The Joust

Jousting Horse

Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horsemen wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each participant trying hard to strike the opponent while riding towards him at high speed, if possible breaking the lance on the opponent’s shield or jousting armour, or unhorsing him. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism. The participants experience close to three and a quarter times their body weight in G-forces when the lances collide with their armor.

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The term is derived from Old French joster, ultimately from Latin iuxtare “to approach, to meet”. The word was loaned into Middle English around 1300, when jousting was a very popular sport among the Anglo-Norman knighthood. The synonym tilt dates ca. 1510.

Field armor of Henry VIII of England, Italian, Milan or Brescia, about 1544, at the w:Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Field armor of Henry VIII of England, Italian, Milan or Brescia, about 1544, at the w:Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jousting is based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. It transformed into a specialized sport during the Late Middle Ages, and remained popular with the nobility in England and Wales and Germany throughout the whole of the 16th century (while in France, it was discontinued after the death of King Henry II in an accident in 1559). In England, jousting was the highlight of the Accession Day tilts of Elizabeth I and James I, and also was part of the festivities at the marriage of Charles I.

Broken lances at a joust at Bristol Renaissance Faire, 2006
Broken lances at a joust at Bristol Renaissance Faire, 2006


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