2 March 1522 – A Shrovetide joust and unrequited love


On this day in history, 2nd March 1522, in Henry VIII’s reign, the annual Shrovetide joust took place.

Chronicler Edward Hall gives a very detailed account of the knights’ costumes, trappings and the mottoes embroidered on them. King Henry VIII’s motto was “elle mon coeur a navera”, or “she has wounded my heart”.

In my latest “on this day in Tudor history” video, I share Hall’s account of this lavish spectacle and the theme of the entertainment, which has been taken by some to be evidence of the start of Henry VIII’s affair with Mary Boleyn.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Mary Boleyn and her relationship with King Henry VIII, you can see my video at https://youtu.be/Z6ChItwXANw.

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4 thoughts on “2 March 1522 – A Shrovetide joust and unrequited love”
  1. Cloth of silver and cloth of gold feature prominently in the monarchical courts of the time as symbols of status and wealth. I would be very interested in seeing and touching this fabric.

  2. I thought she wounded his heart in February, as per another joust with love as the theme and the previous post.

    Oh, hang on that was Anne. I think that shows these jousts had the same themes and one cannot read anything into them. Either that or these women did a lot of wounding of Henry’s hearts.

    1522 could actually refer still to his wife as they were still a couple in every sense of the word. Maybe Henry meant Mary, maybe he meant nobody, maybe he fancied someone else, maybe Katherine because he was worried that they didn’t have a son and he loved her, but he was maybe forced to think about leaving her, a thousand other things. The Shrove Tuesday jousting in 1526 had the same themes and we speculate about Anne Boleyn but everyone had the same banners and outfits. That is how a tourney worked. The King’s team had one set of clothes, the other something else and it had a theme around honour and love and everyone had gold and silver and looked like peacocks. It was very lavish and expensive and the tournament in 1511 to celebrate the birth of Prince Henry of Cornwall was the most expensive of the lot. Henry dressed as a beggar knight and Charles Brandon had some ridiculous costume of a knight and horse surrounding by a grand beast of some kind. There were castles and damsels in distress and a free for all. There were tall ridiculous looking helmets to identify an opponent, not for them to joust in, there were grand stands and lavish decorations and it was a good week or so of tournaments. The banners probably meant nothing more than it being a season for love.

  3. Yes I dont think we can read anything much into these mottos as it was all just part of the fun, the pageantry and the chivalric code of the day, like the one Anne Boleyn took part in, she played the part of perseverance, which many historians have found rather odd since that was to guide her in the years ahead, likewise her soon to be sister in law Jane Rochford had a different title, life at court was all about pageants tournaments and display and it must have looked lovely to see, cloth of silver and gold and the mock up castles and so forth, no wonder every young person from a noble background wanted to go to court it seems like it was one long merry go round of fun, of course the queens ladies had dull duties to perform as well as the merrymaking and dancing, they had to accompany her to mass and pray for hours and then dutifully embroider away, must have been toiling for those ladies who found needlework tiresome, but all young girls from noble families were taught to embroider it was part of their upbringing along with learning how to run a household, keep accounts distilling herbs etc, but I musnt get off subject, as Henry V111 had such a chequered marital life it’s probably normal to assume the mottos he wore at such events was to do with his love life, but really we have no evidence that says so, all the other courtiers had love themed mottos, unrequited and speaking of longing, the married courtiers could have had as their mottos a reference to their wives as Bq suggests, Henrys one could have been in honour to his wife, Queen Katherine, it meant nothing and was just traditional, I was just wondering if the servants provided refreshment on these occasions, I can see them scurrying about in their livery with trays of mead and wine and sugar comfits too, all in all a lovely colourful sight, but knowing how unpredictable our weather is, I bet when the clouds darkened overhead they soon ran for cover, and what happened to the beautiful displays they must have got ruined unless the servants moved quickly enough, have a nice weekend everyone.

