Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Passo Honroso 1434


Don Quijote's readers are aware of the enormous popularity of the romances of chivalry, but they are apt to imagine that these represent a purely ideal state of things. This is undoubtedly the case as far as knight-errantry is concerned, but certain distinctive habits and customs of chivalry prevailed in Spain and elsewhere long after the feudal system and the earlier and original form of chivalry had passed away.

One of the most curious instances of this survival of chivalry occurred in Spain in the first half of the fifteenth century, and after commanding the admiration of Europe furnished Don Quijote with an admirable argument for the existence of Amadis of Gaul and his long line of successors. The worthy knight had been temporarily released from his confinement in the Enchanted Cage, and had begun his celebrated reply to the canon's statement that there had never been such persons as Amadis and the other knights-errant, nor the absurd adventures with which the romances of chivalry abound. Don Quijote's answer is a marvellous mixture of sense and nonsense: the creations of the romancer's brain are placed side by side with the Cid, Juan de Merlo and Gutierre Ouijada, whose names were household words in Spain: "Let them deny also that Don Fernando de Guerara went to seek adventures in Germany, where he did combat with Messer George, knight of the household of the duke of Austria. Let them say that the jousts of Sucro de Quiñones, him of the Pass, were a jest."

It is to these jousts, as one of the most characteristic episodes of the reign of John II. and of the times, that we wish to call attention.[4]

On the evening of Friday, the 1st of January, 1434, while the king and his court were at Medina del Campo and engaged in the rejoicings customary on the first day of the New Year, Suero de Quiñones and nine knights clad in white entered the saloon, and, coming before the throne, kissed the hands and feet of the king, and presented him through their herald with a petition of which the following is the substance:

"It is just and reasonable for those who are in confinement or deprived of their freedom to desire liberty; and since I, your vassal and subject, have long been in durance to a certain lady--in witness whereof I bear this chain about my neck every Thursday--now, therefore, mighty sovereign, I have agreed upon my ransom, which is three hundred lances broken by myself and these knights, as shall more clearly hereafter appear--three with every knight or gentleman (counting as broken the lance which draws blood) who shall come to a certain place this year; to wit, fifteen days before and fifteen days after the festival of the apostle St. James, unless my ransom shall be completed before the day last mentioned. The place shall be on the highway to Santiago, and I hereby testify to all strange knights and gentlemen that they will there be provided with armor, horses and weapons. And be it known to every honorable lady who may pass the aforesaid way that if she do not provide a knight or gentleman to do combat for her, she shall lose her right-hand glove. All the above saving two things--that neither Your Majesty nor the constable Don Alvaro de Luna is to enter the lists."

After the reading of this petition the king took counsel with his court and granted it, for which Quiñones humbly thanked him, and then he and his companions retired to disarm themselves, returning shortly after in dresses more befitting a festal occasion.

After the dancing the regulations for the jousts, consisting of twenty-two chapters, were publicly read. In addition to the declarations in the petition, it is provided that in case two or more knights should come to ransom the glove of any lady, the first knight only will be received, and no one can ransom more than one glove. In the seventh chapter Quiñones offers a diamond to the first knight who appears to do combat for one of three ladies to be named by him, among whom shall not be the one whose captive he is. No knight coming to the Pass of Honor shall select the defender with whom to joust, nor shall he know the name of his adversary until the combat is finished; but any one after breaking three lances may challenge by name any one of the defenders, who, if time permits, will break another lance with him. If any knight desires to joust without some portion of his armor named by Quiñones, his request shall be granted if reason and time permit. No knight will be admitted to the lists until he declare his name and country. If any one is injured, "as is wont to happen in jousts," he shall be treated as though he were Quiñones himself, and no one in the future shall ever be held responsible for any advantage or victory he may have gained over any of the defenders of the Pass. No one going as a pilgrim to Santiago by the direct road shall be hindered by Quiñones unless he approach the aforesaid bridge of Orbigo (which was somewhat distant from the highway). In case, however, any knight, having left the main road, shall come to the Pass, he shall not be permitted to depart until he has entered the lists or left in pledge a piece of his armor or right spur, with the promise never to wear that piece or spur until he shall have been in some deed of arms as dangerous as the Pass of Honor. Quiñones further pledges himself to pay all expenses incurred by those who shall come to the Pass.

Any knight who, after having broken one or two lances, shall refuse to continue, shall lose his armor or right spur as though he had declined to enter the lists. No defender shall be obliged to joust a second time with any one who had been disabled for a day in any previous encounter.

The twenty-first chapter provides for the appointment of two knights, "_caballeros anliguos è probados en annas è dignas de fè_," and two heralds, all of whom shall swear solemnly to do justice to all who cometo the Pass, and who shall decide all questions which may arise.

The last chapter provides "that if the lady whose I [Quiñones] am shall pass that way, she shall not lose her glove, and no one but myself shall do combat for her, for no one in the world could do it so truly as I."

When the preceding provisions had been read, Quiñones gave to the king-at-arms a letter signed and sealed, which invited to the Pass all knights so disposed, granting safe conduct to those of other kingdoms, and declaring the cause of said trial of arms. Copies of the above letter were also given to other heralds, who were provided with everything necessary for long journeys, and in the six months that intervened before the day fixed for the jousts the matter had been proclaimed throughout all Christendom. Meanwhile, Quiñones provided horses and arms and everything necessary for "such an important enterprise."

In the kingdom of Leon, about ten miles east of Astorga and on the highway from that city to the capital, is the bridge of Orbigo. Suero de Quiñones did not select Orbigo with reference to convenience of access from the Castiles, but because it must be passed by pilgrims to Santiago; and that year (1434) was especially sacred to the saint, whose festival, on the 25th of July, has always been celebrated with great pomp. The Spaniards having been forbidden to go to Jerusalem as crusaders, and being too much occupied at home with the Moors to make such a long pilgrimage, wisely substituted Santiago, where the remains of St. James, the patron of Spain, is supposed to rest. His body is said to have floated in a stone coffin from Joppa to Padron (thirteen miles below Santiago) in seven days, and for nearly eight centuries lay forgotten in a cave, but was at length miraculously brought to light by mysterious flames hovering over its resting-place, and in 829 was removed to Santiago. In 846 the saint made his appearance at the celebrated battle of Clavijo, where he slew sixty thousand Moors, and was rewarded by a grant of a bushel of grain from every acre in Spain. His shrine was a favorite resort for pilgrims from all Christendom until after the Reformation, and the saint retained his bushel of grain (the annual value of which had reached the large sum of one million dollars)until 1835.

It was near the highway, in a pleasant grove, that Quiñones erected the lists, a hundred and forty-six paces long and surrounded by a palisade of the height of a lance, with various stands for the judges and spectators. At the opposite ends of the lists were entrances--one for the defenders of the Pass--and there were hung the arms and banners of Quiñones, as well as at the other entrance, which was reserved for the knights who should come to make trial of their arms. In order that no one might mistake the way, a marble king-at-arms was erected near the bridge, with the right arm extended and the inscription, "To the Pass."

