The Jousting Life

Monday, May 5, 2014

An Interview with Jouster Mark Caple, Champion of the Queen's Jubilee Horn Tournament 2014

Editorial note: Many thanks to both Mark Caple of Destrier for the interview, and to Julia Lumley of the Royal Armouries’ Visitor Experience and Operations team for providing information about the history of the the Queen's Jubilee Horn Tournament.

Mark Caple was the winner of this year's annual Queen's Jubilee Horn Tournament which was held at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds during the Easter weekend, April 19 - 21. The Queen’s Jubilee Horn Tournament was first held in 2002 during the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee which celebrated 50 years of HM The Queen Elizabeth II's reign. It is the only jousting tournament sanctioned by HM The Queen Elizabeth II.

Mark Atkinson holds the Queen's Golden Jubilee Horn next to Mark Caple mounted on Aramis
(photo courtesy of Royal Armouries Museum)

The actual Queen's Jubilee Horn was commissioned by Royal Armouries in 2002 and was presented to the Queen on July 11 of that year during her visit to Harewood House in Leeds. The Queen offered the horn back to the museum so that it could be competed for annually in a joust to determine each year’s champion.

A lady carries the Queen's Jubilee Horn in a parade(photo from Steve Hargett[edited])

The Queen's Jubilee Horn consists of a stained walnut post, capped with a gilt brass statuette of a knight on horseback. Suspended by two gilt chains is a large bovine horn to which is attached a gilded escutcheon and on the reverse a gilded badge heart. The larger end of the horn has a gilt brass cover to which are attached Yorkshire roses and a portrait of Elizabeth I. The smaller end of the horn is also covered in gilt brass.

Suspended on gilt chains strung between the two main chains are a number miniature gilt shields featuring the names and coat of arms of past champions of the Queen's Jubilee Horn Tournament. Since Mark Caple was named champion of this year's tournament, a shield bearing Mark's name and arms will be added to the chains of the Queen's Jubilee Horn.

Mark Caple's coat of arms(image provided by Mark Caple)

Until the next tournament, the horn will be displayed in the museum's Tournament Gallery alongside the armour of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and Henry VIII.

Meanwhile, Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions for the readers of The Jousting Life.

Mark Caple waves to the crowd during the Queen's Jubilee Horn Tournament
(photo courtesy of Royal Armouries Museum)

When and how did you become involved with jousting?

When I was still in school I had an interest in horse riding and medieval knights/ jousting. I visited the festival of history - I think at Kelmarsh in 2002 and saw a Destrier joust. Where everything else seemed to be re-enactment, the Destrier joust was a real competition, with all competitors doing their best to win. I was hooked from then and determined to do whatever it took to become a jouster.

You are currently associated with the Destrier jousting troupe, how and why did you start jousting with them?

Quite simply, Destrier was the best jousting group I had seen. I kept pestering Destrier until they finally allowed me to to join as ground crew whilst I started the process of getting a harness[armour]. I could already ride -- or so I thought -- but turning up to Destrier training days showed me how little I really knew about riding, especially in armour.

What was the first jousting tournament that you competed in? What is your favorite memory of that tournament?

I have done lots of Destrier and a few English Heritage shows over the years but haven't really done many actual tournaments, the 1st "proper" tournament I did was only last year at the Royal Armouries where I finished 3rd. My best memory of that event was the friendliness of both my fellow competitors, the staff at the Royal Armouries and the whole team from Atkinson Action Horses.

What has been your favorite jousting experience of all time?
This one is easy, last year I competed at the Arundel International Tournament run by Stacy Van Dolah Evans as one half of the English team along with Stacy himself. Before the tournament he told me that it was imperative that we get into the final as he was going to propose to his then girlfriend Kyle, and he wanted to be in his harness when he did so. (No pressure there then -- we didn't need to win outright but we had to get into the final!!)

Mark Caple in front of Arundel Castle 2013(photo by Stephen Moss)

Most of the shows I have been to you are always doing something, either the actual jousting or scoring, ground crewing etc... This was the first time I actually had time to sit and watch and enjoy a joust, and be on the edge of my seat as the other teams competed with each other, and the results of each pass had a direct influence on my own team's position.

