The Medieval Tournament: A Functional Sport of the Upper Class
By Stephen H. Hardy
Journal of Sport History, Vol. 1 (1974)
Synopsis: Sport has often both mirrored and conditioned many aspects of particular social classes; change in one has often effected change in the other. The tournament and the medieval upper class appear to have been related in this way. Thus a detailed consideration of the changes and various determinants of change in this medieval sport could be helpful in understanding the transformation of the most visible element of medieval society itself.
Introduction: Many a good tourney have I taken part in with the deadly blows I strike, for I can nowhere without men crying out ‘this is Piere Vidal . . . who loves battles and tourneys more than a monk loves peace, and grows sick of resting and remaining too long in one place.
The twelfth century troubador who wrote these martial lines truly represented the attitude of early chivalry; glory in both battle and tourney was a principal concern to the knights of this period. One would be mistaken, however, in assuming that Piere Vidal typified a cavalier of later years. By the late fifteenth century an obvious lack of the old adventurous zeal caused William Caxton to petition the English nobles:
O ye Knyghtes of Englond where is the custom and vsage of noble chyualry that was vsed in tho dayes.