How to be a successful jouster in the 16th century

If you came up against Henry VIII at a jousting tournament, it might just have been advisable to let the king win.  It certainly proved to be a good career move for Charles Brandon.  He was a superb jouster, able to beat all-comers… except Henry, it seems.  He ended up as a Duke and married the king’s sister.

Henry VIII jousting while Catherine of Aragon watches

This is one of the themes to emerge from of an intriguing project by a young University of Huddersfield researcher who is probably the first historian to make full use of some remarkable sources – the ‘score cheques’ that survive from English jousting tournaments.  Emma Levitt is finding out what they reveal about the culture of masculinity and her work has already created a stir of interest at a major conference, earned an approach from a publisher and gained her a special cash bursary.

The £1,000 award comes from the Richard III Society, on the grounds that her work casts new light on aspects of 15th century culture.  It will help to broaden Emma’s field of research as she works towards a PhD.  She acquired a history BA at the University of Huddersfield, then moved on to a Master’s in which her dissertation examined how Henry VIII asserted his masculinity.

“I touched on the tournament as an arena for displays of manhood and when I developed this theme for my PhD I decided that rather than just looking at the king I would examine the men around him,” said Emma.

Rules for jousting

She broadened her period of research so that she begins with Edward IV, who reigned between 1461 and 1483.  Like his grandson Henry VIII, Edward IV was highly athletic as a young monarch and he too competed in jousting tournaments.  It was during Edwards’s reign that John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, drew up rules for jousting that remained in use until the 1600s, when the sport began to fade out.

The College of Arms in London is the repository for the score cheques that are a major source for Emma.  The largest numbers to have survived date from the Elizabethan period, but there are some for tournaments that took place during the reign of Henry VIII.

Tiptoft’s rules included a scoring system, such as two points for a hit on the helm (helmet) of your opponent, one point for a body hit – and disqualification if you dip your lance and kill your opponent’s horse.

The score cheques record information such as the names of competitors, how many courses they ran, their scoring hits to the head or body, and their faults.

“They are effectively a way of quantifying chivalry and manhood,” said Emma.

Beating everyone, but the king

She has taken a special interest in the career of Charles Brandon, a man of relatively modest status who joined the court of Henry VIII and became Duke of Suffolk, marrying Henry’s sister Mary Tudor, despite little or no involvement in warfare, theology or politics – the normal arenas for advancement.

“The only thing he is any use at is jousting.  This is something that has been completely overlooked,” said Emma.  “I have used the score cheques to look at him and they show that he is the best jouster in Henry’s court and he often jousts against the king.

“However, it seems that he manipulates the scores. When he jousts against everybody else, he will win.  When he jousts against the king, he will lose.  In a way, he has done all the hard work for king – Brandon has beaten everybody else, but Henry has beaten Brandon!”

However there is no doubt that the younger Henry VIII was genuinely skilled with the lance himself.  “People imagine that he just won because he was king, but he was very good,” acknowledged Emma.  “The score cheques show us the kind of marks that he was able to hit and he had to have a very skilled technique to be able to do that.”

After a jousting accident in 1536, Henry was unable to compete again, leading to a decline into obesity, and this had massive implications for his reign.  “What do you do when you can no longer jump on a horse and be masculine?  How do you retain your manhood?” asked Emma.  In Henry’s case, he raised an army and invaded France.

Medieval masculinity

In addition to the score cheques, Emma is examining several other sources for her investigation of tournament culture and masculinity. These include accounts of tournaments by heralds, an examination of surviving suits of armour, plus portraits of Tudor courtiers, such as a depiction of Sir Nicholas Carew in which he is brandishing a lance.  The famous Holbein depictions of Henry himself emphasise key aspects of the king’s manhood – his legs and his codpiece.

Emma recently presented a paper at the prestigious International Medieval Congress in Leeds, after which a leading academic publisher expressed interest in her work.  Her PhD supervisors at the University of Huddersfield are Dr Katherine Lewis and Dr Pat Cullum, who are authorities on medieval masculinity.

Source: University of Huddersfield

REVIEW: Nelson, Navy, Nation at the National Maritime Museum

Lord Nelson's jacket. Worn at the Battle of Trafalgar where he was killed on October 21st, 1805.

