Saturday, January 26, 2013

Today's research snippet. Jolly japes at a tournament.

Today I'm back with the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal and a spot of entertainment before the tourney.

"They dismounted in front of their lists, and every man armed, they waited the arrival of the others.
The Countess came out of the Castle. She was in her face and body beautifully formed, so I have heard say, as only Nature could contrive her. With her were married ladies and the younger girls, so beautiful and adorned that as regards their beauty there was no room for criticism, nor had they anything to learn about courtliness or good sense.
The knights rose up from the ranks to meet them, as was fit and proper. They were convinced that they had become better men as a result of the ladies' arrival, and so they had, for all those there felt a doubling of strength in mind and body, and of their boldness and courage.
One of them said:'Come on, let us dance while we are waiting, we will be less bored.' So they took one another by the hand.
One man asked: 'Who will be kind enough to sing for us?'
The Marshal, who had a good voice but who in no way boasted about it, then began to sing a song in a pure, sweet tone. He gave much pleasure to those present, and they willingly joined in his song. And when he had finished his song, which gave them much pleasure and delight, a young singer, recently made a herald at arms began to sing a new song. I do not know what was the subject of it, but the refrain contained the words: 'Marshal, come on, give me a trusty steed!'
When the Marshall heard it, he stayed there not a minute longer, but left the dance without saying a word to anyone. A squire brought him his horse, and he beckoned to the young herald. The Herald saw the gesture and ran after him as fast as he could.
At this point the jousters rode up, those who were in the front rank of the initial contests. The Marshal, who had no wish to bandy words, wrote straight up to one of them. He had such faith in his prowess and in his firm and sturdy lance, that he knocked him off his horse without further ado. Then he had the young harald mount the horse, and the young man, without uttering a word, galloped back into the dance, and said to all: 'Look what are fine horse! The Marshal gave it to me.'
Many were greatly surprised by this, because they were under the impression that the Marshall was still at the dance, and they spoke much of it. The knights and the maidens, and married ladies and the young girls, said that never had such a fine feat been performed at a tournament.
When the knights saw their companions approaching, they immediately laced up there ventails and helms and mounted their horses. Because of the ladies present, the least bold amongst them was emboldened to be the victor at the tournament that day, but all the same, they rode along at a measured tread in close formation, not one of them advancing in front of another.
One man on the other side lowered his lance and launched himself into the fray, but he did not get away because he was taken immediately by his horse's bridle. Every man wishing to increase his standing prepared and strove to deal fine blows, and the tournament got off to such a fine start, being fought at such close quarters. And those who had been at the dance with the ladies put their bodies, hearts, and minds into performing well; and so they did, to the extent that the other side were dismayed.
There was a great clamour, and much dust was raised, for just as lightning strikes down and flattens anything in its path, leaving nothing untouched, so those were left the company of the ladies were just as impetuous. There was a hand-to-hand battle and there were many feats of arms that day but the fact of the matter is that those who had been in the company of the ladies continually got the better of the other side.

NB: It was a marshal's duty to make sure that the men in his charge were well mounted. He was in charge of horses and horse equipment, and this probably, just as much as his prowess as a tourney knight, made William Marshal the recipient of the young Herald's request.

Today's medieval photo from my archive:  Typical example of horse harness decoration pendants circa 1300.  Once heraldry got going, pendants like this would decorate bridles, breast straps etc as identifiers of the rider and a mark of rank or belonging. "

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