The final arrangements were not concluded until the 10th of July, the first day of the jousts. Twenty-two tents had been erected for the accommodation of those engaged in the enterprise as well as for mere spectators, and Quiñones had provided all necessary servants and artisans, among whom are mentioned kings-at-arms, heralds, trumpeters and other musicians, notaries, armorers, blacksmiths, surgeons, physicians, carpenters, lance-makers, tailors, embroiderers, etc. In the midst of the tents was erected a wooden dining--hall, hung with rich French cloth and provided with two tables--one for Quiñones and the knights who came to the Pass, and the other for those who honored the jousts with their presence. A curious fact not to be omitted is that the king sent one of his private secretaries to prepare daily accounts of what happened at the Pass, which were transmitted by relays to Segovia (where he was engaged in hunting), so that he should receive them within twenty-four hours.

On Saturday, the 10th of July, 1434, all the arrangements having been completed, the heralds proceeded to the entrance of the lists and announced to Quiñones that three knights were at the bridge of Orbigo who had come to make trial of their arms--one a German, Messer Arnoldo de la Floresta Bermeja of the marquisate of Brandenburg, "about twenty-seven years old, blond and well-dressed;" the others two brothers from Valencia, by name Juan and Per Fabla. Quiñones was greatly delighted at their coming, and sent the heralds to invite them to take up their quarters with him, which they did, and were received with honor at the entrance of the lists in the presence of the judges. It being Saturday, the jousting was deferred until the following Monday, and the spurs of the three knights were hung up in the judges' stand as a sort of pledge, to be restored to their owners when they were ready to enter the lists.

The next morning the trumpets sounded, and Quiñones and his nine companions heard mass in the church of St. John at Orbigo, and took possession of the lists in the following fashion: First came the musicians with drums and Moorish fifes, preceded by the judge, Pero Barba. Then followed two large and beautiful horses drawing a cart filled with lances of various sizes pointed with Milan steel. The cart was covered with blue and green trappings embroidered with bay trees and flowers, and on every tree was the figure of a parrot. The driver of this singular conveyance was a dwarf. Next came Quiñones on a powerful horse with blue trappings, on which were worked his device and a chain, with the motto _Il faut deliberer_[5] He was dressed in a quilted jacket of olive velvet brocade embroidered in green, with a cloak of blue velvet, breeches of scarlet cloth and a tall cap of the same color. He wore wheel-spurs of the Italian fashion richly gilt, and carried a drawn sword, also gilt. On his right arm, near the shoulder, was richly embroidered his device in gold two fingers broad, and around it in blue letters,

Si a vous ne plait de avoyr me sure,
Certes ie clis,
Que ie suis,
Sans venture.[6]

With Quiñones were his nine companions in scarlet velvet and blue cloaks bearing Quiñones' device and chain, and the trappings of their horses blue, with the same device and motto. Near Quiñones were many knights on foot, some of whom led his horse to do him honor. Three pages magnificently attired and mounted closed the procession, which entered the lists, and after passing around it twice halted before the judges' stand, and Quiñones exhorted the judges to decide impartially all that should happen, giving equal justice to all, and especially to defend the strangers in case they should be attacked on account of having wounded any of the defenders of the Pass.

The next day, Monday, at dawn the drums beat the reveille, and the judges, with the heralds, notaries and kings-at-arms, took their places in their stands. The nine defenders meanwhile heard mass in a large tent which served as a private chapel for Quiñones, and where mass was said thrice daily at his expense by some Dominicans. After the defenders were armed they sent for the judges to inspect their weapons and armor. The German knight, Arnoldo, had a disabled hand, but he declared he would rather die than refrain from jousting. His arms and horse were approved, although the latter was superior to that of Quiñones. The judges had provided a body of armed soldiers whose duty it was to see that all had fair play in the field, and had a pile of lances of various sizes placed where each knight could select one to suit him.

Quiñones and the German now entered the lists, accompanied by their friends and with "much music." The judges commanded that no one should dare to speak aloud or give advice or make any sign to any one in the lists, no matter what happened, under penalty of having the tongue cut out for speaking and a hand cut off for making signs; and they also forbade any knight to enter the lists with more than two servants, one mounted and the other on foot. The spur taken from the German the previous Saturday was now restored to him, and the trumpets sounded a charge, while the heralds and kings-at-arms cried _Legeres allér! legeres allér! é fair son deber_.

The two knights charged instantly, lance in rest, and Quiñones encountered his antagonist in the guard of his lance, and his weapon glanced off and touched him in the armor of his right hand and tore it off, and his lance broke in the middle. The German encountered him in the armor of the left arm, tore it off and carried a piece of the border without breaking his lance. In the second course Quiñones encountered the German in the top of his plastron, without piercing it, and the lance came out under his arm-pit, whereupon all thought he was wounded, for on receiving the shock he exclaimed _Olas!_ and his right vantbrace was torn off, but the lance was not broken. The German encountered Quiñones in the front of his helmet, breaking his lance two palms from the iron. In the third course Quiñones encountered the German in the guard of his left gauntlet, and passed through it, and the head of the lance stuck in the rim without breaking, and the German failed to encounter. In the fourth course Quiñones encountered the German in the armor of his left arm without breaking his lance, and the German failed to encounter. In the next course both failed to encounter, but in the sixth Quiñones encountered the German in the joint of his left vantbrace, and the iron passed half through without breaking, while the shaft broke in the middle, and the German failed to encounter. After this last course they went to the judges' stand, where their jousting was pronounced finished, since they had broken three lances between them. Quiñones invited the German to supper, and both were accompanied to their quarters by music, and Quiñones disarmed himself in public.

The two Valencian knights did not delay to challenge Quiñones, since he had remained uninjured; and, as they had the right to demand horses and arms, they chose those which Quiñones had used in the last joust. The chronicler adds: "It seems to me that they did not ask it so much for their honor as for the safety of their skins." The judges decided that Quiñones was not bound to give his own armor, as there were other suits as good: nevertheless, he complied, and sent in addition four horses to choose from. He was also anxious to joust with them, but Lope de Estuñiga refused to yield his place, and cited the chapter of the regulations which provided that no one should single out his adversary. Quiñones offered him a very fine horse and a gold chain worth three hundred doubloons, but Estuñiga answered that he would not yield his turn although he were offered a city.

At vespers Estuñiga and Juan Fabla were armed and the judges examined their arms, and although Fabla had the better horse, they let it pass. At the sound of the trumpet Estuñiga entered the lists magnificently attired, and attended by two pages in armor bearing a drawn sword and a lance. Juan Fabla followed immediately, and at the given signal they attacked each other lance in rest. Fabla encountered Estuñiga in the left arm, tearing off his armor, but neither of them broke his lance. In the four following courses they failed to encounter. In the sixth Fabla encountered his adversary in the breastplate, breaking his lance in the middle, and the head remained sticking in the armor. They encountered in the seventh course, and Estuñiga's servant, who was in the lists, cried out, "At him! at him!" The judges commanded his tongue to be cut out, but at the intercession of those present the sentence was commuted to thirty blows and imprisonment. They failed to encounter in the eighth course, but in the ninth Estuñiga broke his lance on Fabla's left arm: the latter failed to encounter, and received a great reverse. After this they ran nine courses without encountering, but in the nineteenth Estuñiga met Fabla in the plastron, and his lance slipped off on to his helmet, but did not break, although it pierced the plastron and the iron remained sticking in it. By this time it had grown so dark that the judges could not distinguish the good from the bad encounters, and for this reason they decided that the combat was finished the same as though three lances had been broken. Estuñiga invited Fabla to sup with Quiñones, "and at table there were many knights, and after supper they danced."

