The Jousting Life

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Destrier at Hedingham Castle

On May 4 - 5, the jousting troupe Destrier held a competitive jousting tournament at Hedingham Castle for the first time. Destrier was kind enough to provide the text for the following article.  The photographs were contributed by several different photographers who are credited beneath the pictures they provided.

An article by Destrier:

(image from Boydell & Brewer)
One of the most important supporters of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses was John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford. Both his father and his elder brother had been executed by Edward IV in 1462, in consequence of their loyalty to the House of Lancaster. John de Vere himself was found guilty of plotting against York in 1468 and subsequently imprisoned. Upon his release in 1470 he fled overseas to join the exiled Henry VI and the successful Lancastrian invasion of that year. In 1471 he prevented Edward’s IV landing in Norfolk and later famously commanded the right flank during the Lancastrian defeat at Barnet.

After Barnet he fled back to France, from where he mounted a privateering sea campaign against England and York, seizing St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall in 1473 and holding it until 1474 when surrendering to Yorkist besiegers. Then being imprisoned at Hammes Castle near Calais, he managed escape in 1484, having persuaded the garrison captain to join him in supporting Henry Tudor. A true Lancastrian war hero, de Vere became Tudor’s principal commander at the Battle of Bosworth and a core ally to the Royal House of Tudor from then on. Having thus finally returned to England and received restoration of all his assets, titles and rights, Oxford travelled back to his childhood home, the de Vere family’s ancestral seat at Hedingham Castle.

This return of the great Lancastrian and Tudor war hero provided the background story for Destrier’s first tournament event at Hedingham Castle, a beautiful venue still in private ownership by descendants of the de Vere family. Hedingham today is one of England’s finest surviving Norman square keeps, set within an inner bailey on the original castle motte, surrounded by ancient forests carpeted with flowering bluebells and snowdrops.

The jousters in the tilt yard in front of Hedingham Castle(photo by ARW Photography)

Hedingham’s tournament field is directly in front of the square keep, exactly where the de Vere family’s tilt yard is believed to have been. Leading into the inner bailey is a 15th century brick-stone bridge built on orders of John de Vere specifically so that Henry VII could enter the tiltyard at Hedingham in suitable splendour. Destrier’s horses, provided by Tournament Stud and Historic Equitation, were kept outside the inner bailey, so that the riders enjoyed the privilege of crossing the bridge before and after each show.

Jason Kingsley and Andreas Wenzel cross the bridge at Hedingham Castle
(photo by ARW Photography)

Mark Caple and Ben Green cross the bridge at Hedingham Castle(photo by ARW Photography)

Destrier’s event days started as usual at 8.00 am with a team briefing, followed by cleaning up the living history camp, setting up the arena, exercising the horses and other preparatory tasks necessary before the event opened to the public at 10.00 am.

At 11.30 it was time for Destrier’s Hunting Games display, a mounted skill at arms based show intended to demonstrate 15th century clothing and weapons in action. Disciplines vary from event to event, but at Hedingham included side-arms at cabbages and apples, light lances at rings, javelins at round targets and a lopsided straw man (called “Richard the Usurper”), swords at the boar, and heavy lances at the quintain.

While the Hunting Games are run like an unscripted competition and scores are kept, the focus here is entirely on public entertainment. In a typical show riders and especially the ground crew will fire off a wide array of more or less improvised practical jokes, aided by the drily humorous commentary of Rupert Hammerton-Frazer, Destrier’s main commentator. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that Jason Kingsley achieved the highest score in the Hunting Games on the first day, and Tina Steiner on the second.

Left: Jason Kingsley slices a cabbage with his sword
Right:Tina Steiner buries her javelin in "Richared the Usurper"
(photos by Stephen Moss)

The Hunting Games were followed by Destrier’s Arming of the Knight display at 14.30. Here each of the four jousters participating that day set up their equipment in the main arena, then were harnessed by allocated squires to explanations and commentary from Rupert. This is a pretty educational show, explaining how real armour works, how it limits (or limits not) mobility, and pointing out differences in armour construction (especially comparing Milanese and German harnesses). The jousters competing on both days at Hedingham were Jason Kingsley, Mark Caple, Andreas Wenzel, and – this being his first public joust – Benedict Green.

