is to prevent the warhorses from charging head on at each other as they might on the battlefield.
The lance used is not a war lance, it is made to shatter on impact, only the first foot or so from the Knights hand is hard wood with the remainder being balsa. The lance is tipped with a coronal, a crown shaped cap with three blunt prongs, this prevents puncturing the armour of the Knights.
Attached to the armour of each Knight is a small shield called a targe. This is the main target in the joust.
Also in the Tiltyard is a Quintain, this is a training apparatus. The quintain has a targe on one side of a pivoting arm, with a ball and chain counterweight on the other end.
As well as the lance the Knight is armed with a sword, a spear and a dart. The dart is a small throwing spear, roughly three feet in length.
The audience was warmed up by a Jester, on stilts throughout, who entertained with explanations of the event, with a lack of accuracy, and a few jokes and magic tricks. Please note, this is not a Jongleur, there are a few differences and to my mind the terms are not really interchangeable.
There were two Jesters warming up the two seating areas, I couldn’t hear the other Jester but I did look down the Tiltyard to see what he was doing and they were performing different tricks. Our Jester certainly seemed popular with the crowd.
Skills of Combat
The event started with a display of skills by four Squires, I must admit to failing to remember the names of these gentlemen, remiss of me as I could have noted them on my phone. I am fairly certain that one of the Squires was Mark Atkinson, of Atkinson Action Horses. These skills were ones that would serve the Squire in combat at times of war, Squires could not advance to Knighthood without mastering these skills.
The skills on display included; striking at the with lance, striking at hoops with spear, striking at cabbage with sword, striking at heads on floor with spear, striking at target on floor with dart.
Striking at Quintain
The Squire gallops at the quintain and strikes the targe. The idea is to spin the arm of the quintain, each full revolution being worth one point to a maximum of five points. Skill involved includes horsemanship, aim and timing. Hit the targe too lightly or off centre you may not spin the arm at all. Hit too hard or off centre you may spin the arm too sharply and be struck by the counterweight.
Striking at Hoops
The idea is simple, canter along the tilt and aim at the three hoops suspended from poles. One point is awarded for dislodging a hoop and two points for collecting a hoop on your spear. This challenge can therefore gain each Squire a maximum of 6 points. Skills involved are horsemanship and accuracy.
Striking at Cabbage
To be fair it doesn’t need to be a cabbage, any fairly solid fruit will do, melons are particularly good. This skill simulates attacking the head of a footman. There are two targets, one point is awarded for each target where a strike dislodges part of the vegetable (or head) and two points for carrying off a cabbage on the point of the sword. Again the skills are horsemanship and accuracy, though clearly striking with a sword requires a different technique to striking with a spear.
Striking at Heads and Striking at targets on Floor
Sad to say the tilt was in the way of seeing the targets so a picture of these two skills was not possible.
The idea for the spear at heads is to gallop along the tilt, impale a head (foam heads were used) and carry it off on the spear. If the head falls from the spear one point is awarded, carrying off the head gains two points. There were two heads so it would be feasible to gain three points, as it is unfeasible to carry off two heads. Once more this is a test of horsemanship and accuracy but this time at a target on the floor, an injured footman perhaps or an unseated rider.
For dart at target, the target has a ‘bulls-eye’ marked on it. One point is awarded for piercing the target and two points if the ‘bulls-eye’ is pierced, the dart is to stay in the target.
This Tournament is for the treasured prize, The Queen’s Jubilee Horn.
There were four Knights involved in this tournament which had lasted since Saturday 30th March. To this point all points scored at the tilt were being totaled, scores from this set would be added to that total to give a seeded rank. The highest ranking Knight would take through three points, the second two points, the third one point with the last ranked Knight starting from zero.
Stacy is not only the leader at this point but he is also the current holder of the Queen’s Jubilee Horn. Stacy is the producer of the International Tournament of Arundel Castle and rides regularly for English Heritage.
He considers jousting to be the original extreme sport.
Wouter is a member of Stichting HEI, the premier Dutch display team for medieval mounted soldiery and works as a professional jouster and historical interpreter at Archeon Museum Park, Alphen aan den Rijn (20 miles from The Hague).
This was his firs appearance at the Royal Armouries but he has previously competed at the International Tournament of Arundel Castle.
Mark became a member of Destrier, one of the top medieval cavalry groups in Europe, in 2006. Destrier appear at venues world-wide.
Mark’s Gothic armour is considered the best set in current use.
Mark also rides as a Roman cataphract, heavy cavalry from late 1st century onwards.
Andy Deane was for many years an interpreter at the Royal Armouries and a key member of the Royal Armouries own Jousting team.
As I said in the introduction my children and I have seen Jousting at the Royal Armouries many times in the past. Andy was always the Knight we cheered for.
We also saw Andy as an interpreter in the museum giving detailed talks and exhibitions, for example in the hand and a half sword.
Due to funding cuts the interpretation department closed on 31 March 2011.
We saw Andy in action so often that when his horse retired my children were quite emotional. So obviously I was cheering Andy on.
Rules vary from Tournament to Tournament. Here in Leeds the scoring is 1 point for a hit to the arm, 2 points for a hit to the body and four points for a hit to the targe. Two Squires were positioned on podiums, one at each end of the tilt, to watch for the strikes and to call the result out.
Not only must the strike be clean but the lance must splinter for the strike to count. If only the tip of the lance splinters the strike does not count. The lance should shatter for the majority of its length, as shown in the picture to the right. Andy’s lance has splintered here to the very end.
Again I wish I had taken notes. But to be fair I was caught up in the enjoyment of a sport I’ve loved watching for years.]
Each Knight faces all his opponents once, this making six passes at the tilt in total. The action is fast, with warhorses galloping towards each other and the roar of the crowd.
It was hard for me to watch and try to take photos, as you can see from these examples. Obviously I had to take the shot whilst predicting where they would meet, it was hit and miss (pardon the pun).
In the end I gave up trying to get a good picture and concentrated on cheering. It was a marvelous display of horsemanship from all four Knights.
In the end it was a tie for first place between Andy Deane and Tracy Evans, Mark Caple was next with Wouter Nicolai coming last.
With this result in the seeding for the final put the Knights on the following starting points:
Stacy Evans – 3
Andy Deane – 2
Mark Caple – 1
Wouter Nicolai – 0
At the time of writing I do not know the result of the final. I will book earlier next time and my son intends to recommence accompanying me to the Tiltyard.
It is an enjoyable spectacle and I would recommend going along to one if you get the chance.