That same day there arrived at the Pass nine knights from Aragon, who swore that they were gentlemen without reproach. Their spurs were taken from them, according to the established custom, and hung up in the judges' stand until they should enter the lists.

The succeeding combats were but repetitions, with trifling variations, of those just described. From dawn, when the trumpet sounded for battle, until the evening grew so dark that the judges could not distinguish the combatants, the defenders maintained the Pass against all comers with bravery and honor.

The third day there passed near Orbigo two ladies, and the judges sent the king-at-arms and the herald to ascertain whether they were of noble birth and provided with knights to represent them in the lists and win them a passage through Orbigo, and also to request them to give up their right-hand gloves. The ladies answered that they were noble and were on a pilgrimage to Santiago; their names were Leonora and Guiomar de la Vega; the former was married and accompanied by her husband; the latter was a widow. The king-at-arms then requested their gloves to be kept as a pledge until some knight should ransom them. Frances Davio, an Aragonese knight, immediately offered to do combat for the ladies. The husband of Doña Leonora said that he had not heard of this adventure, and was unprepared to attempt it then, but if the ladies were allowed to retain their gloves, as soon as he had accomplished his pilgrimage he would return and enter the lists for them. The gloves, however, were retained and hung in the judges' stand. The matter caused some discussion, and finally the judges decided that the gloves should not be kept, for fear it should seem that the defenders of the Pass were interfering with pilgrims, and also on account of Juan de la Vega's chivalrous response. So the gloves were sent on to Astorga to be delivered to their owners, and Juan de la Vega was absolved from all obligation to ransom them, "and there was strife among many knights as to who should do battle for the sisters."

On the 16th of July, Frances Davio jousted with Lope de Estuñiga, and when the trial of arms was ended with great honor to both, Davio swore aloud, so that many knights heard him, "that never in the future would he have a love-affair with a nun, for up to that time he had loved one, and it was for her sake that he had come to the Pass; and any one who had known it could have challenged him as an evil-doer, and he could not have defended himself." Whereat Delena, the notary and compiler of the original record of the Pass, exclaims, "To which I say that if he had had any Christian nobleness, or even the natural shame which leads every one to conceal his faults, he would not have made public such a sacrilegious scandal, so dishonorable to the religious order and so injurious to Christ."

The same day the king-at-arms and herald announced to Quiñones that a gentleman named Vasco de Barrionuevo, servant of Ruy Diaz de Mendoza, mayor-domo of the king, had come to make trial of his arms, but as he was not a knight he prayed Quiñones to confer that honor on him. Quiñones consented, and commanded him to wait at the entrance of the lists, whither he and the nine defenders went on foot accompanied by a great crowd. Quiñones asked Vasco if he desired to become a knight, and on his answering in the affirmative he drew his gilt sword and said, "Sir, do you promise to keep and guard all the things appertaining to the noble order of chivalry, and to die rather than fail in any one of them?" He swore that he would do so, and Quiñones, striking him on the helmet with his naked sword, said, "God make thee a good knight and aid thee to live and act as every good knight should do!" After this ceremony the new knight entered the lists with Pedro de los Rios, and they ran seven courses and broke three lances.

On the festival of St. James (July 25th) Quiñones entered the lists without three of the principal pieces of his armor--namely, the visor of his helmet, the left vantbrace and breastplate--and said, "Knights and judges of this Passo Honroso, inasmuch as I announced through Monreal, the king's herald, that on St. James's Day there would be in this place three knights, each without a piece of his armor, and each ready to run two courses with every knight who should present himself that day, know, therefore, that I, Suero de Quiñones, alone am those three knights, and am prepared to accomplish what I proclaimed." The judges after a short deliberation answered that they had no authority to permit him to risk his life in manifest opposition to the regulations which he had sworn to obey, and declared him under arrest, and forbade all jousting that day, as it was Sunday and the festival of St. James. Quiñones felt greatly grieved at their decision, and told them that "in the service of his lady he had gone into battle against the Moors in the kingdom of Granada with his right arm bared, and God had preserved him, and would do so now." The judges, however, were inflexible and refused to hear him.

The last day of July, late in the afternoon, there arrived at the Pass a gentleman named Pedro de Torrecilla, a retainer or squire of Alfonso de Deza, but no one was willing to joust with him, on the ground that he was not an hidalgo. The generous Lope de Estuñiga, hearing this, offered to dub him a knight, but Torrecilla thanked him and said he could not afford to sustain in becoming manner the honor of chivalry, but he would make good the fact that he was an hidalgo. Lope de Estuñiga was so much pleased by this discreet answer that he believed him truly of gentle blood, and to do him honor entered the lists with him. It was, however, so late that they had only time to run three courses, and then the judges pronounced their joust finished. Torrecilla esteemed so highly the fact that so renowned a knight as Lope de Estuñiga should have condescended to enter the lists with him that he swore it was the greatest honor he had ever received in his life, and he offered him his services. Estuñiga thanked him, and affirmed that he felt as much honored by having jousted with him as though he had been an emperor.[7]

A few days after the above events an incident occurred which shows how contagious the example of Quiñones and his followers was, and to what amusing imitations it led. A Lombard trumpeter made his appearance at the Pass, and said that he had been to Santiago on a pilgrimage, and while there had heard that there was at the Passo Honroso a trumpeter of the king of Castile named Dalmao, very celebrated in his line, and he had gone thirty leagues out of his way in order to have a trial of skill with him; and he offered to stake a good trumpet against one of Dalmao's. The latter took the Lombard's trumpet and blew so loud and skilfully that the Italian, in spite of all his efforts, was obliged to confess himself conquered, and gave up his trumpet.

So far, the encounters, if not entirely bloodless, had not been attended by any fatal accident. The defenders had all been wounded, more or less severely: once Quiñones concealed the fact until the end of the joust in which his antagonist had been badly hurt, and it was only when the knights were disarmed that it was discovered that Quiñones was bleeding profusely. On another occasion his helmet was pierced by his adversary's lance, the fragment of which he strove in vain to withdraw. All believed him mortally wounded, but he cried, "It is nothing! it is nothing! Quiñones! Quiñones!" and continued as though nothing had occurred. After three encounters the judges descended from their stands and made him remove his helmet to see whether he was wounded. When it was found that he was not, "every one thought that God had miraculously delivered him." Quiñones was also wounded in his encounter with Juan de Merlo, and again concealed the fact until the end of the combat, when he asked the judges to excuse him from jousting further that day, as his right hand, which he had previously sprained, was again dislocated, and caused him terrible suffering; and well it might, for the flesh was lacerated and the whole arm seemed paralyzed.

