Friday, November 30, 2007

Greenwich, October 1510

…the king not minded to see young gentlemen unexpert in martial feats, caused a place to be prepared within the park for the queen and ladies to stand and see the fight with battle-axes that should be done there where the king himself armed fought with one Gyot, a gentleman of Almayne, a tall man and a good man of arms. And then after they had done they marched away, always two and two together, and so did these feats and enterprises every man very well. Albeit it happened the said Gyot to fight with Sir Edward Howard, which Gyot was by him stricken to the ground.

Hall, Edward. The union of the two noble and illustre famelies of Lancastre & Yorke, beyng long in continuall discension for the croune of this noble realme : with al the actes done in both the tymes of the princes, both of the one linage & of the other....(Hall’s Chronicle) London 1550

Greenwich, May 1510

...his grace (Henry VIII) with two others with him challenged all comers to fight with them at barriers with target and casting the spear of 8 feet long, and that done his grace with the said two aids to fight every of them 12 strokes with two-handed swords with and against all comers, none excepted being a gentleman; where the king behaved himself so well and delivered himself so valiantly, by his hardy prowess and great strength, that the praise and laud was given to his Grace and his aids notwithstanding that divers valiant and strong persons had assailed him and his aids.

Holinshed’s Chronicle, p.806

Ayre, Picardy 1494

Pierre de Bayard, a young gentleman and apprentice of arms, a native of Dauphiny, ruled by the king of France, under the charge and conduct of the high and powerful lord of Ligny, would have a tourney cried and issued outside the town of Ayre, to meet outside the walls with all comers on the twentieth day of July, for three strokes with the lance without lists, with sharp lances in harness of war; and a dozen strokes with the sword, all mounted. And he who does best will be given a gold bracelet enameled with his livery worth thirty escus.

The next day will be fought on foot at the push of the lance, at a barrier at the height of the navel, and after the lance is broken strokes with the axe, according to the discretion of the judges and those that guard the field. And whoever does best will be given a diamond worth forty escus.

Clephan, R. Coltman. The Medieval Tournament (New York, 1995)
Translation copyright 2007 Will McLean

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Deed of Arms at the Barriers in AEthelmearc

Proclamation of the Deed of Arms

Certain companions of the Company of St. Michael make known to all noble men the following matters:

Know that the said gentlemen have taken up an enterprise, for the glory of God and the blessed Virgin, his mother, and my lord Saint George, that good knight.

That is, the day of the celebration of Twelfth Night, the said gentlemen will be found in the lists, armed at all points in harness of war, guarding a barrier with lance in hand to fight against all comers with lance strokes. And afterwards, taking up the single handed sword, they will fight as long as my lords the judges wish them to.

Furthermore, the said gentlemen make known that afterwards they will be found in the lists, guarding the said barrier against all comers who wish to take up the two handed sword and fight as long as the judges wish them to.

Next the said gentlemen will be found in the lists, armed at all points, with axe in hand to fight against all comers as long as my lords the judges require.

And finally the said gentlemen will be found in the lists to take up the single handed sword and fight as long as the judges wish them to.

More concerning the deed of arms may be found here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"...the high heels symbolize the very act of symbolism..."

Grendel's Mom grows high heels out of her feet.

She is portrayed by a CGI version of an actress who previously portrayed a live action version of a well known tomb raiding CGI character. Arrrrrgh. The recursiveness. It burns.

Hwaet! She comes, the babesome beastie!
Grendel’s mother goes to greet him
Strutting silky on the spike-heels
She forced forth from flickering footsies
Clever trick! How does she do that?
Clicking in the clammy cavern
Pouty lips like puffy pillows
What could be more medieval?
Many things that I might mention.
Mark that distant muted moaning?
Like a wain-wheel spinning swiftly?
That’s the tune of Teacher Tolkien
Turning top-like in his barrow

Friday, November 09, 2007

Weapons Used at the Barriers

Ayre, Picardy 1494: “at the push of the lance, at a barrier at the height of the navel, and after the lance is broken strokes with the axe, according to the discretion of the judges and those that guard the field”

Greenwich May 1510 Casting spear and target followed by twelve strokes with a two handed sword

Greenwich, October 1510 Axe. Not explicitly described as a barrier fight, but barriers seem to have been typical for foot combat in this period.

Paris 1515 Challenge by the Dauphin in honor of the marriage of the French King “First six foins with hand spears, and after that eight strokes to the most advantage if the spears so long held, and after that twelve strokes with sword” also casting spear and target followed with two-handed sword

Noseroy 1519 “two against two, with strokes of the lance, turning the large end of the said lance; and afterwards they were to fight with sword in one hand, as long as my lords the judges ordered them to.” The next day of combat “each one threw a stroke of the partisan and afterwards they fought with the two handed sword as long as it pleased my lords the judges.” Combat with axes at the barriers was originally planned but apparently not actually fought.

