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Knights-errant and gentlemen-soldiers had practised in actual warfare. The Tournament was usually held by the desire of some prince or distinguished nobleman, and was practiced in France and England. The novel of Ivanhoe gives a delightful description of a tournament held at Ashby in the county of Leicester in England. It may be that this very tournament never took place, but without doubt that interesting relation is a faithful picture of such tournaments as were actually exhibited.
For the purpose of exhibiting the tournament, a smooth surface of ground of considerable extent was chosen, and an oblong square, about a quarter of a mile in length, and an eighth of a mile in breadth, was enclosed by palisades, -gates at the opposite ends of this enclosure admitted the combatants. The tents or pavilions of these Champions were ornamented with flags and pennons—these were of the particular colour which was usually worn by the Knights. “The cords of the tents were of the same colour. Before each pavilion was suspended the shield of the Knight by whom it was occupied, and beside it stood his squire, quaintly disguised as a savage or sylvan man, or in some other fantastic dress, according to the taste of his master, and the character which he was pleased to assume during the game. From the entrance into the lists, a gently sloping passage led up to the platform on which the tents were pitched, and the whole was guarded by men-at-arms.”
The whole enclosed space was called the Lists. To regulate the proceedings, and to preserve order, trumpeters, heralds, and armed men were disposed in suitable places within the lists. To enter the lists, is a figurative expression still used to signily entering into competition with others in a difficult undertaking.
The Champions were the Challengers—those who de. fied others to contend with them for the mastery in certain exercises. At the extremity of the lists, opposite to that occupied by the Champions, was a space reserved for such “ Knights as might be disposed to enter the lists with the challengers, behind which were placed tents containing refreshments of every kind for their accommodation, with armourers, farriers, and other attendants in readiness to give their services wherever they might be necessary.
“ The exterior of the lists was in part occupied by temporary galleries spread with tapestry and carpets, and accommodated with cushions for the convenience of those ladies and nobles who attended the tournament. A narrow space, betwixt these galleries and the lists, gave accommodation for yeomanry and spectators of a better degree than the mere vulgar, and might be compared to the pit of a theatre. The promiscuous multitude arranged themselves upon large banks of turf prepared for the purpose, which, aided by the natural elevation of the ground, enabled them to look over the galleries and obtain a fair view into the lists. Besides the accommodation which these situations afforded, many hundreds perched themselves on the branches of the trees which surrounded the meadow, and even the steeple of the neighbouring church was crowded with spectators." “ Neither duty nor infirmity could keep youth or age from such exhibitions."
A gallery, more distinguished and adorned than the others, was, on these occasions, fitted up for the presiding prince and his retinue; and opposite to it was another gallery for the accommodation of the most noble and beautiful ladies. From among these the conquering Knight was expected to choose the fairest, whose office it was to crown the hero of the day with her own hand—and this lady, after she had been thus distinguished, was considered as the Queen of Love and Beauty. These were “Such sights as poets dream
On summer eve by haunted stream." It was assemblies collected upon such brilliant occasions, concerning which Milton wrote, that,
U throngs of Knights and barons bold
To win her grace whom all commend.” Tournaments have been compared to the Olympic games of ancient Greece, but the circumstance of admitting the ladies, and that of clothing the combatants with art and elegance, made the Tournament a far more beautiful spectacle than the contests of Greece.
The design of the combatants at the tournaments was for one of the antagonists to disable the other, either by throwing him from his horse or breaking his lance. The skill which was mutually displayed in managing the horse, and in maintaining a long contest with grace and activity, made these exhibitions very interesting; and, as it always happened, that for some reason or other, one of the antagonists would, at the commencement of the trial, be preferred to the other, the hopes and fears of his admirers formed great part of the pleasure derived from the exhibition. • The Challengers proposed to others who would come, the Defiance, which means, that they declared their personal dignity and skill in arms superior to any adversary's, unless it should be found upon trial that those who dared to encounter were able to vanquish them.
The number of challengers mentioned in Ivanhoe was five; the challengers were not to refuse to encounter any that should propose themselves. Any knight who should come might select his antagonist by touching his shield with his lance. If the touch was made with the blunt end of the lance, that intimated that the combat was to be conducted without a designed attack upon the life of either combatant;" but if the shield was touched with the sharp end, it intimated that the Knights were to fight as in actual battle.
“When the Knights present had accomplished their
vow,'by each of them breaking five lances, the Prince who should preside at the tournament was to declare the victor in the first day's tourney, who should receive, as prize, a war-horse of exquisite beauty and matchless strength; and in addition to this reward of valour, it was announced he should have the peculiar honour of naming the Queen of Love and Beauty, by whom the prize should be given on the ensuing day.
“It was also announced that on the second day, there should be a general tournament, in which all the Knights present, who were desirous to win praise, might take part; and being divided into two bands of equal numbers, might fight it out manfully, until the signal was given by the Prince to cease the combat. The elected Queen of Love and Beauty was then to crown the Knight whom the Prince should adjudge to have borne himself best in this second day, with a coronet composed of thin gold plate, cut into the shape of a laurel crown. On this second day the knightly games ceased. But on. that which followed, feats of archery, of bull-baiting, and other popular amusements, were to be practised for the more immediate amusement of the populace.
“ The lists presented a most splendid spectacle. The sloping galleries were crowded with all that was noble, great, wealthy, and beautiful in the country: and the contrast of the various dresses of these dignified spectators, rendered the view as gay as it was rich, while the interior and lower space, filled with the substantial burgesses and yeomen of merry England, formed, in their more plain attire, a dark fringe, or border, around this circle of brilliant embroidery, relieving, and, at the same time, setting off its splendour."
Before the commencement of the tournament the laws which regulated it were proclaimed by a herald, and order was preserved by men-at-arms, or marshals, who carried battle axes in their hands, and sometimes struck the disorderly with the pommel of their swords.
“ The heralds ceased their proclamation with their
usual cry of : Largesse, largesse, gallant Knights ;' and gold and silver pieces were showered on them from the galleries, it being a high point of chivalry to exhibit liberality towards those who were accounted the brightest ornaments of their age. The bounty of the spectators was acknowledged by the customary shouts of Love of Ladies-Death of Champions-Honour to the Generous
-Glory to the Braye! To which the more humble spectators added their acclamations, and a numerous band of trumpeters the flourish of their martial instruments. When these sounds had ceased, the heralds withdrew from the lists in gay and glittering procession, and none remained within them save the mashals of the field, who, armed cap-a-pee, sat on horseback, motionless as statues, at the opposite ends of the lists. Meantime, the enclosed space at the northern extremity of the lists, large as it was, was completely crowded with Knights desirous to prove their skill against the challengers, and, when viewed from the galleries, presented the appearance of a sea of waving plumage, intermixed with glistening helmets, and tall lances, to the extremities of which were, in many cases, attached small pennons of about a span's-breadth, which, fluttering in the air as the breeze caught them, joined with the restless motion of the feathers to add liveliness to the scene.
"At length the barriers were opened, and five Knights, chosen by lot, advanced slowly into the area; a single • champion riding in front, and the other four following in pairs."
The foregoing description is borrowed from Ivanhoe : ič leaves the tournament at its commencement, but it tells the uninformed what a tournament was.-All that was proclaimed was done. The strife followed, some were defeated and some were victorious-some retired from the field covered with blood and wounds, mor.tified and disgraced; others went off in due time, followed by looks of admiration and acclamations of praise. The crown of that day was the renown of all their days,