Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - CLASSIFIEDS -

An old sport made fa­mous once again by the late Heath Ledger in this was a game that took great skill and brav­ery, or some may say stu­pid­ity to get in the sad­dle, when they had a good chance of be­ing knocked out of it again at great speeds.

Joust­ing was a sport played by knights and lords. Each joust was a con­test be­tween two men on horse­back.

Jousts were or­gan­ised by agents called her­alds who sent chal­lenges out to the knights far and wide.

The cham­pi­ons were ranked in or­der of how good they were (like ten­nis play­ers to­day). Large amounts of money were bet on the con­tests.

There were teams of chal­lengers and de­fend­ers. Rid­ers fought in pairs, one man from each team. They fought an agreed num­ber of times. The men in charge, the mar­shal and con­sta­ble, made sure they fol­lowed the rules.

The knights used a lance (a long weapon like a spear) or some­times a sword or axe and charged to­wards each other on horse­back. The aim was to earn points by break­ing the lance of the other knight. More points were earned for break­ing a lance on the other man’s ar­mour or even bet­ter if they could knock their op­po­nent from his horse.

The knights did not try to in­ten­tion­ally hurt each other, but it could be dan­ger­ous.

In 1520, King Henry VIII of Eng­land and King Fran­cis I of France met to make peace be­tween their coun­tries. They had a joust. One of Henry’s men broke Fran­cis’s nose.

Henry was a keen jouster and twice he nearly died.

He fought his friend, Charles Bran­don, with­out cov­er­ing his face. Bran­don’s lance struck the kind on the head and was close to be­ing a deadly blow.

Then when Henry was 44 years old he was in­jured again when he was crushed by his horse and lay un­con­scious for two hours. This fall is thought to have dam­aged his health and un­set­tled him mne­tally.

Jousts were big events, of­ten the high­light of spe­cial oc­ca­sions. Any­one could gain ad­mit­tance for about 12 pence and many thou­sands came to watch, not just nobles.

There might also be plays and other en­ter­tain­ment at the same time. Many knights dressed up as he­roes from his­tory. When Henry mar­ried Cather­ine of Aragon in 1509 she played the role of a Greek god­dess and the knights fought a joust for her.

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