Jousting is a game which involves two people on horseback carrying long poles (called lances) riding towards each other at speed from opposite ends of a tiltyard (a special arena for jousting). There is usually a wooden barrier in between the two competitors and they must angle their lance across this barrier with the aim of knocking their opponent off their horse.

Henry loved jousting and the evidence suggests he was very good at it. He also saw it as an opportunity to show that he had the skills of a great knight, even if he did not have the opportunity to prove this on the battlefield.

Henry had a spectacular tiltyard built at his palace in Greenwich in 1515. It had viewing galleries for spectators because Henry wanted to impress foreign ambassadors when they came to visit England. Part of the reason jousting was impressive was because it was also dangerous. People broke their arms and legs and even died. Henry’s friend Sir Francis Bryan lost an eye while jousting in 1526. In 1536, Henry himself was left unconscious for two hours after a particularly nasty fall from his horse. But none of this really took away from the fact that jousting was seen to be splendid entertainment, with the competitors wearing fine armour. Henry even wore gold, silver, pearls and precious stones while taking part in jousting tournaments!

Emma Cundell
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Emma Cundell

Teacher, history enthusiast and lover of biscuits. Especially interested in: America in the 1950s, Germany in the 20th century and the Tudors.