The wounds received the 28th of July were, unfortunately, sufficiently healed by the 6th of August to enable him to enter the lists with the unhappy Esberte de Claramonte, an Aragonese. "Would to God," exclaims the chronicler, "he had never come here!" In the ninth encounter Quiñones' lance entered his antagonist's left eye and penetrated the brain. The luckless knight broke his lance in the ground, was lifted from his saddle by the force of the blow, and fell dead without uttering a word; "and his face seemed like the face of one who had been dead two hours." The Aragonese and Catalans present bewailed his death loudly, and Quiñones was grieved in his soul at such a great misfortune. Every possible honor was shown the dead knight, and the welfare of his soul was not forgotten. Master Anton, Quiñones' confessor, and the other priests were sent for to administer the sacraments, and Quiñones begged them to chant the _Responsorium_[8] over the body, as was customary in the Church, and do in all respects as though he himself were the dead man. The priest replied that the Church did not consider as sons those who died in such exercises, for they could not be performed without mortal sin, neither did she intercede for their souls; in proof whereof he referred to the canonical law, cap. _de Torneamentis_.[9] However, at the earnest request of Quiñones, Messer Anton went with a letter to the bishop of Astorga to ask leave to bury Claramonte in holy ground, Quiñones promising if it were granted to take the dead knight to Leon and bury him in his own family chapel. Meanwhile, they bore the body to the hermitage of Santa Catalina, near the bridge of Orbigo, and there it remained until night, when Messer Anton returned without the desired license; so they buried Claramonte in unconsecrated ground near the hermitage, with all possible honor and amid the tears of the assembled knights. This mournful event does not seem, however, to have made a very deep impression, for that same afternoon the jousting was continued.

The remaining days were marked by no unusual occurrence: several were seriously but not fatally wounded, and one by one the defenders of the Pass were disabled; so that when the 9th of August, the last day of the jousts, arrived, Sancho de Ravenal was the only one of the ten defenders who was able to enter the lists. He maintained the Pass that day against two knights, and then the jousts were declared ended. When the decision was known there was great rejoicing and blowing of trumpets, and the lists were illuminated with torches. The judges returned the spurs which still hung in the stand to the owners who through lack of time had not been able to joust. Quiñones and eight of his companions (Lope de Aller was confined to his bed by his wounds) entered the lists in the same manner and order as on the first day, and halting before the judges Quiñones addressed them as follows: "It is known to Your Honors how I presented myself here thirty days ago with these companions, and the cause of my so doing was to terminate the captivity in which until this moment I was to a very virtuous lady, in token of which I have worn this iron collar continually every Thursday. The condition of my ransom was, as you know, three hundred lances broken or guarding this Pass thirty days, awaiting knights and gentlemen who should free me from said captivity; and whereas I believe, honorable sirs, that I have fulfilled everything according to the terms set down at the beginning, I therefore beg you will command me to remove this iron collar in testimony of my liberty."

The judges answered briefly as follows: "Virtuous gentleman and knight, after hearing your declaration, which seems just and true, we hereby declare your enterprise completed and your ransom paid; and be it known to all present that of the three hundred lances mentioned in the agreement but few remain yet to be broken, and these would not have remained unbroken had it not been for lack of adversaries. We therefore command the king-at-arms and the herald to remove the collar from your neck and declare you from this time henceforth free from your enterprise and ransom." The king-at-arms and the herald then descended from the stand, and in the presence of the notaries with due solemnity took the collar from Quiñones' neck in fulfilment of the judges' command.

During the thirty days' jousting sixty-eight knights had entered the lists: of these, one, Messer Arnoldo de la Floresta Bermeja (Arnold von Rothwald?), was a German; one an Italian, Messer Luis de Aversa; one Breton,[10] three Valencians, one Portuguese, thirteen Aragonese, four Catalans, and the remaining forty-four were from the Castiles and other parts of Spain. The number of courses run was seven hundred and twenty-seven, and one hundred and sixty-six lances were broken. Quiñones was afterward killed by Gutierre Quijada, one of the knights who took part in the Passo Honroso, and with whom he seems to have had some kind of a feud. Quiñones' sword may still be seen at Madrid in the Royal Armory, No. 1917.


[Footnote 4: Our narrative is drawn from the _Libra del Passo Honroso, defendido por el excelente caballero Suero de Quiñones, copilado de un libro antiguo de mano por Fr. Juan de Pineda, Religiose de la orden de San Francisco. Segunda edicion_. Madrid, 1783, in the _Crónicas españolas_, vol. v.]

[Footnote 5: In modern French, _Il faut délivrer_--"It is necessary to release," referring to the chain worn by Quiñones.]

[Footnote 6: "If it does not please you to show moderation, I say, in truth, that I am unfortunate."]

[Footnote 7: Prosper Mérimée, in a note to his _History of Peter the Cruel_ (London, 1849, vol. i., p. 35), says, referring to the above episode, "I do not think that at that period an example of similar condescension could be found anywhere except in Spain. A century later the _chevalier sans peur et sans reproche_, the valiant Bayard, refused to mount a breach in company with lansquenets."]

[Footnote 8: Beginning, "Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna," etc.]

[Footnote 9: The Church as early as 1131 (Council of Rheims) endeavored to prevent these dangerous amusements by denying burial in consecrated ground with funeral rites to those who were killed in tournaments.]

[Footnote 10: Puymaigre explains this almost total absence of Frenchmen by the fact that in 1434 the wars between Charles VII and the English were being waged. The English pilgrims to Santiago (the large number of whom we have previously mentioned) were probably non-combatants.]

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XXVI., December, 1880., by Various

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at

Title: Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XXVI., December, 1880.

Author: Various

Release Date: June 24, 2005 [EBook #16124]

Language: English

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shields in 15th Century Armored Combat on Foot

In spite of the efficiency of contemporary armor, shields were used more often in armored combat on foot than you might suppose, but not necessarily in the way you might expect, particularly if your expectations are conditioned by the SCA’s standard recreation of medieval combat. Their use is recorded in this combat of seven against seven in 1402 and Habourdin vs. de Bearn in 1449. Techniques for their use are illustrated in both the Codex Wallerstein and the Gladiatoria Fechtbuch.

In those sources they were primarily used as a defense against thrown spear before the champions came to close quarters. They were also strapped or handled so they could give partial protection while the user wielded a spear or sword for two handed thrusts. Once no longer useful for these purposes the shield would be either thrown at an opponent or simply discarded.

I am currently working on a pair of the sort depicted in the Codex Wallestein, and will make every effort to have them finished in time for Pennsic 2009 and the Company of St. Michael’s recreation of the pas de la Belle Pelerine. The Habourdin vs de Bearn combat was a continuation of the historical pas de la Belle Pelerine, granted after de Bearn fell ill on route to the pas and arrived after the appointed time had expired.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cutting Pikes

Here is di Grassi on using halberds, bills and partisans to cut pikes in battle.

But because these weapons for the most part are exercised, and used to enter through divers Pikes & other weapons, and to breake and disorder the battell raye, to which ende, and purpose, if it be used, then that manner of mannaging and handling is verie onvenient which is practised now adaies, and thus it is. The Partesan, Holberd, and Bill (but not the Javelin, being in this case nothing effectuall because it hath small force in the edge) must be borne in the middle of the staffe, with the heele thereof before, and verie lowe, and the point neere a mans head. And with the said heele, or halfe staffe underneath, from the handle downwardes, he must warde and beat off the pointes and thrustes of the Pikes and other weapons, and having made waie, must enter with the encrease of a pace of the hinder foote, and in the same instant, let fall his weapon as forcibly as he maie, and strike with the edge athward the Pikes. This kinde of blowe is so strong (being delivered as it ought, considering it commeth from above downwardes, and the weapon of it selfe is verie heavie) that it will cut asunder not onely Pikes, but also any other forcible impediment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shield Construction

The shield of the Black Prince
..made of poplar wood glued on both sides with layers of linen, on the front with paper finished with gesso. The applied heraldic charges are made with boiled leather shaped in high relief fixed by small tacks. It is painted and gilded; the fields are punched over with numerous small crosses.
Steane, John The archaeology of the medieval English monarchy 1999
The Black Prince’s Shield is 73cm tall and about 60.5cm wide. The shield body is made from 15mm thick poplar and is slightly concave. It is made from two separate boards connected together. The wood core is covered with several sheets of canvas. Over the canvas is a top coat of paper(!), which in turn is topped with leather. The leather forms the top coat, and is held on with shield mounts and with brass nails. On the front side of the shield are the Arms of England and France: Right top and left bottom, on a blue field golden fleurs-de-lis; and left top and right bottom on a red field, three gold leopards stacked over each other.

