Scoring Masculinity: the English Tournament and the Jousting Cheques of the early Sixteenth Century
By Emma Levitt
Conference paper, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 2014
Introduction: The ambassador Philippe de Bregilles writing to Margaret of Savoy in August 1513 stated that she, ‘is aware he is a second king and it would be well to write him a kind letter’. This intriguing account describes Charles Brandon, the duke of Suffolk. It begs the question: how had Brandon come to take on such an exalted status?
Charles Brandon was born in 1484, to a modest gentry family. Owing his position at court to his uncle, Thomas Brandon. In 1501 Brandon first jousted publicly at the tournament held to celebrate the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon. Prince Henry often watched Brandon and his friends joust at Henry VII’s court during the last few years of his reign.
In 1507 Brandon jousted in favour of Mary Tudor; it is significant that Brandon took part in this spectacle as in 1514 they married. In the same year Henry made him duke of Suffolk. Brandon was the perfect companion for Henry, whom he resembled in both looks and build. He also shared Henry’s love of the joust, becoming the King’s valiant partner in the lists.
Brandon’s social advancement at Henry VIII’s court is exceptional. It was not commonplace for men of non-noble backgrounds to achieve this level of high status. What is particularly significant about Brandon’s meteoric rise is the extent to which it was facilitated by his demonstrations of a particular version of martial and chivalric masculinity.