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In September 2009, art expert James Knox, a trustee of The National Galleries of Scotland, beat two English based dealers at auction and paid £7,500 for eight of the original forty shields, each 69 cms high and 53 cms wide, found in an attic of Skelmorlie Castle, commissioned as trophies for The 13th Earl of Eglinton's three-day long Eglinton Tournament, a 'medieval re-enactment' of a jousting tournament, held at Kilwinning in August 1839. With The Campbeltown Steamer Company's new steamer, the "St. Kiaran", taking over the twice-weekly service to Glasgow in June 1836, the company's first ship, the "Duke of Lancaster", became free to carry out special excursions as well as occasionally making extra runs to Glasgow as occasionally required, the Glasgow traffic yet to build up and warrant two ships working the route, even in summer. Given that in previous years, the "Duke of Lancaster" had been well patronised when she had undertaken special excursions to Ayr, in August 1827; to Inveraray and Sanda and then a three-day trip to Belfast in 1828; to Ailsa Craig in June 1831 and to the local Peninver Regatta in August 1834, it was natural for the company to expect a good response when they advertised a special excursion to witness the promising spectacle of The Eglinton Tournament, at Kilwinning, in August 1839.
Though this was certainly 'The Age of The Railway', just fourteen years having passed since Stephenson's 'Rocket' had shown the way and 1838 bringing the opening of Stephenson’s London and Birmingham Railway, it was still impossible to travel the length of the country by rail and, to travel from London, where many of the tournament's participants and guests lived, they would have to pass through the new Greek Doric portico at Euston Station, take a train to Liverpool, take a paddle steamer from Liverpool to Ardrossan and walk or ride the final few miles to Kilwinning's Eglinton Castle. The Eglinton Tournament, a re-enactment of a medieval joust and revel, was funded and organized by Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton and took place at Eglinton Castle, near Kilwinning in Ayrshire, on Friday August 30, 1839. Described as 'a deliberate set piece of Romanticism, in the face of social progress' and, widely publicized and open to the public, it is largely remembered not for its spectacle but rather for the fact that it was rained out on the first day and local people even yet referring to excessively heavy rain as 'tournament rain'. It came about by way of accident, at first something of a passing whim, till, on August 4th, 1838, "The Court Journal" printed a rumour that Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, was going to host a great jousting tournament at his castle in Scotland, Eglinton sufficiently encouraged by the responses to confirm the proposal a few weeks later. Much of the support for the event stemmed from some members of the aristocracy who felt more than a little aggrieved by 'the lack of occasion' when Victoria had been crowned the previous year, on June 20, 1838, the truth of the matter being that the government was near broke and, rather than spending their money on a lavish state banquet for 'the chosen few' at The Palace of Westminster, had focused their expenditure on on a state procession, for the benefit of the public, they even managing to reduce the total cost of the celebrations from a projected £200,000 to a mere £70,000 and the affair referred to as 'The Penny Coronation', the aristocracy generally 'hungry' for a party and welcoming the Eglinton 'rumour'. Until the time of the tournament, Eglinton (1812 - 1861) had lived a life filled with little more than sports and horse racing but, his stepfather, Sir Charles Lamb and half-brother, Charlie Lamb, were rabidly devoted to The Middle Ages and Eglinton seems to have amiably gone along with the idea when Charlie urged him to hold a tournament and so, in the autumn of 1838, one-hundred and fifty prospective knights met in the showroom of Samuel Pratt, a dealer in medieval armour, at No 47 Bond Street, London. 2
Though many of the 'knights' backed out when they realised the astronomical costs, suggested likely to be between £30,000 and £40,000 and the difficulties of organising the event, about forty were determined to try regardless and Pratt was appointed to be in charge of all the arrangements, the pavilion tents (these, in the event, designed by the antiquary and architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham) and the armour, the banners, decor and costumes and would also supply the stands, marquees and great tents for the feast and ball. And so it came about that, in March 1839, Eglinton sent out invitations to his intended guests, all peers, or sons or relations of peers, the people with the bluest blood in the land, if not necessarily the brightest of minds, as one commentator put it and and, though many tore up the invitation cards in derision, branding the scheme 'senseless ostentation' and 'childish buffoonery' for each recipient was invited to appear in authentic armour and test their prowess with sword and lance in the lists at Eglinton Castle and the 'knights' summoned to assemble to bring with them their womenfolk and retinues of squires, grooms and servants, all dressed in appropriate medieval garb, fifteen of the