Do You Know Your Garniture from Your Caparison?

The Must-Know Words from the Dictionary of Jousting

You may think you know all there is to know about jousting, but there is far more to this high-energy activity than meets the eye. As we prepare to bring the historic sport back to Sudeley Castle, brush up on your medieval lingo with our must-know words from the dictionary of jousting.

1. Arret and Grapper

The ‘arret’ was the hook attached to the breastplate of a jouster’s armour for the base of the lance to rest upon. The ‘grapper’ was a ring on the lance which would then hook onto the arret. During a joust the two elements would work together to hold the lance in place and prevent it from sliding backwards upon impact.

2. Caparison

The piece of material – usually decorated in the jouster’s colours, and often depicting their coat of arms – which covered the horse during a tournament. It offered no protection for the horse, it was simply a decorative item to help identify the jouster and added to the spectacle of the event.

3. Garniture

The name given to a complete set of armour, including additional pieces which could be removed or replaced depending on the armour’s purpose – joust, ground combat or mounted combat. King Henry VIII set up a workshop to make armour in Greenwich Palace. The workers – often from Germany and Holland – made the king and others in the men’s court, beautiful garniture which they would wear at a Joust.

4. Horse Master

While every tournament had its own ground crew (a group of essential personnel who organised the tournament) and grooms, (who looked after the horses involved in the joust) it was the Horse Master who was in charge. The Horse Master had seniority over all of the grooms and ground crew and was ultimately responsible for the well-being of the horses in the tournament.

5. Ladies Court

A group of knowledgeable females who had the responsibility of judging the chivalry and horsemanship of the joust’s participants. Depending on the tournament, the Ladies Court may have had the power to give extra points to competitors who displayed higher levels of ability or gallantry.

6. Mercy Pass

Once the pass had started – the two jousters would be cantering towards one another – but were yet to strike, a jouster may have deliberately swung their lance off target as an indication they were asking for mercy and did not want to be hit. The opposing jouster would be expected to pull their lance off target at the moment they knew their opponent was experiencing difficulty, however due to the limited visibility of the jousting helmet (or helm) they may not have always seen the mercy pass and continue unaware.

7. Tilt and Counter Tilt

The ‘tilt’ is the barrier between the two opposing jousters – this could be a solid fence, length of fabric or wooden rail. The ‘counter tilt’ was usually shorter than the tilt and was a barrier which defines the boundary of the lane down which jousters could canter. Again, this did not necessarily need to be a solid structure and could just have been some rope with fabric over the top.

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