Lord Nelson’s jacket. Worn at the Battle of Trafalgar where he was killed on October 21st, 1805.

REVIEW: Nelson, Navy, Nation at the National Maritime Museum

“England expects that every man will do his duty” ~ Horatio Nelson

I recently visited the National Maritime Museum for their Ships, Clocks and Stars exhibit but I also took the time to pop in and see the section devoted to one of England’s naval heroes and favourite sons, Lord Horatio Nelson.

Horatio Nelson was born September 29th, 1758 in Norfolk to moderately wealthy parents. He joined the Navy at age 12 in 1771 and quickly rose through the naval ranks with the aide of his uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling. Nelson was a formidable tactician and incredible strategist. He won numerous battles culminating in the famous 1805 victory, the Battle of Trafalgar, which claimed his life. He was voted as the ninth greatest Britain of all time. When Nelson died, he was given a state funeral; in attendance there were 32 Admirals, 100 Captains and an over 10,000 soldier escort to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The crypts of St. Paul’s are his final resting place and he lies in a magnificent sarcophagus that was originally intended for Cardinal Wolsey (1473 – 1530). To this day, Nelson remains a national treasure and English icon.

The National Maritime Museum has a wonderful exhibit dedicated to the life and times of Lord Nelson. The displays not only tells us about Nelson’s life and achievements but also give a glimpse into a Georgian sailor’s world. On display are the clothes, food, weapons and ship replicas from the period. There are also booming canon sounds and audio to give the visitor the feel of warfare at sea.

The most incredible part of the visit for me was seeing of course, seeing Nelson’s famous Trafalgar jacket. The jacket has the bullet hole that mortally wounded him on the Victory, on October 21st, 1805. You can also see the rest of the clothes he was wearing on the day he died as well as a lock of his hair, his final letter to his daughter, rings and other fascinating personal effects. There are also amazing pieces such as tickets and notices for his state funeral, and a snippet of the Union flag from the Victory. I was in complete and utter awe; it was a wonderful experience. This is by far, my favourite part of the National Maritime Museum.

If you are planning on spending any time in Greenwich while you visit London, this is a must see museum and a must see exhibit.

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~Sandra Alvarez

The Spanish Ulcer: Napoleon, Britain, and the Siege of Cádiz

The Spanish Ulcer: Napoleon, Britain, and the Siege of Cádiz

By Meredith Hindley

Humanities, Volume 31, Number 1 (January/February 2010)

 

Introduction: When Marshal Claude Victor-Perrin arrived at the gates of the island fortress of Cádiz, in Andalusia, he was confident the poorly defended town would immediately surrender. He and his troops had marched eighty-three miles in four days to take control of the last outpost of Spanish rebellion against Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Madrid was already in French hands, along with the rest of northern Spain. Days earlier on February 1, 1810, Napoleon’s brother, King Joseph, had ridden triumphantly through the gates of Seville. Spain seemed all but conquered.

But Cádiz’s governor refused to surrender. Over the centuries, the town’s thick stone walls had repelled the Moors, Barbary pirates, and the British. That morning, its walls harbored something else: twelve thousand men representing the last remnants of the Spanish army. Realizing Seville was lost, the Duke of Albuquerque had marched his ten thousand men to Cádiz, picking up another two thousand men from towns along the way. He arrived two days before Victor. If the French wanted the town, they would have to lay siege to it.

When the dust settled on the Napoleonic Wars, Cádiz held the distinction of being the only city in continental Europe to survive a siege by Napoleon. It wasn’t for lack of effort by the French. For thirty-one months—from February 5, 1810, to August 25, 1812—the French army cut Cádiz off from the rest of Spain and subjected the town to constant bombardment. And for the past two hundred years, historians and armchair generals have debated what would have happened if the French had captured it. Napoleon might have wondered the same. The “Spanish ulcer,” as he would call the Peninsular War, helped to sow his defeat.