invitations accepted the invitations. Between 1750 and 1839, at least eighteen 'Grand Tournaments' - historical pageants featuring elaborate ceremonies, costumes, sets, re-enactments of battles and jousting displays - were staged throughout Europe, the last of these The Eglinton Tournament itself. Whilst all the armour supplied by Pratt was supposed to have been genuinely medieval, it is unclear how many of the suits actually were, some of the armour used was on loan from The Tower of London and most of the suits on loan too small and having to be 'let out' before they could be worn for the tournament. The 'Mad 3rd Marquess' of Waterford, notorious for his brawls with draymen in the streets of London, announced that he had purchased a costly suit of German armour specially for the occasion, this, on display at Windsor Castle in 1963, found to be fake and imitation. The Earl of Craven resurrected a magnificent suit of Milanese armour, inlaid with gold, that an ancestor had worn at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, its helmet alone weighing more than 40 pounds, country houses were ransacked for armour and weapons that had rusted unused for generations and other 'knights' scoured The Continent for suitable equipment, Eglinton's own tournament armour was later sold off by his family, during the 1925 sale of Eglinton's castle contents. The richer peers lavished fortunes on dressing themselves, their wives and troops of followers, The Marchioness of Londonderry reputed to have spent £1,000 on three velvet and brocade gowns. The dress rehearsals were held in London at a garden behind The Eyre Arms, a tavern close to Regent's Park, the final rehearsal held on Saturday July 13, 1839, when nineteen 'knights' participated, the rehearsal audience was invitation only, to "the very elite of the most elite" said "The Court Journal" and, 2,690 of 'the elite' attending. The rehearsal went perfectly, the weather sunny, the banners and armour and tents impressive, the jousting successful and even the critics conceded that the tournament was likely to be a fine show. All of upper-class Britain took notice and, while the Tories eyed antique armour and dreamed of courtly love, the Whigs, the social reformers and the Utilitarians expressed outrage at such 3
a fantasy at a time when the economy was in a shambles, when poverty was rampant and many workers were starving. Emotions ran high, with satirical cartoons, insults and passions aroused on both sides, the Whigs calling the Tories wastrels and the Tories calling the Whigs heartless. Whatever Eglinton's original intent, the tournament was symbolic of romantic defiance in the face of modern practicality. By July, Eglinton was ready to announce the names of the chief officials and their high-flown titles. The Queen of Beauty was the young Lady Seymour, wife to the heir to The Duke of Somerset, an appointment that caused acrimonious squabbles among the less fortunate contenders. The King of The Lists was the Marquess of Londonderry, Lord Saltoun was The Judge of The Lists and Sir Charles Lamb was Knight Marshal, with the task of ensuring that the combats did not become too realistic. Included among the knights were Viscount Alford, son of Earl Brownlow, The Earls of Cassilis and Craven, Viscount Glenlyon, he later The Duke of Atholl, The Marquess of Waterford and assorted sprigs of the aristocracy. Queen Victoria twice noted in her diary that she had discussed the tournament with Lord Melbourne and although her view was that the event would be a foolish amusement, the choice of Lady Seymour, Georgiana Sheridan, the wife of Edward Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset and sister of noted author Caroline Norton, as 'Queen of Beauty' was to her liking. And of course, there were some problems with the planning and location of the tournament for Kilwinning's Eglinton Castle, an 'imitation Gothic' eighteenth-century Georgian mansion with battlements and turrets added, lay just eight miles inland from Ayrshire's coastline. The area was prone to frequent and torrential rains and the tournament to be held on a meadow or 'holm' at a loop in the Lugton Water, the ground low-lying, almost marshy and with grassy slopes rising on all sides and some 200 workmen were taken on to toil on the transformation of the castle's park into a setting worthy of knightly pomp. Adjoining the castle, there was a sumptuous banqueting pavilion 350 feet long, hung with tapestries and crimson cloths, each knight provided with a private pavilion, his banner floating above and, in the main grandstand, which held 1,500 spectators, the damaskcanopied seat of The Queen of Beauty, who was to present prizes to the winning knights. The enclosure for the jousting was 300 yards long and a five-foot wooden barrier down the centre to prevent the horses colliding as the knights rode headlong at each other with their lances. Whilst the 'knights' on horseback and their retinue reached the tilt yard ('C') via an enclosed ride ('G'), the guests and visitors made their way to the stands via the route marked ('F') on the map illustrated, both groups crossing over the three arched Gothic Eglinton Tournament Bridge. An 1837 map of Eglinton Castle, Grounds and Tilt yard showing that the tilt yard was already in extistence before the tournament, but its fate not recorded after the tournament was over.
