Jousting

Jousting has a long and rich history that stretches back several hundred years before the Tudor period. In the 1100’s warfare included mounted cavalrymen with heavy lances who would charge at their enemy in formation. Therefore jousting was initially used as a means for knights to train for warfare. Jousting tournaments consisted of mock battles with dozens or even hundreds of men all riding horses and carrying lances. They would attack one another with their lances, swords and maces across a large area such as the countryside. Then from around the mid 1300’s the more formalised style of jousting began where one man charged at another.

Jousting soon became popular events where people would flock to watch noblemen fight for the honour of their King or Queen. Under Henry VIII jousting celebrations became huge spectacles designed to impress and overwhelm spectators. Men would dress up in disguises and magnificent and intricate floats with spectacular decorations were created. In addition lavish prizes were also granted to the winner of such events.

The joust became a highly formalized event and there was a great deal involved in organising a joust. A suitable area needed to be found and then set up and men had to be chosen to represent various members of royalty. The area designated to hold the joust was called the list, a roped off area where the two competitors challenged one another. Down the centre of the list a barrier was erected to create two lanes for the jousters to ride down. This barrier was initially known as the tilt and was first made out of cloth and then in the early 16th century was made out of wood. The tilt also allowed riders to focus more on their opponent rather than steering their horse. Overtime the tilt became known as the tilt barrier and the act of riding down the list was called tilt or tilting.

Men needed to be physically fit and very strong to be able to participate in a joust. Not only was their armour extremely heavy they also had to be able to ride a horse at full speed as well as wielding their lace with skill and accuracy. In addition to this they had to weather any potential blows they may receive to their shield or body.

The rules surrounding jousting are complicated but it was the aim of a participant to strike their opponent upon the shield, armour or to wield such strength that they could dismount their opponent with their lance. Points were awarded according to where the blow was struck and if the lance was broken. Specialised armour was created for jousters and in many tournaments the participant rather than the King would have to supply their own armour, horses and weaponry.

Lances were often blunted but this did not stop an array of injuries or even deaths occurring during a joust. Bone fractures from the blow of the lance or falling from the horse were common and even bones could be broken. While not frequent death could also be the final result of a joust. For example King Henry II of France died in 1559 from wounds he received while jousting.

Henry VIII was a passionate and active member of the joust. Previously the young Henry had been denied the ability to joust in competitions as he was the sole heir to the throne. His father, Henry VII, feared his son may be injured or even worse killed. Yet when Henry came to the throne in 1509 as a young, handsome and extremely athletic King he quickly took to the excitement and chivalry of the joust.

Henry VIII lived by the code of chivalry and aimed to achieve great successes such as King Arthur of legend and the crushing defeats King Henry V achieved in Europe. Jousting closely tied with the code of chivalry as it allowed a man not only to practice and show off their great military skills but also allowed him to display his masculinity – something Henry VIII took great pride in. The majesty of a joust also allowed Henry to show off his splendour and wealth to important people and diplomates. They would then return home and pass on how truly chivalrous and powerful the English King was.

Henry VIII participated in many jousts throughout his life, the most famous being in 1511 when an extravagant tournament was held at Westminster to celebrate the birth of his son and heir (who tragically died a short time later). He also jousted on the 19th and 20th of May 1516 where Henry VIII’s opponents had been so dismal that he vowed “never to joust again except it be with as good a man as himself.

On the 10th March 1524 the King jousted against Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. In a dramatic miscalculation Henry forgot to lower his visor! Brandon was wearing a helmet that gave him very little vision and while people cried for Brandon to holt he could not hear them. He surged forward and struck the inside of the King’s helmet sending splinters exploding over the King’s face. Luckily Henry was not badly injured and laughed the whole incident off.

Then on January 24th Henry VIII fell from his horse during the joust and in full armour was crushed under the weight of the animal. The fall would have been the equivalent of a 40 mile per hour car crash! The King was unconscious for two hours and many feared for his life. Luckily he awoke but the King was never able to joust again.

Jousting 1511

Henry VIII Jousting before Katherine of Aragon in 1511

Sources:

History of Jousting, History, viewed 22 December 2015, <http://www.history.co.uk/shows/full-metal-jousting/articles/history-of-jousting&gt;.