“I must make all the peoples of Europe one people and Paris the capital of the world,” declared Napoleon. By 1807 his empire spanned from the Atlantic coast of France to the frontier of Russia. But there was one jewel missing from his crown. Britain had evaded every attempt at conquest, a credit to its naval prowess. If he couldn’t beat Britain on the high seas, Napoleon decided he would cripple its economy. “The English are a nation of merchants,” Austrian Emperor Francis II had complained to Napoleon in 1805. “To secure for themselves the commerce of the world, they are willing to set the continent in flames.”

Click here to read this article from the National Endowment for the Humanities

"The Ablest Man in the British Army" The Life and Career of General Sir John Hope

“The Ablest Man in the British Army” The Life and Career of General Sir John Hope

By Paul Patrick Reese

PhD Dissertation, Florida State University, 2007

Abstract: In 1793 Napoléon Bonaparte won his first victory at Toulon, France. In 1805 the Grande Armée marched from the English Channel to the Austrian capital and ultimately defeated a combined Austrian and Russian Army at Austerlitz. Napoléon’s corps had no rivals in Europe. For over twenty years France dominated every aspect of civilization in Europe. However, less than ten years after Austerlitz, Napoléon suffered his last defeat at Waterloo and was exiled from Europe forever. Throughout this entire period only England remained unconquered and defiant of the Emperor’s desires. Historians credit the Royal Navy and England’s commercial wealth as the primary reasons why Napoléon was never able to destroy his nemesis. However, in the end, it was not the Navy or England’s money that defeated the French; it was the British army. An army led by men like General Sir John Hope.

Hope entered military service in 1784 and first fought the armies of France in the West Indies during the mid-1790s. While he was in the West Indies, Hope began his long association with Generals Ralph Abercromby and John Moore who mentored him and furthered his military career. In 1799, Hope was appointed Adjutant General under Abercromby and participated in the Helder Campaign. Although wounded early in the campaign, Hope was later instrumental in the drafting of the Treaty of Alkmaar which ended the campaign. A year later, Hope once again sailed with Abercromby across the Mediterranean and took part in the British Egyptian Campaign in 1801. During the campaign, Hope distinguished himself in battle and negotiated the surrender of the French forces occupying Cairo and Alexandria.

Six years later in 1808, Hope was appointed second in command under Moore during the British army’s expedition to Sweden. After several months of waiting for permission to disembark in Sweden, the expedition was cancelled and Hope was diverted to Portugal. After the British victory at Vimeiro in August 1808, Hope arrived in Lisbon and was responsible for the embarkation of the French army under the provisions of the Convention of Cintra. Hope also assisted in the reestablishment of the Portuguese Regency. When the English government decided to assist the Spanish in their fight against the French, Hope was appointed as a division commander under Moore. Once British attempts failed to halt French advances in Spain, Hope joined in the disastrous retreat to La Coruña. Following the battle of La Coruña, Hope took charge of the British evacuation of Spain after Moore had been fatally wounded.

Upon his return to England in 1809, Hope was assigned as commander of the reserve for the Walcheren Expedition. Despite Hope’s reservations about the overall chances of success of the expedition, Hope’s men performed admirably in their assignments. However, the expedition failed to achieve its objectives and was forced to retreat after the French successfully reinforced the Scheldt Estuary and disease reduced the ranks of the British army.

In 1812, Hope was appointed Commander in Chief of British forces in Ireland. During his short tenure in Ireland, Hope restored the discipline of the army, quelled local disturbances, and was instrumental in the development of the Irish militia and police force. Ongoing campaigns on the Peninsula required Hope’s presence in October 1813, resulting in his transfer to Spain. Upon arrival, Hope was given command of the left wing of the Allied army under the Duke of Wellington. After successfully crossing the Bidassoa River into Southern France, Hope led the pursuit of the French army along the coast to the Nivelle River and eventually to the outskirts of Bayonne. Subsequent to the defeat of the French counterattacks in December 1813, Hope was given the responsibility of investing Bayonne. After successfully crossing the Adour River in February 1814, Hope’s army besieged Bayonne until its capitulation on 28 April 1814.