The arms are built up of molded leather relief, then gessoed and gilded. The claws, eyes and tongues of the leopards are additionally painted. The background of the arms is painted. The individual quarters were originally separated by appliquéd turned cords. All of the blue and red fields are stippled with numerous small punched crosses. On the French quarters they are diagonal, and on the English quarters arranged horizontally. The back of the shield is covered with canvas and painted green.

There are no remains of the hand or arm straps, or of the guige. Only four holes in the shield indicate the points where these must once have been fastened. According to the reconstructed version made at the Tower of London the shield only had one hand and one arm strap.

Chamberlin, John M. V , trans. “The Shield of the Black Prince,“ Der mittelalterliche Reiterschild. Kohlmorgen, Jan. Karfunkel Verlag. 2002.
The shield is made of poplar, covered with successive layers of white canvas, plaster, paper and leather. To the leather surfaces of the front are applied the quarterly charges of fleurs-de-lis and leopards, boldly modeled in leather in high relief, and affixed by small brads. Traces of gilding and of red colour on the tongues of the leopards can still be seen. The ground of the four squares is punched with a spotted diaper to enrich the effect. The cruciform punch marks have been ingeniously slanted at different angles in the quarters of France and England respectively to give variety. Curiously enough there is no trace of the label of cadency ever having been on the shield. The back of the shield is covered with canvas originally painted green or blue, of which faint trances remain. Any hand-straps (or “enarmes”) which it may have had are gone, but holes show where they may have been fixed. The two loops near the top were probably placed there for attaching the shield above the tomb. The only other comparable English shield is that associated with the monument of King Henry V in Westminster Abbey. In this case the charges on the front have vanished completely, but the velvet pad at the back for the hand and wrist have survived.

Mills, Dorothy and Sir James Mann. Edward The Black Prince: A Short History and The Funeral Achievements. J.A. Jennings LTD: Canterbury. 1975.

Note that Steane, above notes that although there is now no trace of a label on the shield, a drawing c. 1600 shows one.

Jousting Targe of John of Gaunt
Illustrated in Dugdale, page 90
Bolton, in his " Elements of Armories," states that the first named article "is very convex towards the bearer, whether by warping through age or as so made. It hath in dimension more than three quarters of a yard in length, and above half a yard of breadth. Next to the body is a canvas glued to a board; upon that board are broad thin axicles, slices or plates of horn nailed fast, and again over them twenty and six pieces of the like, all meeting or centreing about a round plate of the same in the navel of the shield, and over all is a leather closed fast to them with glue, or other holding stuff, upon which his armories were painted; but now they, with the leather itself, have very lately and very lewdly been utterly spoiled."
Two 14th century shields from Sweden 

The shield of Henry V

Three layers of coarse linen are covered with a padding of hair felt, then two linen layers and finally silk brocade. The arm pad is of crimson velvet with the arms of Navarre (for Henry’s Queen) in silk.*


The front is covered in the remains of four layers of linen and gesso, originally painted.

Gravett, Christopher and Graham Turner English Medieval Knight 1400-1500 Oxford : Osprey Military, 2001.

* Joanne of Navarre was Henry V's stepmother

An Early 15th Century Targe at the Met

15th c. "Vous ou la Mort" Shield
KNIGHTLY Shield formerly in the Schutz family at Shotover House, Oxfordshire, now in the collection of the Rev. J. Wilson, D.D., President of Trinity College, Oxford. This very curious relic of the fifteenth century is formed of wood, lined with leather and faced with canvas, on which is laid a gesso to receive the painting and gilding. Its section longitudinally is concave on the face ; transversely it is convex. At the upper corner is a notch (or bouche) for reception of the lance-shaft. The height is 2 ft. 8 in., the breadth 1 ft. 1 in.: the inside has two rings for suspension round the neck of the champion. In its decoration, the whole face of the shield has been first gilt, and the design then painted upon the gilding, the steppling in the background being crimson, and the colours here and there heightened with gold. The lady's dress is pale yellow, the pattern of flowers and leaves, brownish crimson picked in with gold, the border of ermine.

Hewitt, John Ancient armour and weapons in Europe from the iron period of the Northern nations to the end of the thirteenth[-seventeenth] century. Oxford, 1855-1860

Here is a modern examination of the shield.

15th century shield at the Musée National du Moyen Âge, also known as the Musee Cluny. Later damage gives a good view of the different layers and the beveled edge of the wood.

A German jousting targe, ca. 1450

Targe, mid 15th c. 3.7 kg

Jousting Shield, c. 1485 4.7 kg

Jousting Shield, ca. 1490. Linden wood. 21 cm thick

Jousting targes faced with stag horn, 1443-1510

Karen Larsdatter's linkspage on painted shields


The linden or lime wood frequently described as a shield material in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian literature and found in several surviving medieval shields is commonly called basswood in North America.

The yellow poplar or tulip polar commonly sold as lumber in North America is an entirely different tree from the European poplar. Although both are soft, light and easily carved, yellow poplar may not be as well suited for the purpose.

Linden and poplar are both light and easily worked, and Taillevent refers to "light wood (like that from which one makes pavises)" Wood that was strong in relation to its weight was also obviously desirable. Relatively soft wood was clearly acceptable: the medieval wooden shield was very much a multi-layer composite getting much of its strength from an outer layer of linen, leather and/or parchment glued to its surface.

Here is Theophilus on making panels:


The tablets of altars, or of doors, are first carefully fitted together with the joining instrument which carpenters or vat makers use; they are then joined with the glue of cheese, which is made in this manner. Soft cheese is cut very small, and is washed with warm water in a small mortar with a pestle, until, being frequently poured in, the water comes away pure. Then this cheese, compressed by the hand, is put into cold water until it hardens. After this it is very finely ground, with another piece of wood, upon a smooth wooden table, and in this state it is again placed in the mortar, and is carefully ground with the pestle, water mixed with quick lime being added, until it is made as thick as lees. The tablets of altars fastened together with this glue, after they are dry, so adhere together, that neither heat nor humidity are able to disjoin them. They should afterwards be smoothed with a planing iron, which, curved and sharp inside, has two handles, so that it may be drawn by both hands, (with which doors and shields are shaved,) until they are made perfectly smooth. They are then covered with the untanned skin of a horse, or ass, which is soaked in water; as soon as the hairs have been scraped off, some water is squeezed from it, and thus moist, it is superposed with the curd glue.