Field of Cloth of Gold 1520 Two pairs at a time fought with rebated spears until they were broken, then with two handed swords. Then the next day casting spears and two handed swords

Greenwich 1524 Twelve strokes with single handed sword, point and edge rebated

Greenwich 1554 Pike, sword

Westminster 1570 Three pushes with short pike and ten blows with the sword “with open gauntlet, no barriers to be laid hand upon nor any weapon to be taken ahold of”

Clephan, R. Coltman. The Medieval Tournament (New York, 1995)
Cripps-Day, F.H. The History of the Tournament (London, 1918; reprint New York, 1982)
Viscount Dillon, ‘Barriers and Foot Combat’ Archaeolgical Journal, 61 (1904) 299-308
Young, Alan. Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments (London 1987)

Daggers in Tournaments

Daggers were not used in tournaments in the narrow sense of the usual medieval definition of tournament, that is, a group combat on horseback. In the broader sense that many modern writers use the term to describe a limited armored deed of arms by consent, they could be used.

Deeds of arms on foot can be divided into two categories. In one the fight ended when one side or the other had struck an agreed number of blows, either with a single weapon or with different weapons in turn. If multiple weapons were used there was a pause between weapons, so the additional weapons might be either held by an attendant or kept in the champion’s tent. Dagger was one of the weapons used, or intended to be used, at the following combats for an agreed number of blows.

Vannes, 1381

Challenge by Michel D'Orris 1400

Richard Beauchamp vs. Pandolfo Malatesta 1408

Continge vs. de Bars 1415

In other combats there was no limit on the number of blows. In the most extreme form, the combat could continue until one sided was dead or surrendered, or the judge stopped the fight. In more limited combats the fight would stop as soon as one side was carried to the ground or disarmed. In these the champions would typically be armed with multiple weapons in case they lost their primary one: pollaxe, sword and dagger or pollaxe and dagger, and sometimes a spear as well.

The Seneschal of Hainault Performs a Deed of Arms in Valencia, 1403

Duke of Bourbon's Enterprise 1415

D’Ollumen vs. de la Haye 1415

Alvaro Continge vs. Clugnet de Brabant 1415

Three Portuguese Do Arms against Three French at Paris, 1415

A Combat between Sir John de Mello and the Lord de Chargny, 1435

Asteley vs. Boyle, January 30, 1442

How Sir Jacques de Lalaing did arms in Scotland; and of many other particulars in the house of Burgundy. (1449)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Extremely Relaxed Yoga

Do you shuffle through your daily existence, suffering from stiffness and poor mobility? Are you dissatisfied with your posture, dexterity skills and breathing? Do you want to improve your self acceptance? Are you drawn to the serenity of a much, much calmer and less frenetic lifestyle? Do you hunger for something more? If so, you might wish to pursue your interests with a group that shares the same goals, like this Yoga program at East River State Park.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Nose in the Sallet

The combination of sallet and bevor was a very popular head defense for most of the 15th century in spite of an obvious vulnerability. A rising thrust could pass below the lower edge of the sallet, particularly from the side or rear. The wearers were probably mostly worried about frontal attacks: once an opponent has blindsided you or gotten behind you, you are probably in trouble in any case. Still, the sallet and bevor did have a vulnerability that other contemporary alternatives did not. Nonetheless, it was very popular. Why?

It is helpful to understand what I believe is the default position for a sallet in battle. It is very frequently shown in contemporary illustrations with a significant gap between the bevor and the lower edge of the sallet where the wearer’s nose can be seen. Even with the most protective version of the sallet, with eyeslots in the visor or skull, it is possible to wear the sallet pushed back so that the wearer looks out, not through the eyeslots but beneath the lower edge of the sallet. This can provide much better visibility than trying to see though the eyeslots, but the shape of the sallet protects the face from most cuts. In this position the wearer also has some ability to rotate his head from side to side: perhaps 15 degrees in each direction even if the bevor is attached to his breastplate. If the wearer wants more protection he can raise one hand and easily adjust the angle of the sallet so that the sallet overlaps the bevor, while using the eyeslots for vision.

Now compare the sallet and bevor with contemporary alternatives. The grand bascinet offered superior protection, but freedom to rotate was almost nil. Similar visibility to the default sallet position required raising the visor, but this is not as simple as it sounds. If visor pivot is stiff enough for the visor to stay open without being held open, opening it requires considerable force, and probably two hands, and the same to close it. Over time the pivot will tend to loosen, and unless it is carefully maintained the visor will either refuse to stay up without assistance, or slam closed without warning.

Armets had similar visor issues, and the 15th century designs had a weak point between the armet and gorget that was protected only by mail. A plate wrapper could reinforce this point, but only by reducing visibility and freedom to rotate.

Barbutas also had a weak point at the neck, and typically forced the owner to choose a single tradeoff of visibility and vulnerability rather than the multiple aspects offered by sallets, grand bascinets and armets.

Kettle hats could also be worn with bevors. Some had eyeslots in the brim, and these were not very different from contemporary sallets in their strengths and vulnerabilities. Others did not: they offered simplicity at the price of reduced protection.

Jousting helms were the remaining option. They offered superb protection, but the ability of the wearer to see and breath was severely restricted: they were useless on the battlefield.

The 15th century sallet offered an attractive compromise between visibility, mobility and protection, compared to contemporary alternatives.