By now the tournament had become a national sensation. London newspapers reported the preparations in stories of rumour and gossip that stirred up the populace into violently opposed factions. Some regarded the tournament as the harmless whim of a half-mad nobleman; others passionately attacked it as the crowning example of aristocratic folly and arrogance. In Scotland, dour Presbyterian parsons prayed for rain to ruin the ungodly spectacle. Radicals prophesied that hungry mobs from Glasgow would descend upon Eglinton and tear the castle down about its owner's head. In London, excitement was kept alive by practice bouts staged by some of the knights in a field behind a tavern. By mid-July, thousands of gaping Londoners were gathering each day to watch these practice sessions. By now the knights had been joined by the exiled Prince Louis Napoleon of France, he later Emperor Napoleon III and the Hungarian Baron Esterhazy, whom Eglinton had invited to uphold the honour of Europe in the lists. Newspapers gleefully reported that the spectators had burst into roars of laughter when Prince Louis tumbled off his horse and rolled on the grass in his unwieldy armour like a capsized beetle. Lord Eglinton announced that the public would be welcome, not least if they came in medieval fancy dress and tickets for the public were free, but would have to be applied for. Expecting a healthy turnout, the Eglinton race meetings generally got local audiences of up to 1,500, Eglinton made arrangements for grandstands for the guests and comfortable seating for the expected crowd of about 4,000 and notified the press - 'The Times', 'The Morning Post', 'The Court Gazette' and 'the other important or popular journals' - of the offer of free tickets to all. Other newspapers repeated the story and readers of 'The Bath Figaro', 'The Cornish Guardian', 'The Sheffield Iris', 'The Wisbech Star' and many other newspapers, readers 'from every county in The British Isles', applied to Lord Eglinton for tickets, letters coming by the hundred into Castle Eglinton requesting tickets for parties of twenty, fifty and even for a party of a hundred people, a surviving scrapbook of nearly a thousand of these letters is filled with pleas, stories, promises of medieval dress and assertions of Tory sympathies and it must have become quickly apparent that this would be a vastly larger enterprise than had been originally planned, the final crowd estimated to be in excess of one hundred thousand people and the area's public transport and lodgings were overwhelmed. 5
The nearby town of Irvine had only one hotel, 'The Eglinton Arms', booked solid by Lord Waterford and everyone else was left to rent spaces in private homes at astronomical prices or to find what whatever accommodation they could. On the morning of the tournament the roads to Eglinton Castle were quickly jammed, the thirty mile long road from Ayr to Glasgow was filled from end to end and every approach was blocked by abandoned carriages, their owners continuing on foot. The railway from Ayr to Irvine charged thrice the normal fee and had people fighting for tickets as it was the only transport guaranteed to deposit them only a few miles from the castle. It was estimated that by August 25, three days before the tournament, 50,000 people had swarmed into the neighbourhood of Eglinton Castle. They filled every inn for miles around and many camped in the castle's park. Most were respectable folk, although one observer lamented that every pickpocket from London to Glasgow had gathered for the harvest. On August 26, the knights and their retainers began arriving and the huge crowd watched with emotions ranging from awe to derision as each pageant wound its way through the park to the castle. The Marquess of Waterford was followed by 20 squires in black and silver livery; Viscount Glenlyon led a band of 70 Highlanders armed with claymores. The final difficulty was the great parade of 'knights' that was supposed to open the tournament at noon, the knights had had little practice mounting their horses and took a long time to get prepared. Each knight and his entourage, forty groups of them, was supposed to ride to the castle, pick up a lady, officer or knight and return to the lists but, there was only one drive to and from the castle and the knights had to jostle back and forth past and through each other. The 'knights', apart from Eglinton, being Viscount Alford, aged 27, "Knight of The Black Lion"; Captain Beresford, aged 32, "Knight of The Stag's Head"; The Earl of Cassillis, aged 23, "Knight of The Dolphin"; The Earl of Craven, aged 30, "Knight of The Griffin"; Captain James O. Fairlie, aged 30, "Knight of The Golden Lion"; The Hon. H. E. H. Gage, aged 25, "Knight of The Ram"; Viscount Glenlyon, aged 25, "Knight of The Gael"; Sir Francis Hopkins Bart., aged 26, "Knight of The Burning Tower"; The Hon. Edward Jerningham, aged 35, "Knight of The Swan"; Charles Lamb, aged 23, "Knight of The White Rose"; Richard Lechemere, aged 40, "Knight of The Red Rose"; Walter Little Gilmour, aged 32, "The Black Knight" and The Marquess of Waterford, aged 28, "Knight of The Dragon". There had been no arrangement for parade control and the knightly gridlock took hours longer to unfold than had been planned and, by the time the parade was ready, it was a half mile long and over three hours late. No forethought seems to have been given to the weather and, although the day, August 29, had dawned clear and fine, as the knights and their entourages were struggling to organise the parade the sky began to darken and, just at the moment when the parade was finally arranged, just as Lady Seymour, 'The Queen of Beauty', was heralded by trumpets, there was a flash of lightning, a great crash of thunder and the black clouds of Ayrshire let loose with a sudden and violent rainstorm. Lord Eglinton immediately ordered the ladies into carriages, which sheltered them but prevented the crowd from seeing the notable beauties. The knights and their entourages, soaked in the squall and covered in mud, slipped and slithered into the lists down a parade route lined with umbrellas and Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, himself in the procession under a gigantic green umbrella. 6
