tourney query

Michael A. Chance mchance at
Mon Mar 20 14:27:28 PST 1995

Viscount Galen writes:

> Paradoxically, my biggest problems come in judged lists, which are 
> probably the most authentic sort we see.  Particularly those lists
> judged by non-fighters (and I am not aware of any period examples
> of non-fighters judging tournaments).

Actually, I believe that there is evidence to support non-combattant
tourney "judges".  I seem to recall that Barber and Barker's book
_Tournaments_ makes mention of several tourneys which had a "ladies'
gallery" comprised (usually) of the ladies of the knights competing
and perhaps some other high-ranking noble ladies in attendance, who
watched the tourney and awarded various prizes to the contestants, for
such things as "most exciting", "most chivalrous", "most romantic",
"most noble", etc.

[ BTW, Barber and Barker's book is a must for anyone serious about
looking into actual medieval tournaments.  A "coffe table" book in
size and style of prose, yet containing some of the best research
available on the subject of medieval and Renaissance tournaments in the
popular press, with an impressive bibliography. If people would like, I
can look up the publisher and ISBN info and post it here. ]

> Most judges in my experience
> have great difficulty separating those they like from those they
> don't like or don't know.

Agreed, though this very style of subjective criteria also seems to be
a strong feature of medieval tournaments which employed judges to
award prizes, and even when the prizes were awarded by the
constestants themselves.  Primarily, it runs counter to the modern
American notions of "fair play", where skill alone determines the
outcome of a contest.  Adjusting to this type of judging criteria for
what would seem to be a contest of skills can often be very difficult,
though I believe it to be a crucial adjustment to really understand
what it felt like to participate in a medieval tourney.

A first step is to get away from a single "grand" winner of a tourney.
Set up several smaller prizes: one from the ladies, one from the Royal
peers present, one from the Chivalry for the best non-Chivalry
entrant, one from the non-Chivalry for the best member of the Chivalry,
one from the heralds for the best heraldic display, one from the
fighters in the hosting group for the best visiting fighter, one for
the most dramatic fight, etc.  If you must have a prize for the
"winner" of the tourney (be it the winner of a single/double elim style
tourney, or the person with the most/highest percentage of wins in
other styles), then just give that person a modest scroll
commemorating the event.  This, coupled with the nicer prizes for other
categories, begins to de-emphasis "winning" as the most important goal
of the tournament.

There were many tournaments that had no "winners" at all, but were set
up for a knight or a group of knight to meet a challenge of some sort.
Two recent SCA examples of this type come to mind.  The first was a
couple of years ago at Pennsic, then the Company of St. Michael (a
group mostly based in the East Kingdom, dedicated to better tourney
re-creations), held a pas d'armes in which they had set themselves to
meet, as a Company, a total of 50 challengers in one day.  Records
were kept of who fought who, but not of who won or lost each
challenge.  In the end, the company met their challenge, and, by all
accounts, everyone who participated had a great time.  And there were
no "winners" declared.

The second happened just a few weeks ago in the Midrealm.  King
Brannos held a "Tournament of Chivlary", similar to the one I just
described, in which the members of the Chivalry of the Midrealm stood
challenges from those who were not.  Anyone could go out and challenge
any member of the Chivalry who stood ready to accept challenges, and
the Chivalry had to accept the challenge of any who approached them.
It provided an excellent venue for "rising stars" to test their skills
against the Chivalry in a less competitive environment than a "normal"
tourney, and gave the Chivalry an opportunity to observe prospective
candidates outside of the normal confines of a tourney or fighting
practice, and against a higher caliber of opponent that they might
otherwise normally face.  (For you non-Chivalry fighter, consider: when
was the last time you spent an entire tourmey facing nothing but
Knights and Master-at-Arms?)  Again, while I wasn't at that particular
tourney, I've yet to hear of any "winners" that were declared that day
(though I supposed the fighters that get elevated to the Chivalry
partly as a result of their efforts that day could be considered
"winners" in a sense).  I understand that more of these "Tournaments of
Chivlary" are planned to be held in various parts of the Midrealm in
the future.

Mikjal Annarbjorn
Michael A. Chance          St. Louis, Missouri, USA    "At play in the fields
Work: mc307a at                             of St. Vidicon"
Play: mchance at

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