Theophilus. An essay upon various arts, tr., with notes, by R. Hendrie London 1847

The choice of glue is important. Glue of cheese, better known to modern readers as casein, hardens by chemical reaction rather than evaporation of a solvent.

The problem with using evaporation based glues like modern carpenter's wood glue is that the damp canvas, parchment or rawhide shrinks as it dries. While it is still damp it prevents the evaporation based glue beneath if from hardening, and the fabric or hide can then pull away from concave surfaces.

Casein has largely been replaced by other glues in modern use, but is still used as an artist's medium.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leonardo's Lion

Leonardo da Vinci's lion automaton has been reconstructed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Weapons Used at the Combat of the Thirty

Here are the weapons mentioned in this account, with the number of times mentioned:

Lance or Spear:8
Steel Mallet (martel, mail):4 (a particular weapon is described as weighing 25 lbs.)
War-axe (hache):2
Fauchart, fussart, fauchons:2 "with a cutting edge on one side and a hook on the other"
Shields are mentioned four times.

The fauchart sounds a lot like a weapon that's shown both in Queen Mary's Psalter and the Holkham Bible. In the Holkham Bible it is wielded with both hands by the figure on the lower left.

Here is the original French. The dissertation also has a useful who's who of the individuals present.

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Recreation of the Pas de la Belle Pelerine

To be held at Pennsic in the Green List, August 3rd, 2009 from 2-5 PM, hosted by the Company of S. Michael

The servants of the Belle Pelerine will hold a passage of arms, meeting all comers in single combat for a push or throw with lance or spear followed by an agreed number of blows with axe or sword. If the comer touches the shield of Lancelot, if either champion falls or is unable to continue they will give a brooch, gem or jewel of whatever value they wish to their opponent's lady. If they touch the shield of Palamedes they are not so bound. Weapons will be provided if needed. Also, there will be group combats with rebated weapons as often and as long as the ladies wish.

The Letter of the Belle Pelerine (the Beautiful Pilgrim)

Summary: a knight rescues a lady beset by brigands. She is on pilgrimage but fears to continue without escort. The knight offers to accompany her, but must acquit himself of a deed of arms first. The beautiful pilgrim asks for valiant knights and others of martial prowess to challenge her rescuer so that he may be freed to protect her on her pious journey.

To all excellent, high and powerful princes and princesses, barons, lords, ladies and gentle knights, who, in their grace, come to read these letters, my recommendations and kind greetings. I, who am called by many the Belle Pelerine, had occasion to become informed of high festivals in the city of Rome. I made preparations to take the road to go there. Because of my weakness, and because I was scarcely accustomed to endure great pains, I went forward by short journeys, doing my devotions at those holy places that could be found on my route. As I made my way in this manner fortune lead me near the sea, near the borders of a high and nearly impenetrable forest, within which pillagers and robbers of the sea were lying in wait, and they came with wild ferocity against me and my companions.

And I certainly believe that we all would have been slain or taken prisoner had it not happened that a knight riding nearby heard the noise and came hastily against the robbers, and by his free generosity delivered me and my company from their hands. And sorely tried by the affray, I fell to the ground as though struck down.

Then the knight lifted me up and took me sweetly in his arms, saying “My dear lady, you have nothing to fear. Take heart and be comforted, by God’s mercy you have been delivered from your enemies. If it please you I will lead you to a good town and a secure place nearby”.

And when he had said this, and I had recovered myself a little and was able to speak I thanked him from my heart for the great courtesy and kindness he had done me.

And I began to think seriously about the peril and danger I was in, considering the way I had yet to go was long, narrow and perilous, and equally that to return to my country with my pilgrimage uncompleted would be grievous and very displeasing. Weeping, I said sir knight, today I am the most troubled gentlewoman in the world, and I don’t know what to do”

And when he heard that he sweetly told me that if he could offer me any counsel, or do anything that the body of a knight could honorably accomplish, he would spare nothing to do it. When I heard him speak so freely and make such graceful offers I disclosed my affairs to him, and how I had come from my country to do pilgrimage, and how I still had a long way to go on a perilous road, and saw the great peril and danger in returning to my country, and how I had no certain safe conduct. I hoped he could supply that, for the love of God and for the pity that all gentle knights ought to have for ladies in distress. And by his courtesy to escort and guide me during my pilgrimage, which as I have said I had great devotion to perform.

The knight thought a bit and he answered “My dear lady I have no wish to refuse you but there is something I must do first and that done, if it please God I will not fail you. I would be shamed and dishonored if I failed to go the whole way with you, guarding and defending you against anything that might occur. My dear lady, I must warn you that in truth I have undertaken a vow, by my faith, which I may not put aside, for first I must accomplish a deed of arms. This is to guard a passage near the tower of Beau-Jardin on the road between Calais and St. Omer in Picardy in the diocese of Thereimance, which was once called the place of Beau-Jardin and is now called the Green List. Which passage I have the intention to guard and will guard if it please God on the Monday the third of August from two by the clock until five, to deliver all gentlemen and knights come of a noble line of a deed of arms declared in certain chapters which shall follow. And, my very dear lady, if it is your pleasure to rest in this country after the travail which you have suffered, I will be ready, once my enterprise is accomplished, to undertake to lead and conduct you wherever you wish and do you all the honor that I may, as I wish to do what pleases you well.”

And at that, when I had heard the sweet words of that knight and thought of the great danger that I had been in. And how, if I had no good safe conduct, I could not avoid great danger. And I, considering that the response of that knight was courteous and his offers gracious I thanked him humbly and remained at his convenience.

And so, very excellent, very high and very powerful princes and princesses, barons, lords, ladies, and gentle knights, I the aforesaid pilgrim am now in a strange country in great trouble and displeasure and greatly wishing to do my pilgrimage. And I will not be able to do without the aid of that knight who has undertaken to lead me on my voyage unless he is able to accomplish his deed of arms.

And so I address myself to your good grace and beg you in all humility as a gentle woman who is in perplexity, and can do nothing without your nobility and franchise. In kindness to the ladies may it please you to give leave and license, and what is more, encouragement to the noble knights of your courts, countries and lordships, by their courtesy, to shorten my voyage by delivering that knight of his enterprise of arms, according to the chapters which will follow.

And also to you, valiant knights, I sweetly beg, for the honor of your ladies, that it please you to do so, and in doing this you will win honor and true renown. And you will always be held in prayers to God and I will pass on your good renown and that of all knights who wish to take pains to acquire it, and I will make known their noble and valiant courage and the love and honor which they bear for their ladies. And that knight requires and also will assure you that nothing will be done in this enterprise out of hate, envy or ill will for anyone and hopes that no one would think the contrary. But instead this is done to occupy themselves and to assay the noble estate of chivalry. The deed will also be done to have the acquaintance and knowledge of good and valiant knights from foreign lands in hopes to know better their valor.

And at present the knights does not wish to be named. but to put aside any doubt or questions that he is unable to perform such occasion I certify in truth that he is drawn of a noble line and of a powerful house and without villainous reproach and that he will be found in this place arrayed on the day declared in the chapters to do and accomplish that said enterprise if it please God. And finally I pray to the high and powerful prince the count d’Estamps that by his good grace it will please him to put the seal of his arms on these present letters and on the chapters of the said enterprise of arms which I shall further declare.