Wounded during the siege of Bayonne, Hope never again commanded troops in the field. He returned to Scotland and his wife of eleven years. While Hope was away on campaign, it was Louisa who gave him strength, and when he returned, he was able to repay her with his affection. In 1817, Hope became the 4th Earl of Hopetoun and moved his family to Hopetoun House in Linlithgowshire, Scotland. Two years later he was promoted to full general and in 1822 he was honored to host the King of England in his home. Unfortunately, after surviving campaigns in the West Indies, Egypt, the Netherlands, and on the Peninsula, Hope’s health failed in Paris, France where he died at the age of fifty-eight.

General Hope’s generalship and accomplishments contributed immensely to the overall success of the British army against Napoléon and warrant further review. Thousands of books have been written about the England’s war with France during the Napoléonic Era; however, very few of these books highlight the life and career of General Sir John Hope. The goal of this dissertation is to do just that – review the life and military career of John Hope through an objective and scholarly analysis of his and his soldier’s actions based on original correspondence and manuscripts.

Click here to read this article from Florida State University

"The army isn't all work": Physical culture in the evolution of the British army, 1860-1920

“The army isn’t all work”: Physical culture in the evolution of the British army, 1860-1920

By James Dunbar Campbell

PhD Dissertation, University of Maine, 2003

Abstract: Between the Crimean War and the end of WWI the British Army underwent a dramatic change from being an anachronistic and frequently ineffective organization to being perhaps the most professional and highly trained army in the world. British Army physical culture was a central part of that transformation. It acted as a significant bridge between the Army and its parent society, over which flowed ideas and values in both directions. An investigation of the Army’s physical culture provides an excellent means of gaining a clear understanding of how this transformation occurred.

This dissertation does two primary things: First, it documents the origins and development of formal physical training in the late Victorian Army, and the ways in which the Army’s gymnastic training evolved into what was perhaps the most important building block of the process of making a civilian into a fighting man. Second, it assesses the nature and extent of British military sport, particularly regimental sports, during the Victorian period and through WWI. During WWI the pre-war programs of physical training and command-sponsored games acted as a powerful means of assimilating the Commonwealth’s civilian-soldiers. and then ensured that they were physically and mentally prepared for the rigors of fighting. Additionally, these same programs had been used since the middle of the nineteenth century to improve the perceived military effectiveness of Britain’s imperial troops, and to inculcate them with the same ethos of athleticism that was a seminal part of the British Army’s philosophy of training and leadership.

The role of sport and physical training in the process of remaking the Army between 1860 and 1920 is only a small piece of the whole, but a critical one. British Army physical culture before and during WWI was an integral part of the Army’s modem and highly effective training program. Much of current research on both WWI and the period before has tended to emphasize the unprepared and unprofessional nature of Britain’s army; my research not only suggests the contrary, but that sport and physical training in the Army were major contributors to the Army’s effectiveness throughout the period.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Maine

Wellington's Two-Front War: The Peninsular Campaigns, 1808-1814

Wellington’s Two-Front War: The Peninsular Campaigns, 1808-1814

By Joshua Lee Moon

PhD Dissertation, Florida State University, 2005

Abstract: Wellington’s military operations in the Iberian Peninsula have garnered ample attention over the past 200 years. While the majority of these works cover tactics and strategy, no composite study focuses solely upon the problems that Wellington encountered as he conducted a protracted expeditionary campaign in the early nineteenth century. It is the aim of this dissertation to correct that deficiency.

The scope of this work examines Wellington’s campaigns in relation to the strategic and operational problems he encountered both at home and abroad while liberating the Iberian Peninsula from French control from 1808 to 1814. Throughout the course of the war Wellington and his army encountered opposition on many fronts. Underlying all of his problems was an unforgiving military and political bureaucracy, which subject to public opinion, failed to formulate a clear and decisive strategy. Only when victory was assured did Wellington receive the support required from London. Forced to formulate and pursue his own plans for victory in Iberia, Wellington was reduced to fighting a two-front war. On the one hand, he fought the French armies sent to destroy him; and on the other, he struggled against his political and military masters in London

Introduction: In the spring of 1808, Britain faced a strategic dilemma. Since the beginning of the Revolutionary Wars in 1793, Britain had spent enormous sums of money to subsidize four unsuccessful coalitions against France and had failed in all of their attempts to defeat the French on land. By 1808, the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, had forged an alliance with Eurasia’s other great land power, Russia, and, as a result, established the Continental System to embargo British goods. In response to these setbacks, the British looked for alternate means to break Napoleon’s European hegemony.