Inside The Body of Henry VIII 2009, documentary presented by Robert Hutchinson, historian Dr Lucy Worlsey and Dr Catherine Hood, National Geographic.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J.S Brewer, James Gairdner and R.H Brodie, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932.

Levitt, Emma 2014, “A second king”: chivalric masculinity and the meteoric rise of Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk (c. 1484- 1545)”, University of Winchester- Gender and Medieval Studies.

Lipscomb, Suzannah 2009, 1536 The Year that Changed Henry VIII, Lion Hudson plc, Oxford.

Mackay, Lauren 2014, Inside the Tudor Court, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Medieval Jousting Tournaments, 2014, viewed 17 October 2015, < http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-knights/medieval-jousting-tournaments.htm&gt;.

Medieval Rules for Jousting, 2015, Medievalist.Net, viewed 17 October 2015, <http://www.medievalists.net/2015/01/07/medieval-rules-jousting/&gt;.

On Tuesday 21 October 1514, in the grand tournament to celebrate the marriage of Mary Tudor and King Louis XII, the fighting on foot began.

Francis Angoulême, Louis’ son-in-law and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk were both considered to be the best jousters of their respective teams, and official champions of their respective king’s. However it had been Brandon that had been outshining the French champion. On the first day of the tournament he ran at least fifteen courses in which he was the challenger for thirteen, the more demanding role. On the second day, Brandon continued to display his great skill. In three consecutive rounds he managed to unhorse his opponent, one of the greatest and most difficult feats of the joust to achieve. Dorset was also reported to have performed well, breaking many spears. On the fourth day Brandon ran six courses, of which they were almost all run consecutively

When the fighting on foot began on the 21st Francis was no longer able to compete. He wished to highlight the poor skill of the Englishmen and decided to put Thomas Grey Marquis Dorset and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk into battle against all challengers. Both men appeared to have fared well and it was reported that Francis was furious.

In an attempt to outshine and bring Brandon down, Francis brought in an enormous German of great strength and skill. He was reported to be taller and stronger than any Frenchman and was disguised so that no one would know he was German. Brandon found himself against an unexpected opponent. However he was a skilled fighter and an Englishman at that. He not only had his personal pride, but that of his country to uphold  After unhorsing his German opponent Brandon struck him with the butt end of his spear causing the German to stagger, but the fighting continued. After lifting their visors to draw breath, Brandon and the German continued to fight with blunt edged swords. Despite such a fierce opponent Brandon was able to defeat the German with his superior skill and managed to take him by the neck and pummel him about the head until blood came out of his nose. The defeated German was quickly whisked away so that no one would discover his true identity.

Brandon and the Englishmen were the clear winners of the magnificent tournament. Brandon’s only injury was a sore hand, that had been made a little worse after his battle against the German. Louis XII was reported to have been pleased that Francis did not fare well and stated that Suffolk and Dorset “did shame all France” and deserved the great praise they received.

Afterwards Brandon wrote to Henry VIII and the only mention of his performance at the tournament was a single line in which he stated ‘my lord, at the writing of this letter the jousts were done; and blessed be God all our Englishmen sped well, as I am sure ye shall hear by other.’

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk was renowned as one of the best jousters in all of England, second only to Henry VIII of course!

  Master of the Brandon Portrait

Source:

Everett Green, Mary Anne, Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary Vol 1 (London: H. Colburn, 1846).

Hall, Edward, Hall’s chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550 (London: J. Johnson, 1809).

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J.S Brewer, James Gairdner and R.H Brodie, (His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932).

Richardson, Walter C., Mary Tudor The White Queen (Great Britain: University of Washington Press, 1970).

The Christening of Edward VI

During the beginning of 1537 Queen Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, became pregnant. Henry ordered refurbished suites at Hampton Court for his Queen and also a set of new suites for his longed for son which he believed that Jane would bring him. Astoundingly Henry only gave his builders five months to add these huge rooms and additions to Hampton Court! Hundreds of men were hired for these magnificent additions and as well as being paid overtime Henry VIII also ordered candles so the men could work at night!

