The First Tournament
Camelotiana, vol. 5 no. 1 (1932), pp. 346–349
The newly recovered archive of the monastery of La Beale-Valet – it will be remembered that this was found in an old locked chest in the attic of Addington Hall, Essex by Prof. Huberth Lovelace last year – continues to stun Arthurian scholars with it’s rich yields. Here I want to report to the good readers of Camelotiana of a letter that cast some new light on the first tournament held in London A.D. 510; this letter, indeed, once and for all proves that Mr J.J. Jeeves and those of his school have been mistaken in their belief that no tournaments were held in King Arthurs realm until after the Roman War.
The letter was written in a rather poor dog Latin typical of the emergent middle class at the start of King Arthurs reign, of the sort that was taught at the informal schools at the cathedrals for those few who were lucky enough to be schooled during the Anarchy Era. The author was one Ellron, a person that has not been found in Sturrigde’s Handbook of Arthurian Personages or in any other of the standard references. The wording of the letter let us understand, however, that he was close to several knights native of Hillfort hundred, known from Sir Alex Diddler’s The Bannermen (Wilkes&Watts, London, 1927).
I hope to be able to again grace the pages of this journal with a closer analysis of the content of this letter, which will give a deeper understanding not only of the evolution of the tournament during King Arthurs reign, but also offers some insights into the development of the formal rules of heraldry.
Charles S. Estmaar, MA (Oxon.)
I my last letter I promised to write you a report on the tourney in Londinium.
The first day. This was the day of Animal Fights. A great many strange beasts were gathered for this occasion: Tygers, Panthers, Saxons, a Giant, and what not. King Lot’s Elephant won, which made all the southern Knights angry.
The second day. This day was the day of the Bohort or the "King's Pennant". A mock castle had been raised. A squire of a Knight of Duke Ulfius won, which made all good Knights angry. The third day. Was the day of the Grand Tornei. This was a great day for Salisbury, who reformed the Old Alliance and fought a great fight with those Knights of Silchester. My knight took one prisoner, which surprised him much.
The fourth day was the day for the Grand Melee, which was disrupted due to that boy drawing the Sword from the Stone. Evidently, he had misplaced his knight’s sword just before the Grand Melee was due to begin and ran off and drew the one outside the Cathedral. My knight saw it all, Sir Maelgwyn the Cruel and Sir Cadry the Strange had some part in it, though I have not learned exactly what. Sir Maelgwyn wanted to fight that other fellow, Sir Kay, by name, but Sir Kay refused him. While they were exchanging heated words as knights are wont to do, Sir Kay’s sword mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again. My knight hinted that some Dark Magic or Curse of sorts were involved, and also in some strange way his foster son, whom I have written about before.
But I must also tell you about the most exciting thing that happened on the third day, a day that will be forever remembered for those of our persuasion. During the display it was discovered Count Sanam of Bedegraine and Sir Cadry the Strange had the same shield of arms: argent, an oak vert. This led to an animated discussion. It was proved, that both knights bore their shield of arms since Yime Immemorial. I was told that Sir Cadry offered to fight the Count for his right, but the count most unchivalrously refused, saying that the shield of arms was not just his, but “all of Bedegraines”. Such an ignoramus! This truly is a Dark Age. The Count insisted that Sir Cadry must yield in this question, which that knight, being both headstrong and wroth, did not.
The issue was put before the Herald, which was that old fool Buffonius. Sir Cadry here made the argument that his oak was an “oak proper” while the counts were just an “plain oak”; and that their charges thus being different, their coat of arms were not indeed not the same. This argument is something that we Heralds must discuss forthwith with great care, and I think Sir Cadry should be invited to partake in such a discussion. I had not known him to be interested in Heraldic Theory, him being a wanton slayer and great despoiler of maidens.
Twice rebuffed, Sir Cadry then put his case before Sir Brastias. I would have hoped that the Sponsor of this First Tourament would have taken a great interest in this very important issue, but the Great Man just offered some political platitudes. Sir Cadry, in the end, fought with his Lord’s coat of arms, instead of his own, as a True Knight should.
There are rumours that the King is much interested in Heraldry and that a Chief Herald is to be appointed. We must muster our forces to make sure that we get a good man with deep understanding of Heraldic Theory and which is privy to the Plan. Please write back to me as soon as you can with a list of candidates. I am currently in Carlion, and through Sir Padern and his great friends close to several important men that could influence those close to the King, perchance the King himself.
Your obedient Servant
Post scriptum. They have made the boy High King.