Thursday, February 18, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 234

Jousts of St. Inglevert, 1470-1475

During a season of truce in the 100-years’ war (1347-1453), three French knights held an “all comers of foreign lands” jousting tournament in the town of St. Inglevert, France near Calais which lasted for a period of 30 days in the year 1390.  This famous event was written up in Tales from Froissart by Jean Froissart and illustrated by the Master of Harley Froissart 70 years later in 1470-1475.  The miniature, approximately 5 ½“ by 7 ½,” shown on the postcard is one of several similar illustrations found in the Tales.  The original is found at the British Library in London, England.  Henry Stone & Son (Printers) Ltd, of Banbury, England issued this unused card in 1976.  Historian Steve Muhlberger of Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada has written and posted information on the Internet about the tournament, see the links below.  

The three French knights in armor and mounted on horses shown in the painting are Sir Boucicaut the younger (Jean II de Maingre), the Lord Reginald de Roye and the Lord de Saimpy (also written as Saimpi or Sempi).   Boucicaut also spelled Bouciquaut, the most famous of the three knights, defeated some of the very best English soldiers in single combat. The original calligraphy manuscript text seen above the picture on the card is in Latin later translated into English.  The three tents erected for the tournament were said to have been vermillion colored but the ones depicted on the card look more pale pink.  It is hard to determine if the color faded or if this is the way it was painted. 

The records show that a great many noble knights and squires from regions outside of France attended the tournament.  According to the Tales of Froissart there were two shields hanging from a spruce tree.  The competitors would touch one or the other shield to indicate if they wanted to use blunt lances for the joust of peace or sharp steel for the joust of war.  A herald was in the tree watching from sunrise to sunset to see which shield was touched, then asked the name of the contestant, which country he was from, what family he represented and if he was noble by name or by arms.  Late in the day the herald would take a list of those wanting to compete the next day to the three French knights. 

A few rules and conditions applied to the joust.  During the 30 days of the event, with the exception of Sundays and holy days, the three French knights would be willing to take on any challenger.  If one or two of the three became disabled the other one or two would continue in his stead.  If a horse was killed, full compensation was to be made.  He who was run out of bounds would forfeit his horse.  Unhorsing an opponent or breaking the lance or spear was most impressive while a lost helmet was not necessarily counted against one.  During the joust of war helmets made of tempered steel would give off sparks if hit hard enough.  Occasionally after one or two courses the horses would refuse to run at the opponent again or swerve at the last moment resulting in no hits.  Courage, ability with the lance and good horsemanship were counted of great value.  Unhorsed combatants could take up swords, daggers and axes to continue the competition.  In between tilts the contestants could and often did take a short rest in a pavilion before returning to the field and resuming the tilts.

Amazingly all three knights lasted the full 30 days of the competition where they met 39 opponents, some more than once, for a total of 137 courses.  If all were equal that would mean each opponent had approximately three tries to unhorse or disable one of the French knights; however, some may have only tilted once while others may have done more than 3.  Those who competed with sharp steel in the joust of war would have been in full armor and probably could not physically done more than 3 tries while those using the blunt spears in the joust of peace would not have had to be encased in armor and therefore could have gone on for more rounds.

For a full account of the event, information about the 100 years' war, and Sir Boucicaut, please see:'_War

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