Jane Seymour had to spend the last month of her pregnancy shut away in her chambers at Hampton Court. Jane’s chambers were designed to represent a womb and would have been hung with tapestries covering the walls and windows, with only one window left open to let in a little light and fresh air. There would have been carpets on the floor and a strong fire crackling to provide warmth. Jane’s labour lasted for two days and three nights until finally on October 12th she gave birth to a son. At age forty seven Henry VIII finally had a legitimate son and heir. In celebration of the birth of a Prince and heir…

 “Te Deum was sung in Paul’s and other churches of the city, and great fires [were made] in every street, and goodly banquetting and triumphing cheer with shooting of guns all day and night, and messengers were sent to all the estates and cities of the realm, to whom were given great gifts.” (Letters & Papers Vol. 12, 2, 911)

Immediately a grand Christening was planned, every detail overseen by the King. On the 15th a grand procession took place at Hampton Court taking the newly born Prince to the Chapel Royal where he would be christened. Henry VIII designed the procession to be the greatest that had ever taken place at Hampton Court. In addition to baby Edward, high ranking members of the court and clergy were required to take their place as well as foreign diplomats and ambassadors so that they could report back to their own King’s what a superlative event the new Prince’s Christening had been.

Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic during the reign of Henry VIII record the magnificent procession of the young Prince to his Christening…

“The order of going to the christening was: First, certain gentlemen two and two bearing torches not lighted until the prince be Christened. Then the children and ministers of the King’s chapel, with the dean, “not singing going outward.” Gentlemen esquires and knights two and two. Chaplains of dignity two and two. Abbots and bishops. The King’s councillors. Lords two and two. The comptroller and treasurer of the Household. The ambassadors. The three lords chamberlains and the lord Chamberlain of England in the midst. The lord Cromwell, being lord Privy Seal, and the lord Chancellor. The duke of Norfolk and abp. of Canterbury. A pair of covered basins borne by the earl of Sussex, supported by the lord Montague. A “taper of virgin wax borne by the earl of Wiltshire in a towel about his neck.” A salt of gold similarly borne by the earl of Essex. “Then the crysome richly garnished borne by the lady Elizabeth, the King’s daughter: the same lady for her tender age was borne by the viscount Beauchamp with the assistance of the lord.” Then the Prince borne under the canopy by the lady marquis of Exeter, assisted by the duke of Suffolk and the marquis her husband. The lady mistress went between the prince and the supporter. The train of the Prince’s robe borne by the earl of Arundel and sustained by the lord William Howard.” “The nurse to go equally with the supporter of the train, and with her the midwife.” The canopy over the Prince borne by Sir Edw. Nevyll, Sir John Wallop, Ric. Long, Thomas Semere, Henry Knyvet, and Mr. Ratclif, of the Privy Chamber. The “tortayes” of virgin wax borne about the canopy by Sir Humph. Foster, Robt. Turwytt, George Harper, and Ric. Sowthwell. Next after the canopy my lady Mary, being lady godmother, her train borne by lady Kingston. All the other ladies of honour in their degrees.” (Letters & Papers Vol. 12, 2, 911)

Edward’s Christening would go down in the record books as one of the most prestigious and magnificent events that took place at Hampton Court. Within the Chapel Royal the spectacular Christening font was raised up upon a huge structure which took up almost all of the Chapel. The front was designed as such so that everyone in attendance could view the new Prince. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer preformed the Christening and afterward the Garter King of Arms proclaimed the new Prince’s titles: Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester. The Te Deum was then sung and spice, hippocras, bread and sweet wine were also served before little Prince was returned to his mother’s chambers in an equally impressive progression. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and Archbishop Cranmer stood as godfathers while Mary, Edward’s older half-sister stood as godmother.

Tragically Jane Seymour would have very little role in her son’s life. She would die just twelve days after the birth of her son of what was most likely puerperal fever, an infection of the vaginal passage or womb. Almost ironically the Queen’s body was taken on a similar procession through Hampton Court to the Chapel Royal where she lay in state for two week before she was taken to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle for burial.

Edward VI Baby

Sources:

Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court 2015, Documentary, BBC, United Kingdom, Presented by Dr Lucy Worsley and Dr David Starkey

‘Henry VIII: October 1537, 11-15.’ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 12 Part 2, June-December 1537. Ed. James Gairdner. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1891. 309-324. British History Online. Web. 23 September 2015. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol12/no2/pp309-324.

