Tournaments, Jousts and Duels: Formal Combats in England and France, circa 1380 – 1440.

Tournaments, Jousts and Duels: Formal Combats in England and France, circa 1380 – 1440.

By Rachael E. Whitbread

PhD Dissertation, University of York, 2013

The Tournament Book of King Rene of Anjou, attributed to Barthélémy d’Eyck, c. 1460

Abstract: This thesis examines the interplay between tournaments, jousts and single combats – here described collectively as formal combats – as ceremonial, military and political events within the context of late medieval Anglo-French history, circa 1380-1440.

This was a period of particular interest in Anglo-French relations, beginning with the accessions of Richard II of England (1377) and Charles VI of France (1380), and encompassing alternating periods of warfare and truce, including the truce of Leulinghen and the resumption of open hostilities in the fifteenth century. It ends with the retaking of Paris by Charles VII and subsequent French military gains.

This period also saw developments in formal combats themselves as the individual joust continued to increase in popularity and pas d’armes were more frequently organised on the continent. This thesis utilises a range of sources from both England and France – including heraldic material, manuals of knighthood, chronicles and biographies – to examine how formal combats were perceived both by those who recorded them, and those who participated in them.

The study of violence is often focused on the battlefield. Contemporary narrators however, placed formal combats on a spectrum of violence that also included warfare and battle. These events provide important opportunities to analyse late medieval attitudes to violence, the rules governing violent interactions, and how formal combats as violent acts could enhance martial reputation

Formal combats were recorded and remembered within a martial career to accentuate the honour of the participant, and were presented to idealise martial values and as didactic tools for encouraging the emulation of specific martial figures. Participation in formal combats gave men the opportunity to demonstrate their manhood through the practice of martial skills, the display of prowess, and the acquisition and maintenance of honour. Examining the roles that women played in these events also demonstrates how they interacted with discourses of honour and violence in the later medieval period, as ceremonial participants and witnesses.

Click here to read this dissertation from the University of York.

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