  4. Yes, Christine, there are banqueting towers at Hampton Court Palace which were used to entertain guests and the in courtiers with what we call “the banquet” which we know was a large spread of sugar sweet meats and marchpine and just about everything carved from sugar which was more like icing sugar. They had hearts and actual meat things like bacon and sausage and beef made from sugar, they may have a huge carved tower or swan and they had jelly moulds which created everything, including model palaces. Spiced and sweet wines would be served. Hops were introduced into England around 1522 so our English beer, stronger than traditional ale was a new favourite. Oh, and Henry cornered the export market on new wines and beers. That brought revenue to the crown, so nothing has changed there. He did, however, give some relief to those producing English brews and so protected national trade. These sweetness delights were not just white, no, they were very brightly coloured, with natural stuff, they looked realistic. Imagine the E numbers and over activity, let alone the dentist visits. Of course the dentist was so bad that people actually removed their teeth and replaced them with wood or gold or gems covered in something to make them white, an enamel powder I think, so they had the appearance of teeth. I have seen a set of false teeth from the late 1590s, but I doubt they had them before hand.

    At most tournaments, yes, tents were set up so as knights and especially the King and nobles could change, where everything would be served that they needed and the ladies also had tents for their comfort. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t have people bring trays of delightful food and drink to the grand stand. There would also have been a food market type area for the general public to enjoy and for lesser gentry and it was a great carnival. There were comfort areas as well, not necessarily under a tent as people obviously needed to relieve themselves. With food and drink came the inevitable, so there was a separate area for that as well and constables to keep the peace and control the crowds. It will be just like the Liverpool v Everton footy derby today. Surgeons were also on hand as tournaments were dangerous and even today people get hurt and occasionally killed. Even Henry had a few accidents, so his men didn’t let him win as historians babble on television without any evidence whatsoever. In fact the score sheets tell us an interesting tale. In one early joust the King himself did well, his team didn’t and his opponents certainly didn’t. Henry smelt a rat and mixed things up. He put Brandon in charge of the other team and made him choose men worthy of giving Henry a good match. He also chose more worthy men for his own team. After that both teams scores were higher. Brandon certainly didn’t give him an easy ride at the tilt and it wasn’t an easy thing to do anyway. In 1524 Charles Brandon, out to protect his own honour, after a disaster in France, while Henry was still waving to his wife and sister, came quickly to the tilt and Henry, suddenly made aware charged in response, forgetting to close his viser, so at full tilt, 30 to 35 miles an hour or faster, the two great giants and fighters charged each other. BOOM!!! Henry was struck under the helmet close to his forehead, the Dukes lance splintered inside his helmet. Henry was almost killed or blinded. Suffolk was badly shaken but Henry just let it go, got up, showing he was fine, waving to the crowd and ran six more courses. In 1536 Henry fell heavily from his horse and may or may not have received a head injury, the sources disagree, but his leg was injured. In the months which followed he was treated for an open wound which he received in yet another accident years earlier and a piece of bone had worked loose and into his thigh. This caused old ulcers to form and the problems he had later on. Henri ii of France was famously killed by his eye injury after a joust and Francis Bryan was blinded in a Shrove Tuesday Joust, in February 1526. A young man was killed a few years ago and his story was in the papers.

    But, yes, without all that there were lots of entertainment, music and the main events, side shows, pageantry, colour, heraldic displays, mock fighting, action fighting with blades and various poll axes or similar deadly piked weapons, there was food and drink and everything one could imagine at a Medieval fair and tournament today. Themes of love, honour, bravery and truth would be popular and there were Queens who gave out the prizes and the Queen of Love and Beauty, selected from all of the ladies. Banners and tapestries decorated the stands and it was full of cloth of gold and silver and rich colours. I would imagine the Shrovetide banquets would be particularly lavish as the idea is to get rid of all the good sweet stuff from the home and palace as well as the leaven for the bread, before the time of fasting and abstinence during Lent. I would imagine everyone had too good a time and a huge belly ache and hangovers at the end of the week.

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