Licence, A 2012, In Bed with the Tudors: The sex lives of a dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Jane Seymour

On the 30th of May 1536 King Henry VIII married his third wife, Jane Seymour, in the Queen’s Closet at Whitehall; a mere eleven days after the execution of his second wife Anne Boleyn.

Jane Seymour first arrived at court in late 1520’s early 1530’s and attended both of Henry VIII’s previous wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn as a lady in waiting. However it does not appear that the King’s eye turned to Jane until early 1536.

In February of 1536 Henry was reported to have sent presents to Jane after Queen Anne Boleyn miscarried a male foetus at only three and a half months. Could it have been that the King was starting to believe that his second wife, of whom he broke with Rome and changed the course of religion in England to marry, could not provide him with the heir he so desired? It may be possible that Henry VIII’s eye now turned to Jane with the thought of courting her to possibly make her his third wife.

In April the King sent Jane a purse of money and a letter. Reports from the time suggest that Jane refused the letter and purse and instead fell to her knees begging the messenger to tell the King that:

she was a well-born damsel, the daughter of good and honourable parents, without blame or reproach of any kind; there was no treasure in this world that she valued as much as her honour, and on no account would she lose it, even if she were to die a thousand deaths. That if the king wished to make her a present of money, she requested him to reserve it for such a time as God would be pleased to send her some advantageous marriage.”

Weather she was coached in providing such a response or Jane’s words were her own they worked upon the King and his affection for her grew. Henry VIII promised to keep Jane’s virtue and vowed that he would only court her with a member of her family present. Thus the King installed Jane’s older brother Edward Seymour and his wife Anne at Greenwich Palace so that the King could meet with Jane with her brother present.

Yet who was Jane Seymour? The woman who captured the great Henry VIII’s attention and became his third wife and ultimately the mother of his beloved son?

Jane was the oldest daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall and Margery Wentworth. Her exact birth year remains unknown however at her funeral twenty nine ladies walked in succession, one for each year of the late Queen’s wife. As Jane died in 1537 then her birth year can be estimated at 1508/1509. She was one of eight children born to her parents, her father a soldier and courtier who fought for the King in 1513 at Tournai and also who attended the King at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.

Very little is known about Jane’s education and upbringing. It does not appear that she was an extremely literate woman and could only write her name. However as a young girl being raised in Tudor England it can be assumed that she would have learned the necessities for women at the time including needlework, dancing, music, how to run a household and other pursuits deemed fitting for a woman.

In regards to her appearance the Imperial Ambassador at the English Court, Eustace Chapuys described Jane as being “of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise”. While she may not have been a great beauty what she posessed was being quite the opposite of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife. Anne was known to be a powerful woman with a strong, determined mind. She was unafraid to voice her thoughts and opinions and even dared to challenge her husband the King. While this may have been thrilling and exciting during courtship Henry VIII desired a wife that could not only provide him with a son and heir, but also a wife that was his intellectual equal while also being submissive. When Jane Seymour became Queen she took the motto “Bound to Obey and Serve” – the perfect example of her position.

On the very day of Anne Boleyn’s execution Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issued a dispensation on the grounds of affinity (that Jane and Henry were fifth cousins) allowing the King and Jane to marry. The couple were betrothed the following day on the 20th of May.

Following their marriage on the 30th of May, Jane was introduced at Court during the Whitsuntide festivities and then was presented to the people of London in June. While a coronation was tentatively planned for the new Queen it had to be postponed due to an outbreak of the plague in the city of Westminster.

In May 1537 it was announced at court that Queen Jane was finally pregnant. The King was filled with such elation that he ordered bonfires to be lit in celebration. He showered Jane with presents and it is reported that during her pregnancy Jane craved quail and to satisfy his wife Henry VIII ordered the best quails from Flanders and Calais.

