Tournament and its essentials
The annual Queen Elizabeth Autumn Tournament is the culmination of a year's activity and the biggest event of the Hradec Court project. It is not only a measurement of the warriors' strength in front of the eyes of noble ladies, but above all a great meeting of all members and guests of the project. In order to give each participant an overview of the tournament, a series of documentaries describing the tournament has been created. This text focuses on the principles of the Hradec Kralove Tournament and the people who participate in it.
The Tournament is a multi-day court festival traditionally hosted by Queen Elizabeth, primarily for the pleasure and enjoyment of her ladies. The ladies are at the centre of all the action at the tournament, and the tournament players fight for their pleasure and amusement and try to please them. They alone have the right to judge all the bouts, to determine and reward the winners of the whole tournament and of the individual bouts, and to reward other fighters who have impressed them. Likewise, they have the right to right a wrong done on the ring, or to stop a fight if necessary. The ladies rule the tournament through their deputies, the First Lady and Mistresses of the stands, and through the gentlemen in their service, the tournament herald, the heralds of the stands and the judges.
The tournament is not just a reenactment of the jousting. It is first and foremost a great social event where great warriors and their retinues, noble ladies and non-combatant noble lords, and guests and their entourages come together. Various ceremonies are an integral part of it, where the participants have the opportunity to get to know each other and to make themselves known.
The tournament is a great occasion for courtly and dissolute entertainment, for political negotiations, or just for friendly gatherings for communal dining and camping, troubadour tournaments, dancing and worship.
For craftsmen and teamsters, the tournament is an opportunity for entertainment, trade and profit, and in addition to the craftsmen's stalls, there is also a tavern or an inn.
The whole tournament and often the fight itself is interwoven with courtesy, the mutual courtly behaviour of lords and ladies. Sometimes the games and relationships are purely private, but often the courtesan behaviour is quite overt. Whether in the form of ladies asking lords to defend their colours in jousts, rewarding favourites, or simply handing a cup of refreshment to a fighter. In battle, instead of taking advantage of the momentary weakness of the opponent to show his courtliness, the fighting knight stops the fight himself and allows his opponent to bring the cup of refreshment. It is such gestures that often carry more weight in the eyes of the ladies when judging the victor than the most precise strike of a weapon. To show courtliness and chivalry as well as martial skill, and thus to win the favour of the ladies, is therefore the main object of every gentleman's participation in a tournament, and every one of his companions tries to imitate him, in order that he may also please the maiden of his heart or impress his master. The actual jousting takes the form of a foot duel between individuals or teams in a fenced ring, watched by the ladies in the stands, directed by the tournament herald, and judged by the referee.
Main persons of the tournament
First Knight and First Lady of the Tournament
The First Knight is an honorary title for the best tournament player, who is chosen at the end of the tournament by the ladies on the main stand, because he impressed them most not only with his fighting skills, but especially with his knightly demeanor. The first knight is chosen after consultation with the other tribunes. However, the main decision is up to the Queen and the Main Tribune and the choice of the first knight may be part of Queen's or Court policy. After his election, the First Knight selects the First Lady of the tournament. Together they then take control of the tournament by taking up the tournament sword, which they will use to start the tournament the following year. It is the First Knight's right to choose the First Lady, but he must know that this title is not only a great honour and distinction, but it carries with it important courtly social responsibilities and may be part of court politics. The First Lady rules the tournament from the grandstand alongside the Queen, proposing and presenting the theme of the tournament and the jewel of the grandstand at the May Assembly. At the start of the tournament, the First Lady inducts the tournament judges, who take the oath of impartiality in the hands of the Marshal. The First Lady is also the patron of the troubadour joust, which usually takes place in the evening after the tournament. Its theme is announced by the First Lady at the May Assembly.
Ruler of the stands and guardian of the jewel
The Queen of the Grandstand is the most important lady of her grandstand, she manages and organizes the life of the grandstand, addresses and invites ladies to participate in the grandstand before the tournament, organizes the decoration, refreshments and entertainment or common rewards for the tournament players. The other ladies discuss with their sovereign their favourites, whom they wish to reward, or gentlemen who break the tournament rules, whom they demand to be punished, etc.
Each of the tribunes chooses their jewel. It is not only displayed on the tribune, but may be a gift with which the tribune rewards her favourite. This jewel, which serves as a reward, is then cared for by a lady "guardian of the jewel". Together with the monarch, they usually present it at the May Assembly.
