Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Tournament for the Queen...

The following is an excerpt from Ashmolean MS., No. 837, fol. 245, an Elizabethan manuscript. It was brought to my attention  by the redoubtable fencer-researcher Chris Vanslambrouck (who has one of the coolest surnames in history), who wanted me to render it into modern English for him so that he could include it in an article he's currently working on. I gladly obliged, and with his kind permission I share it with you here:

For as much most noble Queene, as ther ar within this yor maties
Courte a greate nombre of noble menne and gentlemenne excellent men of Armes, and yet (as it wer) of late fallen a sleepe from eny kinde of such exercyse : Therfore by your ma"" lycense, to revyve theim withall, ther ar fower Knightes Errant which haue thought goode to challenge all commers at Shrovetyde next as followeth. Videlicet.

Vpon Shrouesonday at the Tylt, six courses a pece. And who so doth best of the Defendanntes in those six courses, shall have for his prize a cheyne of gold.

Vpon Shrovemonday at the Tourney, two blowes at the passage, and tenne at the ioyninge. All grypes, shockes, and fowle playes forbidden. And who so doth best of the Defendantes at that feate, shall haue a Diamonde.

Vpon Shrouetuesday at the Barriours, three pusshes with the short pyke, and tenne blowes with the sworde with open gauntlet: no Barriours to be layde hande vpon, nor eny weopen to be taken holde of. And he of the Defendantes that doth best ther at, shall haue a Rubie.

This is an interesting bit of text for several reasons. For one, it's technically in Early Modern English, but there are some prominent holdovers from Middle English. Secondly, we find herein "grips," refering to Kampfringen-like wrestling actions, corroborating Silver. Moreover, we also encounter "shocks," and "foul plays," affording us new terms to add to the English Chivalric Lexicon. We are also granted a glimpse of the remaining gallants of a fading culture, desperately attempting to hold on to that culture before it fades into complete obscurity, or - little better - is irredeemably relegated to the twilight of pure tradition. It was already too late for all that, of course. Far too late. It was beginning even in Fiore's time. And, of course, we see the omnipresent parallels with the Continental traditions of the the Chivalric Arts; yet another testament to the dreaded "pan-European theory."

My translation (and a few cursory notes) follows:

"For as much, most noble Queen, as (indeed) there are within this your Majesty's Court, a great number of noblemen and gentlemen. Excellent men of arms, and yet, as it were, of late fallen asleep from any kind of such exercise. Therefore, by your Majesty's licence, to revive them withal, there are four Knights Errant which have thought good to challenge all comers at Shrovetide next, as follows. Videlicet:


Upon Shrove Sunday, at the tilt, six courses apiece. And whosoever does the best of the Defendants in those six courses, shall have for his prize a chain of gold.


Upon Shrove Monday, at the Tourney, two blows at the passage, and ten at the joining. All grips, shocks (perhaps akin to the bonne secousse of Le Jeu de la Hache, which Anglo translates as a "sudden push, or jolt"), and foul plays (think Fiore's hollowed-out bec-de-corbin, filled with blinding powder, amongst others) forbidden. And whosoever does best of the Defendants at that feat, shall have a diamond.


Upon Shrove Tuesday at the Barriers, three pushes with the short pike, and ten blows with the sword with open gauntlet. No barriers to be laid hand upon, nor any weapon to be taken hold of. And he of the Defendants that does best thereat, shall have a ruby."