Easter Jousting at Leeds

We spent a lovely sunny Easter weekend at the Royal Armouries at Leeds for their Easter Tournament.  Unlike re-enactment jousts which you may have seen at castles around the UK, this is a proper competition joust.  Not to take anything away from those re-enactments, they’re spectacular, but this is unscripted and unchoreographed and everybody is in it to win it!

Featuring teams of two knights each from the UK, Poland, Canada and the USA, there were two jousts a day.  At the noon joust, two of the teams would demonstrate their skill at arms with three separate disciplines – a forehand or backhand cut to a cabbage on a post followed by a thrust to a heart-shaped target, then picking up three rings set along the tilt using a sharp lance and finally, hitting the quintain with a blunted lance.  After that, the other two teams would joust, with several passes from both knights from each team.  Points were awarded in the joust for the targets hit, for having enough breakage on the lance and for horsemanship.  In the afternoon joust, the teams would swap over and the ones who had jousted in the morning would do the skill at arms challenges.

The Royal Armouries’ own Andy Deane took a quick lead in the individual points for Team UK, followed closely by both the Polish jousters, Piotr Rydzewski and Michal Ruda.  The skill on display was quite amazing and every joust was as exciting as the next.  Despite having less experience, the best moment of the weekend was provided by the UK’s Mike Collin who managed to un-horse his Canadian opponent, Jean-Francois Drapeau in a spectacular pass that had the entire audience gasping out loud.

Going into the final day, the UK and Poland were in front on equal points, followed by the USA and then Canada.  The team points were discarded and they started with 1 point for Canada, 2 for the USA and 4 each for the UK and Poland.  The first event of the final was a mounted melee which is easily one of the most mental things we have ever seen – four knights in the lists at once, armed with wooden clubs, trying to score points by beating each other around the head and upper body.  This was followed in the afternoon by the final joust, where everybody tilted against everybody else.  Despite not having made much of a showing in the earlier days, a strong performance by the US’s Jeff Sanders in the final meant that the USA ended up taking the prize for the best team.  Not surprisingly, Andy Deane won the individual prize – he was really fantastic and it was a well-deserved win.

All the jousters looked like they had a blast and spent a lot of time after each joust talking to the public, signing autographs and getting their photos taken.  The whole event was well organised and a huge amount of fun.  And, on top of all of this, the Royal Armouries museum has free entry and a daily programme of costumed interpreters and combat demonstrations.  All in all, a top weekend!