Throughout the tournament, the ladies reward their favourites or knights who fight for them or impress them in a particular event. At the end of the tournament, each tribune is invited through the Sovereign to reward the tournament player who has most impressed the entire tribune. At the conclusion of the final fight, the ladies are invited to agree on their favourite. All the combatants then step forward and pay their respects to the ladies. At the herald's command, the sovereign descends from the rostrum with the chosen ladies and the guard carrying the jewel.
The monarch tells the herald the name of their favourite, the herald announces the name of the winner and invites him to come forward before these ladies. The guardian of the jewel presents the jewel to the monarch, who rewards the chosen tournament player with it.
The queen of the tribune is appointed by the queen. It is a great honour which the Queen thus bestows on the one appointed. However, her appointment may again be part of politics or more often intrigue. It is the right of the Sovereign of the Grandstand to choose the guardian of the jewel.
The Tournament Herald organizes and manages the tournament and its associated ceremonies. This is an office often repeatedly entrusted to an experienced tournamenter whose position and experience are unquestionable. The tournament herald manages the running of the tournament with the help of the judges and the heralds of the stands. He is himself the announcer of the various events and their winners. His badge is the herald's staff and tabard. The Tournament Herald is solemnly appointed directly by the Queen. She usually introduces him at the May Assembly, and at the start of the tournament itself she presents him with the herald's staff and tabard as badges of power and as symbols of her rule over the events of the coming tournament, the herald in return taking an oath of impartiality to her.
The Court Marshal is the Queen's Cash Commander and her representative in all military matters. As such, he watches over the fairness of the judges' decisions and adjudicates any disputes or grievances of the tournament players. His word is law for all concerned and he is answerable only to the Queen. Into his hands, as the unquestioned military authority, the First Knight takes the oath of the Tournament for all warriors. Likewise, the judges take the oath of impartiality in the hands of the marshal representing the queen.
The referee oversees the regularity of the tournament and the proper conduct of the tournament. The badge of a judge's power is a tabard and a judge's stick. The white colour of their clothes symbolizes impartiality and impartiality. The judges move around the court, count the hits and ensure that the rules of combat are followed. If they find a violation of the rules, an irregularity, or even if they just want to break up a scrum, they do so by touching or tapping the referee's stick on the fighter's body or helmet. On this instruction, everyone is obliged to stop the fight immediately and submit to the referee's decision. He has the right to stop the fight if necessary and to exclude or bring forward the offender. The penalty for disobeying the orders of the referee is expulsion from the tournament, which would be the worst disgrace for the expelled fighter. Judging the fighting of others is a great responsibility, so this office is often held by fighters who have proven their qualities by having received in the past one of the honorary titles in the tournament, the title of First Knight, Best Fighter or holder of the Shield of George of Holohlav. In total, there are three judges in the tournament, who take turns in their place, they can also participate in the joust, then ask the ladies if they can choose a substitute for themselves for a particular fight. They are usually introduced at the May Assembly, and are then sworn in by the presentation of the stick and tabard at the beginning of the tournament by the First Lady and the mistresses of the stands, and by taking the oath of impartiality into the hands of the marshal.
Heralds of the stands
The herald of the tribune is a respected gentleman in the service of the tribune, introduces and presents the ladies, escorts the queen, addresses the gentlemen at the request of the ladies, leads them to the tribune, summons the winners of the contest before the ladies for the presentation of prizes or the offenders for punishment. He assists the ladies with the evaluation of the tournament and the orientation of the disciplines. Heralds are introduced at the May Day Assembly and formally decorated at the beginning of the tournament by the sovereigns of the side stands, who present them with badges of heraldic power, tabards and clubs. They may also participate in the joust, then ask the ladies if they may select a substitute for themselves for a particular joust.
Ladies on the main stand
The Queen sits in the main grandstand at the head of the court with the First Lady of the tournament and the most important ladies of the court. During the tournament, the Queen invites distinguished guests to the Grandstand to watch some of the events with her. To be in the grandstand and to be in the company of the Queen is the greatest honour a noble participant in the tournament can receive. The Queen and the ladies on the main stand have the final say in the selection of the first knight, the best fighter and the bearer of the shield of George of Holohlav. They take into account the recommendations of the side tribunes in these elections, but this may be part of Queen's or Court policy. The Queen and the ladies of the main tribune also hold the court over all jousts, the right to determine and reward the winner of the joust, and the final say in any disputes or tie-breakers.