The Queen had to spend the last month of her pregnancy shut away in her chambers at Hampton Court. Jane’s chambers were designed to represent a womb and would have been hung with tapestries covering the walls and windows, with only one window left open to let in a little light and fresh air. There would have been carpets on the floor and a strong fire crackling to provide warmth. Jane’s labour lasted for two days and three nights until finally on October 12th she gave birth to a son. At age forty seven Henry VIII finally had a legitimate son and heir. In celebration of the birth of a Prince and heir…

 “Te Deum was sung in Paul’s and other churches of the city, and great fires [were made] in every street, and goodly banquetting and triumphing cheer with shooting of guns all day and night, and messengers were sent to all the estates and cities of the realm, to whom were given great gifts.”

Tragically Jane Seymour would have very little role in her son’s life. She would die just twelve days after the birth of her son at Hampton Court on the 24th of October 1537. It is most likely that she died from puerperal fever, an infection of the vaginal passage or womb. Her body lay in state in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court for two week before she was taken to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle for burial.

As Jane Seymour was only Queen for a very short period of time it is difficult to understand her true nature and intentions. Many people view her as a simple woman, a mere pawn of her families desire to see her on the throne and in turn lift their own positions at court. Some see her as a cunning, conniving lady in waiting who took the opportunity to see Anne Boleyn fall and replace her. Whatever people’s thoughts on Jane Seymour are it should be known that she worked diligently to reunite Henry VIII with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth as well as attempting to have Henry recognise Mary’s claim to the throne. Ultimately Jane Seymour will always be remembered as the woman that gave her life providing Henry VIII with his longed for son and heir.

Jane Seymour

Source:

Eakins, L 2012, ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’, viewed 14 May 2016, Available from Internet <http://tudorhistory.org/wives/>.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J.S Brewer, James Gairdner and R.H Brodie, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932.

Loades, D 2010, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Amberly Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Luminarium 2011, ‘Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature’, viewed 14 May 2016, <http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/&gt;.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Jane [née Jane Seymour] (1508/9–1537), Oxford University Press, viewed 14 May 2016, < http://www.oxforddnb.com/&gt;.

Starkey, D 2003, Six Wives The Queens of Henry VIII, Vintage, London.

Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York.

The marriage of Mary Tudor and Louis XII

On the 9th of October 1514 Princess Mary Tudor married King Louis XII of France at Abbeville. Just before dawn Mary and her ladies woke and after a light meal they began to dress and prepare for the ceremony. At seven o’clock Mary left her lodgings as part of a grand procession. At the head of the procession were twenty six knights marching in pairs, followed by musicians and heralds. Next came Mary wearing a French gown made from gold brocade, trimmed with ermine and dripping in expensive jewels showing off the wealth of England. Mary wore a coronet studded with jewels and her red hair cascaded down over back as a sign of her virginity.  Walking beside Mary were the Duke of Norfolk, the Marquis of Dorset, the Bishop of Durham, the Earl of Surrey, and Lord Monteagle. Each man was dressed in his most expensive clothing, including cloth of gold, damask and silk and wearing heavy golden chains in order to show their wealth. Behind Mary walked noble men and twenty four ladies wearing cloth of gold and beautiful jewellery. Lastly came thirteen women of Mary’s personal staff, each accompanied by a gentleman on either side.

Louis XII wore an outfit of gold and ermine designed to match Mary’s gown. Despite his clothing the French king was not as lavishly dressed as other members of his nobility who were each trying to outdo the English.

When Mary entered the hall Louis XII doffed his bonnet and in response Mary curtsied. The king stepped forward and gently kissed Mary before he led her to a seat beside his, under a canopy held by four French noblemen. Florimond Robertet, the King’s Treasurer, stepped forward and presented Louis XII with a necklace with a diamond and ruby worth around 10,000 marks to give to Mary.

Cardinal Rene de Prie, Bishop of Bayeux conducted the wedding service. First the nuptial mass was sung before the consecrated wafter was broken and shared between Mary and Louis XII; each kissed the wafer before consuming it. French tradition dictated that the king’s son, or nearest male relative, in this case Francis d’Angoulême, Louis XII’s son-in-law, serve the king throughout the marriage ceremony while Mary was attended by her daughter-in-law, Claude.

After the ceremony Mary stood, curtseyed to her husband and then kissed him. She then left the hall and returned to her apartments where she dined with her ladies. Mary was now a married woman.