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Medieval Rules for Jousting

When King Alfonso XI of Castile founded the Order of the Band in 1330, he created a series of rules for how the members of this knighthood should fight and behave. One section from these statutes is about jousts – it was one of the earliest set of rules about jousting that we have from the Middle Ages. In Noel Fallows’ new book Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia, he translates this set of rules:

Jean de Saintré jousts with the Spanish knight, Enguerrant, at a tournament. - 15th century image from the British Library / Flickr

Jean de Saintré jousts with the Spanish knight, Enguerrant, at a tournament. – 15th century image from the British Library / Flickr

First Rule

Firstly, we declare that the knights who must joust should run four courses, and no more. And if in these four courses one knight should hit the other, splintering his lance, and the knight upon whom that lance splintered did not break his own lance by striking his opponent, he shall be vanquished, for he did not break his lance.

Second Rule

And furthermore, we declare that, if one knight splinters two lances and the other only one, the winner shall be the knight who breaks the two lances. But if the knight who only splintered one lance knocks off his opponent’s helm with the same blow, a tie shall be declared between him and the knight who splintered the two lances.

Third Rule

And furthermore, if a knight shatters two lances by striking his opponent, and the knight who has been struck knocks him off his horse, even though he did not splinter his lance, a tie shall be declared between him and the knight who splintered the two lanes.

Fourth Rule

Furthermore, if one knight knocks down both his opponent and his horse, and the other knocks down the knight but not his horse, we declare that the knight whose horse fell with him shall be the winner, because the fault in this case was the horse’s and not the rider’s. And in the case of the knight who fell but whose horse did not, the fault rests with the knight and not with the horse.

Fifth Rule

Furthermore, we declare that lance staves shall not be judged properly broken if they are broken crosswise, but only if they break after striking with the point.

Sixth Rule

Furthermore, we declare that if in these four courses each knight splinters two staves, or one each, or they each strike in the same place, a tie will be declared between these two. And if in these four courses they never manage to hit each other at all, let the judgement be that they jousted poorly.

Seventh Rule

Furthermore, we declare that if any knight should drop his lance whilst charging, without ever coming to blows, his opponent should raise his lance and not strike him, for it would be unchivalrous to strike an opponent who had no lance.

Eighth Rule

And in order to judge these affairs, we declare that there should be four judges in place: two assigned to one team, and another two assigned to the other team, so that they can ensure that the knights who have jousted the best are declared the winners.

You can read more of Alfonso XI’s writings, and other sources, in Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia, by Noel Fallows, published in 2010 by The Boydell Press. You can also read more articles about tournaments and jousting, including:

Urban Jousts in the Later Middle Ages: The White Bear of Bruges

How to be a successful jouster in the 16th century

Jousting the latest extreme sport with Full Metal Jousting

“Want to joust?” Medievalists.net talks to champion jouster Shane Adams

The Medieval Tournament: A Functional Sport of the Upper Class

A Burgundian Death: The tournament in Le Chevalier Délibéré

 

 

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