The British Government unfortunately could not rely solely on the Royal Navy to defeat France. Britain understood that in order to demonstrate commitment to their allies, they must devise an effective strategy for their army as well. However, since 1793, the British Army had been beaten nearly every time it encountered a French formation. It had suffered major defeats in the Low Countries in 1793 and 1799 and, apart from a minor victory at the battle of Maida, Italy in July 1806; the British had never defeated a standing French army on the Continent. Therefore, in order to demonstrate their resolve towards their allies and against Napoleon, the British sought an opportunity to employ their army.

Click here to read this thesis from Florida State University

The royal armour workshops at Greenwich

The royal armour workshops at Greenwich

By Thom Richardson

Henry VIII: Arms and the Man, edited by Graeme Rimer, Thom Richardson and J D P Cooper (Royal Armouries, 2009)

Abstract: Soon after he came to the throne in 1509 Henry VIII established a royal armour workshop that was to survive him by about 100 years. Thom Richardson examines the records that show armourers from Italy and Flanders were at work at Greenwich by 1511 and that by 1515 ‘Almain’ (German) armourers had also been recruited. He reviews the evidence regarding the making of some of Henry’s armours that survive in the Royal Armouries collection, including the ‘silvered and engraved’, foot combat and tonlet armours and the 1540 garniture. His survey concludes by showing the important contribution of the Greenwich workshop during the Elizabethan era and well into the Stuart period. The impact of Henry’s Greenwich initiative on the development of armour in England was clearly immense.

Introduction: The Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, established a royal armour workshop at Innsbruck, and in general the royal, ducal and electoral courts of Europe had attracted the makers of the finest armour. It therefore comes as no surprise to find Henry VIII establishing an armour workshop of his own, based for most of its life in the palace at Greenwich, a workshop which would survive the King for nearly a century.

Armourers worked in England throughout the Middle Ages; a Company of Helmers was formed in London by 1347, and this was transformed by 1453 into the Armourers’ Company, which survives to the present day as The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers. Although there are numerous pieces of armour, especially the great helms such as that of Edward the Black Prince at Canterbury and of Henry V at Westminster Abbey, that were probably made in England, not a single piece of English-made armour can be positively identified before the early 16th century. By the time Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 it is clear that most of the munition armour needed for the English army, and any fine armour for the nobility, had to be imported from Italy, Flanders or Germany. Evidence of imports of armour early in Henry VIII’s reign can be seen in receipts to Guido Portenary, merchant of Florence, for £1,600 paid for 2,000 harnesses for footmen, dated 28 May 1513, and another to the same merchant for £80 for 100 Milan harnesses for footmen.

Click here to read this article from the Royal Armouries

Cromwell, Charles II and the Naseby: Ship of State

Cromwell, Charles II and the Naseby: Ship of State

Patrick Little

History Today, Volume: 60 Issue: 9 (2010)

Abstract

In the middle of May 1660, as the Restoration of Charles II became inevitable, hasty changes were made to the British fleet lying off the coast of the Low Countries. Samuel Pepys, who witnessed it, described a frenzy of activity, as ‘this morning we began to pull down all the State’s arms in the fleet, having first sent to Dover for painters and others to come to set up the King’s’. While the carved arms on the sterns of the ships received the attention of the carpenters, on deck …

… the tailors and painters were at work cutting out of some pieces of yellow cloth into the fashion of a crown and ‘C.R.’ [Carolus Rex], and put it upon a fine sheet, and that into the flag instead of the State’s arms.

Such swift alterations were vital as in a few days time these very ships would be bringing Charles II home in triumph. The royal party joined the fleet on May 22nd and was entertained on the flagship, the Naseby, named after Parliament’s great victory over Charles I in June 1645. The other ships in service bore similarly unhappy titles: the Worcester, the Marston Moor, the Dunbar, to name but three. Further changes would have to be made and, according to Pepys, this turned into something of a parlour game: ‘After dinner, the king and the duke [of York] altered the names of some of the ships, viz. the Naseby into Charles’. So it was that the new king was brought back to England, two days later, on the newly named Royal Charles.