The team for the Holy Roman Empire(Andreas Wenzel and Jan Gradon) took an impressive lead from the first day and just kept going, leaving the other three teams to fight for who was going to get into the final with them. Stacy's jousting seemed to deteriorate a little from the good start he made on day one as the pressure built up for him. I wasn't too hot on day one, but I did earn some points to put on the scoreboard and then steadily got better throughout the week. We just managed to pip the French team(Marc Hamel and Steve Gagnon) for a position in the final.

The actual final came down to the last 2 passes where Stacy and I both needed a targe hit and the point for breakage and for our opponents to miss -- which was a pretty tall order when Andreas and Jan had hardly missed anything all week. But that's what happened...

Mark Caple breaks his lance against Andreas Wenzel, while Andreas fails to break his lance
(photo by Stephen Moss)

...and we won by one point. Stacy not only in the final for his proposal, but on the winning team too. Job done!

Also, there was the small matter of winning the individual hunting games competition too, but it doesn't do to gloat.

Your amour has received a lot of compliments. Please tell us about it.

I have a reproduction of the A62 Archduke Sigismund von Tyrol armour...

The A62 Archduke Sigismund von Tyrol(aka Tirol) armour
(photo from the Kunst Historisches Museum Wein, Jahresbericht 2012)

...made by the excellent William West of Englyshe Plate Armourie. Most people usually only get a chance to invest in one high quality harness before other financial pressures catch up, like the mortgage and kids. I decided that if I was going to get a harness, then it would be the most beautiful one I had ever seen, and Will assured me his reproduction of it could do it full justice. As pictures of it appear in the "Armour Porn" section of this website [Actually the Facebook page for this website] not once but twice, I think I have to agree with him.

A very sexy picture of Mark in his armour(photo by ARW Photography)

[You can also see close up pictures of pieces of this reproduction armour in the Gallery of German Armour on the Englyshe Plate Armourie website.]

Do you have your own jousting horse? Please tell us about him/her.

I own a polo pony "Picador" and he does joust, but being a polo pony, he only has to hear another horse cantering and he thinks he should join in, which doesn't make him ideal for jousting. He gets very fidgety waiting to go, so I mostly use him for the Roman and Greek shows I do with Comitaus, a late Roman riding group. His best quality is his manoeuvrability and turn of speed and his unconcerned attitude to wearing full cataphract armour.

Mark Caple on his horse Picador in full cataphract armour(photo from Mark Caple)

His eagerness to get going is a real crowd pleaser. He really gets the audience on his side when they can see a horse obviously enjoying what he is doing. But also when you dismount he turns into a gentle soul that will take all the "pat the pony" attention he can get.

Please tell us about the horse you rode during the Easter Tournament.

At the Armouries this year I rode Aramis. He, I think, is the real reason I won. An absolutely lovely horse, no problems standing/waiting for the other horse to line up, which gives you yourself more preparation time for the pass. He has nice acceleration, and his canter is nice and smooth making aiming easier. He is a real credit to Atkinson Action Horses.

Meet the Horses: Aramis(video by Royal Armouries)

What was your favorite part of the Leeds Easter Tournament?

Apart from winning? Actually, I believed that I had lost the final, even though all my hits were targe hits, because the scoreboard hadn't been updated. I was convinced I hadn't done enough to catch up with Andy Deane or Stacy Van Dolah Evans, as they had both carried more points than me into the final from the previous couple of days jousting. So my favourite part was actually the surprise of being announced as the winner, along with the friendliness and competitiveness of the other competitors, all of whom I have jousted against before, and the sheer professionalism of Mark Atkinson's team at Atkinson Action Horses.

Mark Caple jousts against Steve Morris during the Leeds Easter Tournament
(photo courtesy of Royal Armouries Museum)

What are your hopes for the future in regards to jousting?

Well I have a full season of jousting to look forward to with Destrier, including a whole week of jousting at Leeds castle. I don't like to plan too far ahead, but this year has gotten off to a good start. We shall just have to see how it goes from here.

Thank you so much for your time, and I hope the rest of the year goes as well for you as this first part has.

Related articles:

Mark Caple Wins the "Leeds Easter Jousting Tournament 2014"

Arundel Castle International Jousting Tournament 2013

Training for the Joust with Destrier


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