Joust casualties

The 2008 Jousting tournament of Seraing

In the film A Knight’s Tale, Joscelin asks Adhemar if “men are killed in the joust”. He replies that accidents do happen. Fair enough! On 22 February 1216 Geoffrey of Mandeville died of a wound he had received “when, as is the custom of the Francs, horsemen attacked each other in turns with lances or poles while riding”: dum, more Francorum, eques cum hastis vel contis sese cursim equitantes vicissim impeterent. (Ralph of Coggeshall, Chronicon Anglicanum, p. 179).


Matthew Paris relates in similar terms: “Eodem tempore [A.D. 1216] exierunt ab urbe Londoniarum barones cum militibus qui nuper de regno Francorum advenerant ad equestrem ludum, quod hastiludium vel torneamentum dicitur, cum hastis tantum et lineis armaturis. Cumque equos cursim agitantes et se mutuo cum hastis ludendo percutientes diem aliquantulum protraxerunt, quidam ex Francigenis hastam quam tenebat ludendo dirigens in Gaufridum de Mandeville comitem, ipsum letaliter vulneravit. At idem comes mortem suam suo percussori post dies paucos in dolorem et querimoniam multorum moriens condonavit.” (Matthew Paris, Chronica Majors, II, p. 650). Matthew seems to know more than Ralph de Coggeshall as to how Geoffrey of Mandeville died while jousting. The imagery is very bold for a monastic writer. Yet we should all remember that the tournament was not a game, or a “ludus” as the contemporaries were so keen to name the often deadly encounter. But the mere thing that the whole framework was contrived allowed them to see the jocular or ludic side of it as opposed to real warfare that was hardly controlled.

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