Andreas Wenzel is helped into his armour(photo by NWY Photography)

Following the Arming of the Knight, it was time for the joust. A typical Destrier joust involves four competitors, two mounted scoring marshals or ladies, and a minimum of six ground crew valets. The jousters pass against each other twice. When these passes are complete, the two highest scoring jousters will pass against each other three more times in a “final”, for which their scores are set to zero. The highest scorer of the final is then declared champion.

Andreas Wenzel and Mark Caple smash their lances against one another(photo by Antony Burch)

Destrier’s use of a very long and solid tilt rail facilitates hard hits, usually adding some welcome violence to the show. This was particularly true at Hedingham, with ferrule strike upon ferrule strike adding to the excitement, damaging armour, and nearly unhorsing riders on at least one occasion.

Andreas Wenzel is almost unhorsed, but somehow manages to regain his saddle
(photo by Nick Moore)

Ben Green made an excellent debut on Historic Equitation’s Marduc, breaking five out of six lances in his first show and slightly less in his second, his impeccable lance control giving true credit to Destrier’s training. Jason Kingsley scored excellently on the first day, but was working on issues with his main jousting horse Warlord and decided to retire him prematurely on both days.

Jason Kingsley(left) and Ben Green(right) exchange solid lance blows
(photo by NWY Photography)

This left the way free for Mark Caple on Donk and Andreas Wenzel on Yeha (both Tournament Stud) to slug it out in both finals. With Mark having just taken the Queen’s Jubilee Horn Trophy at the Royal Armouries two weeks before, and Andreas being the current Individual Champion of Arundel Castle, the crowds at Hedingham were in for a true duel of champions. And they were not disappointed – in a proper display of club-internal rivalry, Mark and Andreas went head to head in a succession of tense, high-impact passes. Despite Andreas leading the scoring table on both days when coming into the final, Mark was the one who kept his aim error-free when it really mattered and took victory on both days.

A series of photographs from one jousting pass between Mark Caple(left) and Andreas Wenzel(right) (photos by NWY Photography)

Results on the first day:
Andreas Wenzel – 19
Jason Kingsley – 17 (withdrew)
Mark Caple – 14
Ben Green – 13

Mark Caple – 7
Andreas Wenzel – 6

Results on the second day:
Andreas Wenzel - 20
Mark Caple - 13
Ben Green - 10
Jason Kingsley - 4

Mark Caple - 10
Andreas Wenzel - 4

One of the great pleasures of the Destrier team is the fact that their nights are spent in their living history camp on the castle grounds, and so the team kicked back after hours with some foot combat training (preparation for Destrier’s Pas d’Armes at Bosworth Field later this year) and a beautiful barbecue right next to the keep. In addition the team was afforded a special privilege in being invited into the castle interior after the public had gone, providing ample opportunity for sightseeing and pictures.

Jason Kingsley explores the interior of Hedingham Castle(photo by Stephen Moss)

Hedingham Castle is such an amazing venue, it’s hard to believe that it was exclusively relying on theatrical jousting until Destrier’s appearance there this year. Hedingham had extensively marketed this change prior to the event with heavy use of Destrier’s strapline “Real Steel, Real History”. This paid off -- the Destrier event attracted record numbers both in pre-sales and gate, and actually sold out on the early afternoon of the second day. A resounding success for everybody involved.

Jousters left to right: Ben Green, Andreas Wenzel, Mark Caple and Jason Kingsley
(photo by NWY Photography)

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

Training for the Joust with Destrier

Arundel Castle International Jousting Tournament 2013

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Could anyone tell me where John de Vere's jousting helmet is? I know that it still exists but I can't find anywhere online to say where. Thank you.