Click here to read this article from History Today 

The Gran Armada of 1588 and the Commanders of the English Military: Francis Drake, Robert Dudley, and Charles Howard

The Gran Armada of 1588 and the Commanders of the English Military: Francis Drake, Robert Dudley, and Charles Howard

By Forrest Kutscher

The Colorado Historian, Vol.2 (2012)

Introduction: England numbers among the few European states that have remained autonomous throughout modern history. Yet this island sanctuary has faced the threat of foreign domination innumerable times. King Philip II of Spain’s 1588 mobilization of the Gran Armada against his northern foe represented perhaps the direst of these instances. Armed with what was believed to be an invincible fleet and an equally esteemed army, the Catholic monarch viewed as inevitable a triumph over the heretical Elizabeth I. England, however, was saved from such a destiny thanks to the expertise with which naval commanders Sir Francis Drake and Charles Howard, second baron of Effingham and first earl of Nottingham, handled their respective posts. Both men exhibited exemplary leadership during their control of the island’s defensive flotilla, putting their egos aside and acting in coordination to allow a concerted effort to successfully repel superior enemy forces. Howard, lord admiral of the English fleet, listened respectfully to the advice his vice-admiral Drake, who in turn accepted his subordination with a quiet dignity unusual for a man so fiercely independent. These qualities proved instrumental in the 8 August victory over the Gran Armada by the combined English forces at the Battle of Gravelines. This success on the high seas was fortunate for the island, as a landing in Kent by the Army of Flanders under the leadership of the esteemed Alexander Farnese, duke of Parma, would have likely proved disastrous given the record of military failure by the English commander, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester.

Lord admiral Charles Howard, second baron of Effingham and first earl of Nottingham, demonstrated his aptitude as supreme commander of the English naval forces not through innovative battle strategies, but rather by paying great heed to the advice he received from many of his subordinates. The lord admiral was modest enough to recognize that those under his directive had extensive experience on the high seas and could provide valuable advice at the height of a crisis. Foremost among his inferiors was vice-admiral Sir Francis Drake, a veteran sea captain both renowned by the English and reviled by the Spanish for the innumerable swashbuckling endeavors he had so eagerly taken against the latter’s merchant fleet. It was testament to the esteem in which each man held the other that, upon demotion, the fiercely independent Drake quickly recognized Howard as his superior and that the lord admiral then treated him as an equal by relying on his insights.

Click here to read this article from The Colorado Historian

Leather guns and other light artillery in mid-17th-century Scotland

Leather guns and other light artillery in mid-17th-century Scotland

David Stevenson and David H. Caldwell

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol.108 (1977)

Abstract

The so-called ‘leather guns’ of the 17th century originated in the 1620s, and first became famous through the efforts made by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden to provide his army with light, mobile artillery. Until this time most gunshadbeensounwieldy that, once placed in position on the battlefield, they had to be left in the same position throughout the battle; thus they often proved virtually useless except in the opening stages of battles. Gustavus Adolphus therefore initiated a series of experiments aimed at producing a gun which was effective in giving protection against enemy infantry and cavalry and which could be moved quickly enough to keep up with the fortunes of battle, advancing or retreating withtheinfantry.Ofthemany experimental guns produced, ‘the to famous,butquite ephemeral “leather gun”was the best remembered’.

A large gunwound with rope and cased in leather is recorded as early as 1375(Carman 1955, 26), but it is not known whether the 17th-century leather guns owed anything to such early experiments. They first appear in 1622, in Zurich, their construction being attributed to Philipp Eberhard, and for a time these guns proved quite popular in their native Switzerland. News of the invention was brought to Sweden by an Austrian officer who enlisted in the Swedish service, Melchior Wurmprandt or Wurmbrandt; by 1627 (and probably earlier) he was building leather guns for Gustavus Adolphus (Wijn 1970, 218; Roberts 1958,I,232; Hime 1898, 595-7; Carman 1955, 62, 63; Blackmore 1976, 233). Several of these Swedish leather guns survive, and are described in part II; their construction varies in detail, but basically they consist of a relatively thin metal barrel tightly wound with rope, wire or cord, with a tough leather casing shrunk on top.

Click here to read this article from Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland