Juliet says: "This is the first serious wide-ranging
study of medieval tournaments but I confess that my contribution is very small
and is mainly limited to material relating to English and French tournaments,
much of it based on my thesis The Tournament in England 1100-1400. The
rest, including the survey of tourneying history in Germany, Italy and Spain,
is the work of the chivalry expert Richard Barber. I have to admit that my
favourite part of this book is the stunning illustrations – lots of full
colour and black and white photographs of medieval manuscript illuminations and
carvings. It is just a joy to look at."
What the cover says: The romantic image of the tournament, where steel-clad knights fought to win the love of ladies watching them, has perhaps been the reason why serious historians have tended to regard them as frivolous occasions. Lately, however, this attitude has changed, and the present book, which draws on recent research, is the first to present a coherent picture of the tournament. The subject proves to be a fascinating one, giving an extraordinary range of insights into the medieval mind, and into the origins of many of the attitudes that colour life and behaviour in the western world today.
The tournament is the first sport for which detailed rules and regulations survive: from its history emerges the concept of ‘fair play’, and the word itself survives as a description of many of today’s sporting events. There are unexpected parallels with modern sport – the problems of public order, with entire towns on police alert for tournaments, and the emergence of sporting heroes whose prowess has little practical application. The tournament reflects, as might be expected, the history of warfare; but many aspects of theatre are also first found in the tournament. Indeed, every theatre censor in Europe until the last few decades would have banned the occasion in 1428 when the Spanish king and his knights jousted on Sunday dressed as God and the Twelve Apostles.
The details of tournaments yield unexpected and lively vignettes of medieval life: a father’s proud record of his son’s first tournament, an 80-year-old knight jousting with his grandson, a knight begging for advice on ‘magic arts’, knights practising in the streets of Venice with bells on their trappings to warn bystanders to get out of the way. The visual aspects of the tournament are shown in a series of illustrations which bring the text vividly to life, and which include some of the finest surviving medieval manuscripts.