The Chain Mail

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Jousting in Scotland


With the annual jousting event at Linlithgow Palace fast approaching, jousting fever is charging upon us!

Scotland does not spring to everyone’s mind when thinking about chivalric knights in armour competing for glory. For many people, it conjures up images of Arthurian England with Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and of course Camelot – right out of the pages of legend. The word ‘jousting’ summons up romantic images full of pageantry, knights, horses and broken lances.

But Scotland has a long history of chivalry. The French romance Le Sone de Nansay, written between 1270 and 1280, features a Scottish knight as the climactic final opponent. Chivalric traditions also feature prominently in John Barbour’s 1375 poem Brus – a heroic account of Robert the Bruce’s life and achievements.


Knights at Linlithgow Palace spectacular jousting event

The brave knights prepare for tournament

Jousting began in the British Isles as early as 1066. It started with the mêlée, a group battle at close quarters – part sporting contest; part training for very real challenges of medieval combat. During the high medieval era, this evolved into the joust, in which two mounted knights armed with blunted lances tilted at each other.

Jousting was seen in many lights: a chance for warriors to hone their skills before real battles; a chance to win honour and show off one’s battle prowess; an opportunity to show off to the ladies of their affection; and, particularly in the mêlée, a chance to kidnap and ransom fallen opponents.

Spectacular Jousting at Linlithgow Palace

The knights in action – a real spectacle

Jousts were held to alleviate boredom during sieges, to mark dates of national significance, and to provide a means for a king to celebrate and honour his nobles. They eventually became a vehicle for the royals to display their wealth and power to the people and nobility.

A remarkable number of jousting tournaments – or tourneys – have been recorded in Scotland with the earliest in 1242 at Haddington. Many of the records have been lost through the centuries … so there may well have been more! Jousting is an important part of Scotland’s heritage, which only truly died out in the 1600s … unless you count the annual revival by Historic Scotland.

Our Spectacular Jousting event will be taking place on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 July at Linlithgow Palace – just one weekend instead of the usual two. It promises to capture the fun and romance of this traditional and ancient sport. Buy your tickets online now!

Steeds at the ready

Steeds at the ready


About Author

Alison Clark

Alison previously worked in our Interpretation Team, writing blogs on up-coming events. Her favourite Historic Scotland experience was at Whithorn Priory’s museum, where she fell in love with the beautiful carved stones.

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