Monday, December 31, 2007

Challenge of Lady May, Greenwich 1506

The Challenge of the Lady May’s servants, to all Comers, to be performed at Greenwich, To Run 8 Courses. To shoot Standard Arrow or Flight. To strike 8 Strokes with Swords Rebated. To Wrestle all manner of ways. To Fight on foot with Spears Rebated and afterwards to strike 8 Strokes with Swords, with Gripe, or otherwise. Cast the Bar on Foot, and with the Arm, both heavy and light.

Most high and excellent Princess, under your patient supportation I, which am called the Lady May in all months of the year to lusty hearts most pleasant, certify your Highness how that under sign and seal fully authorized by the hand of my lady and sovereign Dame Summer I have free license during the time of my short Reign to pass my time and a Fortnight in the month of my sister June as shall be to my Comfort and most solace. Wherefore I being thus at my free liberty, taking my leave from her and her lusty Courageous Court all the months of March and April for to view the manner of all the whole dominion of my said lady, have sailed in the scouring seas in this ship apparelled and tackled after my judgment as to my nature is appropriate, and accompanied for the surety of my person with divers gentlemen and yeomen apt and active to any exercise that shall of them be demanded. And where I am so fortunable to make my first arrival in this most famous stream of honor, fountain of all Noblesse and part most renowned called the Realm of England. I have availed my sails as it appeareth, and in token my mind is determined here to abide, I have cast out mine anchors, under the supportation of your gracious license to rest me and my said servants, which have been long travailed in the stormy seasons of March and April, humbly beseeching your grace not to be miscontent that I so boldly have enterprised arrival without your gracious license afore obtained. But in manner I was enforced so to do; as I came sailing along the Coast I heard news to me not very pleasant, how that Winter, a great enemy of my lady’s, not long ago was honored in the month of February by the reason of exercise of feats of Arms, the fame whereof is not hid in all the parts of the world. That hath caused me in all haste to speed me hither, and since my coming my heart is somewhat rejoiced for I see in mind that noble courageous hearts are determined to have my Lady Summer in exercise of Chivalry. And for to stir them the sooner to the said feats I, the Lady May, humbly beseech your grace to license my poor servants to exercise against all corners in way of pleasure and pastime all such articles as hereafter ensueth, not doubting but your
gracious license obtained all gentle courageous hearts will do as great and greater honor unto me, the lusty Lady May, Comfort of all lusty hearts, as they did lately to the servant of the Lady winter Dame February.

The articles of the Lady May’s servants as ensueth.

IMPRIMIS at Greenwich the fourteenth day of May shall be ready in the field certain gentlemen pertaining to the Lady May armed for the Tilt in harness thereunto accustomed, and there to keep the field in such place as it shall please the King to appoint from 2 of the Clock till 5 at afternoon, to run to every comer eight Courses, and thus the answerers all answered and served that then, if there be any that desireth for their Lady’s sake other four Courses, it shall be granted so the hour be not past, if it be then at the Queen’s pleasure.

ITEM: the 15th day of May next following there shall be certain Archers of the said Lady’s in the field at the hours aforenamed to shoot standard arrow and flight with all corners and he that will come and furthest shoots without stand at any of these games or at all, that is to say the answerer that shoots the standard urthest, to have a prize delivered him by the judges, and he that shoots next another, and so in like Case at the arrow and flight. Provided always that he that winneth any of these prizes shall not after that shoot again for none of the prizes of that game he hath once won of during the time.

ITEM: the 16th day of May following there shall be certain gentlemen of the said Lady’s at the hour aforenamed in the field armed for the Tourney with swords rebated to strike with every Comer eight strokes in way of pleasure, as it hath been accustomed, and when all comers be answered and the hours not spent, then, if any of the said Comers require four strokes for his Lady’s sake, it shall be granted so the hours be not spent, if it be then at the pleasure of the Queen.

ITEM: the 18th day of May next shall certain gentlemen of the said Lady’s at the said hours be ready to wrestle with all comers all manner of ways at the pleasure of the Comer as proofs of strength ought to be used, and what answerer doeth best at this feat by sight of the judges shall have a prize and the next another after the discretion of the judges.

ITEM: the 19th day of May next ensuing shall certain gentlemen of the said Lady’s at the said hour enter into the field armed for to fight on foot with spears in their hands rebated, their swords by their sides for the battle with vnlimd and thus with spear and sword to defend their barriers, that is to say with spear eight strokes whereof two with foin and six with strokes at the advantage of either of the doers.

And that done to draw their swords and strike eight strokes every man to his best advantage with gripe or otherwise, and when all Comers be answered and the hours not spent, then, if any of the said Comers require four strokes more of his lady’s sake either with spear or sword, or both, it shall be granted, if the hours be not spent and if it be then at the Queen’s pleasure.

ITEM: the 20th day of May immediately after shall again certain servants of the said Lady’s be ready in the field for further proof of strength, as to cast the bar on foot and with the arm both heavy and light at the Choice of the Corners, and what answerer this feat best doeth at the sight of the judges shall have a prize and the next another.

ITEM: the 21st of May the gentlemen to begin again and the servants aforesaid to follow the next day after and so to Continue during day by day after the rate of this book afore rehearsed all the month of May and fortnight in the month of June, all the Sundays to be excluded from the before rehearsed Feats.

ITEM: that all that will answer the feats of exercise of Arms set their hands to this book.

Giles Capell
William Courtney
Rowland Kent
Griffith Don’e
Edward Howard
Edmund Haward
Edward Nevill
Edward Gilford
Charles Brandon
Thomas Cheney
George Harvye
Richard Blunt
Wm. Kingston
Henry Stafford

Harl. MS. 69. fo. 2b, in Cripps-Day, Appendix. p. xlv-xlvii

By this time, elaborate pageant cars like parade floats were often part of the ceremony and display associated with the tournament. Lady May seems to have made her appearance in a fully rigged ship on wheels, a device associated with tournaments from the 13th century on.

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