On Tuesday 21 November 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!
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).