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.