Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Jousting Shield Badges
A fair number of these little pewter badges survive. In some, like the second and third in the first picture, the design is cast with the shield. In others, like the crescent and feather and the wild man, the device or badge is cast separately, with a peg that passes through a hole in the shield to secure it. I know of no contemporary record of their purpose.
I have three theories, which is two too many. The first is that they are similar to the little shields given out by the pursuivants as the tourney is announced in King René's tournament book, who describes "how the pursuivants give a little shield with the arms of the judges to all who wish to take part." The accompanying illumination shows the recipients fastening the shields to their hats. The flaw in this theory is that pewter badges are relatively cheap, low prestige goods, and not very appropriate for the kind of people that can afford to take part in jousts.
The second is that they were inexpensive souvenirs, sold to those attending either a particular joust, or to recurring jousts hosted by the same town.
The third is that they were worn as identifying livery by the many servants; grooms, valets and guards in service to the host of particular joust.
I think the second and third explanations are most likely.
I can also suggest a specific event that may have been associated with the wild man badge: the Pas de la Dame Sauvage held in Ghent in 1470. The host of the deed of arms was led onto the field by performers dressed as wild men and women.