Chapters of the enterprise of arms of the knight who has undertaken to escort the noble lady who they call the Beautiful Pilgrim

First, the said knight, by the good will, leave and license of the very high, very powerful prince and his very redoubted master, my lord the duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Lembourg, will be present in person, the third day of August, in a passage or place near the tower of Beau-Jardin, on the road between Calais and Saint-Omer, in Picardy in the diocese of Teruanne, once called the Tower of Beau-Jardin and now called the Green List. And with God’s help he will guard that passage or place from the hour of two by the clock until five. And by that place will be hung a shield, argent with three bends gules, signifying the shield that was born in his time by the valiant knight Lancelot of the Lake, who was loyal and happy in arms. And near that shield will be a pollaxe and a sword, and a horn such as huntsmen are accustomed to carry in the chase.

Item: and near that shield will be another of checky sable and argent with two Saracens’ swords crossed gules which are the arms of the good knight Palamedes who always sought in his time to acquire a lady bearing arms and searching for adventures and near that shield there will be a pollaxe and a sword.

Item : Near that the said knight will have a pavilion set up where there will be at that time a king of arms or herald accompanied by pursuivants of arms who will do their office in the way afterwards declared.

Item: to better declare the present enterprise of arms of the said knight his intention is that all knights, gentlemen of names arms without villainous reproach who have the desire and wish to do arms, except for the subjects and servants of my lord of Burgundy if it is their good pleasure to touch one of the two shields that is to say the white shield with the three bends gules and the axe or sword or both or the shield checky of argent and sable and the axe or sword or both they will be held to furnish to the knight of the pilgrim the arms which will be afterwards declared and they will not be able to accomplish them in one or the other manner if they have not first touched one of the two shields aforesaid.

Item: to put aside the doubts of those knights coming from distant countries that they might not be satisfied in their enterprise if there is a great number of knights who have touched one of the two shields, the one who has touched first will have first place in the arms and consequently the others according to the order in which they have touched the shields according to the report of the king of arms and herald which will put down in writing the name of the knight and when he has touched the shield.

Item: so that the comers need not fear that a solitary knight might be vanquished or prevented by unforseen difficulties from satisfying them before they can accomplish their enterprise, the knight of the enterprise will be accompanied by certain companions calling themselves pilgrims arrayed and prepared to defend the passage.

Item: and if there is any knight of the condition aforesaid desiring to do arms and to accomplish the enterprise and adventure and wishes to touch one of the shields on the day of the Passage of Arms he may come to the place and sound the horn between the hours of two and five by the clock at which sound there will come the king of arms or herald who will demand the name of the knight and the time at which he has come and afterwards he will say “Very noble knight, I and my companion are ordered by my master who has undertaken the escort of the Belle Dame Pelerine who God give honor and joy, to warn and inform you and other noble knights of what they must do if they touch the shields of the enterprise which you see here.”

“In truth no knight may be received to do the arms which pertain to the shield argent with bends gules if he does not have a lady or demoiselle in love who by her grace has retained him as a servant.”

“However, any other knights may undertake and accomplish the arms that pertain to the shield checky argent and sable.”

Item: no lord or knight may perform the arms pertaining to both shields, but must choose one or the other.

Item: and if a knight has sounded a horn and touched the axe he will be held to encounter the knight of the dame pelerine for the following arms: to meet on foot for a throw or push of the lance, whichever better pleases the knight of the dame pelerine and following that to fight with a pollaxe until xvii strokes are struck and set on by one of the two knights. And the said knight of the Dame Pelerine shall provide the lances and axes to do this, both alike, of which the foreign knight will have his choice.

Item: If it happens, which God forbid that either of the knights doing these arms is carried to earth, touching it with hand or knee, or is disarmed or otherwise unable to continue, before the number of strokes is performed in that case the arms will be held to be accomplished and another knight will be allowed to commence his deed if it please him.

Item: And if he touches the sword he will be bound to do the arms which follows; which is to say to come together on foot for a throw of the lance such as the knight of the Beautiful Pilgrim will give and will bear to that place, two alike, of which the foreign knight will take his choice. And after that throw they will fight with the sword, of which the knight of the enterprise will also provide two alike, so that xix strokes are done and accomplished and if either in fighting is carried to earth or disarmed or otherwise unable to continue the arms will be held to have been accomplished as aforesaid.

Item, any champion who has undertaken the arms of Lancelot’s shield and is carried to earth or otherwise unable to continue will be bound to give to his opponent to give to his lady a brooch, ring, jewel or gem.

Item: In fighting neither of the knights may lay hands on the other but only fight with weapons under pain of being blamed and dishonored.

Item: If there are any princes dukes or counts or their children who are not yet knights that would be pleased to come and give succor to the said dame pelerine for the honor of their ladies in consideration of the high lineage and they will be received as though they were knights. And further, any other gentlemen without reproach who are not yet knights but who please the ladies by their nobility and high resolve shall be likewise accepted to perform their enterprise.

Item, there will be in that place certain ladies willing to accept noble knights and gentlemen as their servant who wish to undertake the shield of Lancelot. And further, if there is a champion that is unable to provide the token required if they are unable to complete the arms of the shield of Lancelot, the ladies of their grace will provide it.

Item: If there are any knights squires or gentlemen besides those which have touched one of the two shields or who have completed their enterprise, who would have the pleasure of exercising themselves in arms, they will find in that place during that time a certain number of gentlemen who will be equipped to furnish those who wish and require for the love of their lady group combat in the field or across the barrier, with rebated weapons of six feet in length or less. And these combats will occur as often and for as long as it please the ladies.

Item: there shall be a rich prize provided for the champion that shows the greatest prowess, and for the one that makes the bravest, noblest and most courteous entry upon the field.

Item: If there is any difficulty doubt or obscurity concerning the content of the present chapters of the said enterprise of arms, the aforesaid knight who has undertaken the escort of the dame pelerine retains the right to interpret and clarify the same.

And at the humble and instant supplications of my pilgrim aforesaid, the very excellent and very powerful prince my lord the duke of Burgundy and of Brabant and my very redoubted lord has been declared to be the judge of these arms and the performance of the said enterprise and of his grace and goodness he has taken the charge of holding the place secure as well as all other duties pertain to a judge.

And if it happens because of the high and great affairs of my lord duke he is not able to be present in person he has declared that it shall be done as aforesaid and promised by the high and powerful prince the count of Charolais his son, or by any of my lords his nephews.

And we, John of Burgundy, count d’Estamps and lord of Dourdan at the request of the noble and honored lady the Beautiful Pilgrim, to honor all ladies and to give greater certainty to all the things written above, and likewise that no one may doubt that the knight that has undertaken to escort that beautiful pilgrim will be able to perform his duty in the present enterprise, if it please God to defend against any encumbrance or lawful bodily injury, we have affixed the seal of our arms this day, July the IVth in the year of grace MMIX.

Combat Conventions

The single combats will end as soon as one or the other has thrown an agreed number of blows, even if nobody is knocked down or disabled first.

Each combat between two champions will continue until the judges stop the fight, or a champion is unable to continue, or the agreed number of blows has been struck by one side or the other.

A champion is unable to continue if he is struck five good blows in the course of the combat, or falls or becomes disarmed, or is disabled as described below. A champion whose weapon breaks is not considered disarmed, and the fight will halt while he replaces it.

Effects of Blows

Two handed edge blows have no effect against plate or brigantine torso armor, and count as one good blow against the head or other protection.

