Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Ordinance and Form of Fighting Within Lists (before 1397)

Written by Thomas, Duke of Gloucester for Richard II, to regulate gages of battle or Judicial duels, much of the content is peculiar to that sort of contest. The excerpts below, however, are all mirrored in non-judicial deeds of arms. Chaucer mention the herald’s cry to “do your devoir” in the fictional tournament in his “Knight’s Tale” and both “lystis duplicatus” and “hirdles pro scaffoldes” were in storage when he took over the job of Clerk of the King’s Works in 1389, a job that included setting up the list field for the Smithfield jousts of 1390. The other ceremonies described below are all recognizable in Oliver de la Marche’s account of the deed of arms held between Lord Scales and the Bastard of Burgundy at Smithfield in 1467. At that combat six men at arms were assigned to guard the fight within the lists; this seems to have been at similar number to the number of guards at other single combats on the continent around this time, which might have up to ten. If a group combat was contemplated, the number of guards within the lists would be proportionately greater. The full text, including those sections pertaining to judicial combat only, is published here

The king shall find the field to fight in. And the lists shall be made and devised by the constable. And it is to be considered that the lists shall be sixty paces of length and forty paces of breadth in good manner, and firm, stable, and hard, and evenly made without great stones, and that the earth shall be flat. And that the lists be strongly barred round about and a gate in the east and another in the west with good and strong barriers of seven foot of height or more.. And it is to wit that there should be false lists without the principal lists between which the men of the constable and the marshal and sergeants of arms should be for to keep and defend if any would make any offense or affray against the cries made.... .and these men should be armed at all points
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The day of the battle the king shall be in a siege or in a scaffold and a place shall be made for the constable and marshal at the stair foot of the said scaffold where they shall be..

The appellant shall come to the east gate of the lists in such manner as he will fight, with his arms and weapons assigned to him by the court, and there he shall abide till he be led in by the constable and the marshal. And the constable shall ask him what man he is which is come armed to the gate of the lists and what name he has and for what cause he is come. The appellant shall answer: "I am such a man -- A. de K. -- the appellant, which is come this journey, etc, to do, etc.".....

Then shall he open the gates of the lists and make him enter ... and also his council with him; he shall lead him before the king and then to his tent, where he shall abide till the defendant be come.

In the same manner shall be done for the defendant, but that he shall enter in at the west gate of the lists....

And then the constable shall command the marshal for to cry at the four corners of the lists in manner as follows: "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez. We charge and command by the king's constable and marshal that none of great value and of little estate, of what condition or nation that he be, be so hardy henceforward to come nigh the lists by four feet or to speak or to cry or to make countenance or token or semblance or noise whereby neither of these two parties A. de K., appellor, and C. de B., defender, may take advantage the one upon the other, upon peril of losing life and limb and their goods at the king's will."

And afterward the constable and the marshal shall void all manner of people out of the lists except their lieutenants and two knights for the constable and marshal which shall be armed upon their bodies, but they shall have neither knife nor sword upon them nor any other weapon whereby the appellant or the defendant may have advantage because of negligence in keeping them. But the two lieutenants shall have in their hands either one a spear without iron to separate them if the king will make them leave off in their fighting, whether it be to rest them or other thing whatsoever pleases him.

The constable sitting in his place before the king as his vicar general, and the parties made ready to fight as is said by the commandment of the king, the constable shall say with loud voice as follows: "Lessiez les aler"; (that is to say, "Let them go”) and rest a while; "Lessiez les aler," and rest another while; "Lessiez les aler et fair leur devoir de par dieu"; (that it is to say, "Let them go and do their duty in God's name.") And this said, each man shall depart from both parties, so that they may encounter and do that which seems best to them.

And if it happen that the king would take the quarrel in his hands and make them agree without more fighting, then the constable, taking the one party, and the marshal, the other, shall lead them before the king, and he showing them his will, the said constable and marshal shall lead them to the one part of the lists with all their points and armor as they are found and having when the king took the quarrel in his hands as is said. And so they shall be led out of the gate of the lists evenly, so that the one go not before the other by no way in any thing; for since he hath taken the quarrel in his hands, it should be dishonest that either of the parties should have more dishonor than the other. Wherefore it has been said by many ancient men that he that goeth first out of the lists hath the disworship...


Dillon, "On a MS Collection of Ordinances of Chivalry of the Fifteenth Century, Belonging to Lord Hastings," Archaeologia, LVII (1902), 62-66.

1 comment:

A Knight of Small Renown said...

...in good manner, and firm, stable, and hard, and evenly made without great stones, and that the earth shall be flat.

Oh, would that always 'twere so!

Great stuff, Will.

- A Fan