The Medieval Tournament: Chivalry, Heraldry and Reality. An Edition and Analysis of Three Fifteenth-Century Tournament Manuscripts

The Medieval Tournament: Chivalry, Heraldry and Reality. An Edition and Analysis of Three Fifteenth-Century Tournament Manuscripts

By Ralph Dominic Moffat

PhD Dissertation, University of Leeds, 2010

Abstract: In the Royal Armouries collection is a codex comprising three fifteenth-century manuscripts in French. The codex is not only unpublished, it has never been transcribed or translated. The content is a primary source for the study of the medieval tournament as well as many other aspects of the elite culture of late-medieval Burgundy, England, and France. It is composed of fourteen different texts called items. This edition comprises a transcription of over 50,000 words of text in three different hands and a translation from the medieval French into English.

The commentary is tripartite. The first section is a technical physical description, with an investigation of the palaeography, provenance, and miniatures of the three manuscripts. The second is a discussion of the origin of the production of the codex. It will be postulated that it was produced by heralds for heralds. In the third section explanatory notes are given to the fourteen items to allow a greater understanding of the codex. Drawing on similar primary source material, much of it unpublished, a clearer definition of the terminology employed for the various forms of combat is offered. Often subsumed under the category of ‘the tournament’, the examination of the organization and regulation of, and specialized equipment used in, these forms of combat reveals a more complicated phenomenon than is often represented in current studies.

Introduction: The central core of this thesis is a transcription and translation of, and commentary on, codex RAR.0035(I.35) in the collection of the Armouries. This codex comprises three MSS in French containing over 50,000 words. The first two MSS are of fifteenthcentury date and the third, copied in the late-sixteenth century, contains material relating to the previous century. It has not been published or made widely available in any form. The contents of the codex are an exceptional primary source for the study of the chivalric culture of late-medieval Burgundy, England, and France. They include challenges to, and narratives of, combat involving influential courtiers such as Anthony Woodville, Lord Scales, brother-in-law of Edward IV, and Antoine, the Great Bastard of Burgundy, an illegitimate son of Duke Philip the Good. There is an account of a deadly combat at Tours in February 1446/7 which is vividly illustrated with eight miniatures. Also included are invitations to jousts, descriptions of – and a statute regulating – tourneys, as well as an ordinance concerning the payment of heralds’ fees. As will be argued further, this codex is the product of the agents and custodians of this culture: the heralds. An investigation of their role in the creation and function of the codex is provided as an element of the study.

Various forms of combat are described in the codex and in similar primary sources. There has been a tendency in a great deal of current scholarship to apply the catch-all category of ‘the tournament’ to all of these. The area of primary research that this thesis is restricted to is a deeper understanding and clearer definition of the forms, organization, terminology, and equipment used in these combats. Jousts (of peace and war), tourneys, pas d’armes, and feats of arms are terms commonly employed but often much misunderstood in secondary source material. The explanation of the equipment and its use is one of the most prominent topics in need of revision. Through an analysis of the various types of equipment referred to throughout the codex and in other contemporary sources a fuller understanding of the forms of combat and their definition is provided.

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