Ladies in the stands
The ladies present at the tournament have the honour of watching the tournament with the Queen and the most important guests sitting in the stands. Being in the stands is an important part of raising the profile of your character and lineage, something every lady at court strives for. This also includes the privilege of sitting on the dais under her coat of arms displayed on the armorial bearer's cloth. In practice, this is a 40x70cm cloth (placed in height) on which the lady's coat of arms is sewn or painted. This bedspread is pinned to the rostrum railings. For her own comfort, the lady needs a chair to sit on, a cup for drinks and usually contributes to the communal refreshments. The social prestige of the lady, then, in addition to appropriate representative attire (properly cut and dated clothing, including hair and makeup) and behavior toward the tournament players, includes pledges and symbolic rewards for the favorites in the events in the form of flowers and various trinkets. Each lady in the grandstand should also have a maid who, by arrangement, takes turns with the maids of the other ladies in serving in the grandstand.
In the tournament, the ladies support their favourites and discuss them with their sovereign, have those whom they wish to reward or gentlemen who break the tournament rules called upon to be punished, etc. From this discussion the name of the knight who impressed everyone the most eventually emerges, and the monarch, as representative of her ladies, together with the guardian of the jewel, rewards him with the jewel of the tribune. Throughout the tournament, individual ladies may privately reward their favourites or the knights who fight for them, an act of courtesy.
Armed gentlemen, knights, squires, and even unborn men who take part in the various disciplines come to the tournament, like all those who come to court, primarily to make themselves visible, in the best sense of the word. They take an oath that they will fight without ill will and only for their own entertainment and that of the ladies watching. Therefore, their aim is not only to win the fight, but also to show their chivalrous behaviour and thus please the ladies and the Queen. They take great care in their manners, dress and armour, asking the ladies for battle pledges and hoping for their favour and reward, which they return, perhaps by laying a won jewel at the feet of their lady. The reward or praise of the ladies from the main stand or from the queen herself is then the highest honour a warrior can receive at a tournament. One of these honors is the opportunity to participate in the royal disciplines. To participate in them, a fighter who has met the requirements of the discipline must ask the Queen in advance and hope for her favour. All fighters are obliged to respect the decisions of the judges and especially the ladies for whose pleasure they participate in the joust. Other rewards may be as little as a private flag, a flower, a small gift or a small refreshment. The winners of the individual jousting events, on which the ladies of the whole tribune agree, are then rewarded by the sovereign and may also receive the jewel of the tribune as a reward. The Ladies of the Grandstand then announce the main winners of the tournament. In addition to the highest award, the first knight, a special title is awarded to the best "beater" and the travelling shield of George of Holohlav is given to the man who has impressed the ladies most by his long and particularly chivalrous performance or service or merit to the court, sometimes without regard to his fighting ability. The individual fighters are then rewarded by the ladies who have chosen them as favorites or have chosen to fight for them in jousts.
Not all gentlemen, however, are led to the tournament by the noblest interests in pleasing the ladies of Hradec. Some simply come to make themselves visible to others in battle, to enjoy the bustle and glory of the tournament, or they come in the yoke of wealthier tournamenters who wish to swell the ranks of their men-at-arms. Even these motives are tolerated at the tournament, as long as they do not go against good manners.
Non-combatants and guests from foreign countries
At the tournament, as a great courtly festival and social event, there are many non-combatants, but they have come for the same reason as the combatants, to make themselves visible in courtly society, to impress the ladies and to win the favour of the Queen. They take part with the ladies in watching the tournament, entertain them with storytelling, poetry reading or music, take part in troubadour jousts, political meetings and intrigues.
Guests, sometimes from foreign countries, then arrive with similar motivations. To see the court of a foreign monarch, to make new friends, to conduct political negotiations and, of course, to show off and show off in foreign company. Similarly, the ladies of foreign courts are welcome companions of the ladies of Hradec Kralove, because where else to learn about fashion news, chivalric stories, poems...
Just as a relationship with God is an essential part of the life of a medieval person, regular services or blessings are part of the tournament, and so there are clerics. They watch the tournament from the stands, they officiate the service, the warriors may ask them for blessings, the ladies for advice.
Lowborn, artisans, townsfolk and serfs
However, the motivation to participate in a tournament can be quite mundane. For artisans, such a mummery of wealthy lords and warriors and vain ladies is a paradise providing an opportunity for rich earnings. For servants and companions it is an opportunity to look far beyond the gates of the home estate and, in special service to their manor, to earn a good living or find a better place with a more generous lord. Therefore, they all try and willingly offer their goods and services.