A hit with a thrown lance or spear counts the same as a two handed edge blow. For the justification of the relative effectiveness of thrown weapons, see here.

Single handed edge blows have no effect against any plate but the helmet, and count as a good blow against the head or lesser protection elsewhere.

Thrusts have no effect against any plate except for plate helmet visors or faceplates, count as one good blow against these or mail, and a disabling blow against barred visors and lesser protection.

Heavy hardened leather and other suitably covered rigid protection will generally count as plate, with debatable cases to be decided by the discretion of the judges. The judges will, as far as seems practical, attempt to match opponents with similar levels of protection like against like, and harness from the same period like against like.

I suggest these rules for halfswording with two-handed swords, if both parties consent.

Do not act out blows, but call them out clearly. Except in group combat you need not keep track of the blows struck yourself: those guarding the list will do so for you.

The initial throw or push with lance or spear is not obligatory. Although the original chapters mention it, we know that in Olivier de la Marche's Chronicle the Swabian knight that attended fought only with the axe. Also, although the choice of throw or push with the lance at the shield of Lancelot is at the discretion of the knight of the Beautiful Pilgrim, he will not unreasonably refuse the request of a comer for one or the other.

Group Combats with Rebated Weapons

After any telling blow, retreat to your end of the lists, cry your cry, and return to the fray. Do not act out amputations. The weapons are no more than six feet long: a sword, pollaxe or short spear.

René’s rules assumed the combatants would batter each other with blunt weapons, and if a combatant was temporarily stunned his retainers would protect him until he recovered. Standard SCA rules in which the man struck pretended he was crippled or killed were not appropriate. After our first recreation we omitted the armored retainers who protected their master in René’s rules: under the adapted rules they didn’t have a lot to do or scope to enjoy themselves. (In the original, this was irrelevant: they were paid to do their job, not to have fun).

We often fight this over the barrier. Barriers didn’t become part of friendly deeds of arms until around 1500, rather later than René’s rules. However, barriers do allow good control of the melee with minimal need for marshaling. Sword and shield at the barrier tends to be an uninteresting fight, and I would discourage that choice if the combatant is able to use one of the other options.

Since we fight on foot we faced a fundamental choice. Should we use contemporary foot combat conventions while using as much of René’s format as made sense, or should we follow as many of his rules as possible even if they lose their purpose in the absence of horses? We eventually chose the first, and so allowed the typical weapons of foot combat. Thrusts were only rarely prohibited in contemporary foot combat so we allowed them.

You can learn more 15th century deeds of arms at here:

Some of the historical basis for the combat rules can be found here.

The Historical Pas

The letters of the beautiful pilgrim and the chapters of the enterprise are adapted from those for the original pas of 1449, found in Chronique de Mathieu d'Escouchy : 1444-1452. By Mathieu d' Escouchy, Gaston Louis Emmanuel du Fresne Beaucourt
Published by Mme Ve J. Renouard, 1863, beginning on page 244. The work is digitized here:

The principal changes I made are:

The original was held for a full month, beginning the 15th of July, 1449, at a place “presently called the Cross of the Pilgrim”

All who came to work for the lady’s deliverance were to receive a pilgrim’s staff of gold, garnished with a rich ruby, which the lady asked them to carry for a year in remembrance of her. Of course, they weren't expecting a lot of comers, because of the distances to be traveled, and they got even less than they expected.

The arms of Lancelot were blazoned as a white shield with a “band de veling vermeille” I could not find a definition of veling, and substituted the three bends traditionally attributed to Lancelot.

There were four different combats associated with the shields in the original. The shield of Lancelot had a lance, signifying 13 courses along the tilt with sharp lances, and an axe, signifying the sort of combat I assigned to it. The checky shield had two swords by it; the shorter signified one course with mounted lance and five with the sword. The longer signified combat on foot, first throwing a sword and then doing 19 strokes with another sword carried on their body. Each of these combats were scheduled for specific days of the week.

The knight who made the most good hits (le plus de belles attaintes) while running courses with the lance would be given a diamond by the lady; there was no other overall prize.

In the original only knights and the sons of great nobles were invited to touch the shields. Knights, squires and gentlemen who did not touch one of the shields could run 11 courses with sharp lances along the tilt.

In the original deed there was no forfeit for those who were carried to earth or disarmed, although this was a rule in several contemporary deeds of arms.

The following rule was added at the request of the ladies of the Company of St. Michael

"Item, there will be in that place certain ladies willing to accept noble knights and gentlemen as their servant who wish to undertake the shield of Lancelot. And further, if there is a champion that is unable to provide the token required if they are unable to complete the arms of the shield of Lancelot, the ladies of their grace will provide it."

In the announcement of the historical pas de la Belle Pelerine, the passage was described as being held by a single knight. Escouchy’s Chronique reports that many who were invited did not attend because they feared the single defender would be put out of action before they were able to take part. In fact, the knight of the Belle Pelerine was accompanied by six squires who were also prepared to defend the passage although they were only mentioned in passing in the announcement. To avoid a recurrence of this problem, the announcement of our recreation makes the support of the knight’s companions more explicit.

Hamilton vs. Caupance, ca. 1500

Sune thair efter come ane Dutche knyght in Scottland callit Schir Johne Clokbuis and desyrit fighting and iusting in Scottland witht the lordis and barrouns thairof, bot nane was sa apt and redy to fight witht him as was Schir Patrick Hammilltoun, beand then ane zoung man strang of body and abill to all thing, bot zeit for lack of exercioun he was not so weill practissit as neid war, thocht he lackit no hardiement strength nor curage in his proceidingis. Bot at the last quhene the Dutch man and hie was assembelit togither batht wpoun great horse, withtin the listis of Edinburgh wnder the castell wall, efter the sound of the trumpit ruschit rudlie togither and brak thair speiris on ilk syde wpoun wther; quhilk efterwart gat new speiris and recounterit freischelie againe. Bot Schir Patrickis horse wtterit witht him and wald on nowayis reconter his marrow, that it was force to the said Schir Patrick Hammelltoun to lyght on footte and gif this Dutchman battell; and thairfor quhene he was lichtit doune, cryit for ane tuo handit suord and bad this Dutchman lyght frome his horse and end out the matter, schawand to him ane horse is bot ane waik warand quhene men hes maist ado. Than quhene batht the knyghtis war lyghtit on fute they junitt pairtlie togither witht right awfull contienance; ewerie on strak maliciouslie at wther and faught lang togither witht wncertane wictorie, quhill at last Schir Patrick Hammilltoun ruschit manfullie wpoun the Dutchman and strak him wpoun his kneis. In the meane tyme the Dutchman being at the eird the king cast out his hatt out of the castell wondow and caussit the iudges and men of armes to sinder and red thame. Bot the harrottis and the trumpitis blew and cryit the wictor was Schir Patrick Hammilltounis. This Schir Patrick Hammilltoun was brother german to the Earle of Arrane and sister and brether bairnes to the kingis maiestie and was ane nobill and waliezeant man all his dayis.

Pitscottie, Historie, pp.234-235 Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie was writting in the late 16th c. "Schir John Clokbuis" seems to have been John Caupance, a French squire

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Love. Death. Airships. Parasite fighters.

Another funny, sweetly moving film from Pixar.