The grandstand roof over the tiltyard, which could hold 2,000 people, had been designed Samuel Luke Pratt and though, covered with splendid scarlet, it might have looked pretty, in that day's rain, it leaked horribly, the knights and their guests, most in expensive costumes and few having brought overcoats or umbrellas, finding the roof dripping and their seats flooded when they got inside, the official guests including Lord Shaftesbury, The Marquess of Londonderry, Prince Louis Napoleon, he later Napoleon III of France, Princess Esterhazy of Hungary, Count Persigny of France, Count Lubeski of Poland and Jane Georgiana, Lady Seymour. Between the noise and mess of the rain, few could hear the 'warm up man' professional jester Robert M'Ian's jokes and even fewer found any of them amusing and when the tournament started, almost nothing could be seen or heard of it thanks to the weather, the rain falling throughout the four days of the program, hooves churning the ground into a quagmire, the horses slithering and skidding wildly as they charged up the lists, the armour-clad knights plastered with mud from visor to spur, heralds splashing between the pavilions bearing challenges and pair after pair riding out to tilt in the lists. With only two months to live, that, some might call, tragic figure Lady Flora Hastings had written to her mother on the subject of the upcoming Eglinton Tournament and expressed her concern that one of the knights might be killed in the violent sport, her fears unwarranted for, in their concern for safety, the tournament officials had insisted that the lances be flimsy wooden poles and, as a result, no knight was unhorsed and catcalls of boredom rose from the spectators as the lances splintered harmlessly against the knights' armour. After the tournament Lord Eglinton appeared in the lists, apologised for the rain and announced that, weather permitting, they would try to joust again the next day or the next and then announced that the medieval banquet and ball that evening would have to be cancelled, Pratt's marquee tent roofs leaking as badly as that over the grandstand. Some poor folk without lodgings are said to have spent that night beneath the grandstand, or even in hollow tree-trunks and the attendance at the tournament was poor next day, newspapers freely satirising the course of the whole proceedings. The rains had flooded the Lugton Water, which ran around the jousting lists on three sides, no carriages could cross it and so the entire audience, apart from Eglinton's personal guests, was stranded without transportation and had to walk miles through the rain and the mud to nearby villages where only the first people found any food, drink, accommodation or transport. On the last day Eglinton tried to enliven the proceedings by a 'Grand Equestrian Free for All' in which four Scottish champions challenged four Englishmen to combat with blunted broadswords. By this time, tempers among the mud-spattered knights had also become frayed. Before long they were hacking at each other in earnest, to the delight of the few remaining onlookers. The Marquess of Waterford reeled in his saddle with a gashed shoulder and The Hon. Edward Jerningham, son of Baron Stafford, left the field with blood streaming down his arm before The Knight Marshal managed to ride into the fray and separate the rest of the combatants. Although The Eglinton Tournament must undoubtedly stand as one of the most glorious and infamous follies of the 19th century, a torrential downpour resulting in the 'knights' and their mounts struggling through mud and sleet and all but invisible to the enormous crowd, The Eglinton Tournament struck a sympathetic chord in the Victorian imagination and served to whet the public's appetite for medieval martial spectacle, a successful 'Tournament and 7
Siege' produced at Astley’s Amphitheatre a few weeks later" and, thanks to one of The Eglinton Tournament's spectators, one William Gilmor of Baltimore, "tourneys" were introduced into America the following year. Between 1750 and 1839, at least eighteen 'Grand Tournaments' - historical pageants featuring elaborate ceremonies, costumes, sets, re-enactments of battles and jousting displays - had been staged throughout Europe, the last of these, The Eglinton Tournament of 1839 and a list of the challengers, with an account of the jousts and the mêlée, with drawings by J. H. Nixon, will be found in the volume on the tournament written by John Richardson, the tournament also described by Disraeli in his 'Endymion' and in Ian Anstruther's "The Knight and The Umbrella : An Account of The Eglinton Tournament 1839", published in 1963 and reprinted in 1986. One who would not forget the Kilwinning tournament was Lord Frederick Spencer Hamilton (1856 - 1928) who, writing in his book "The Days Before Yesterday", tells us "My father had been on very friendly terms with Napoleon III, then Prince Louis Napoleon, during the period of his exile in London in 1838, when he lived in King Street, Prince Louis Napoleon acting as my father's "Esquire" at the famous Eglinton Tournament in August, 1839. My father giving me as a boy "The Challenge Shield", with coat of arms, which hung outside his tent at the tournament and that shield always accompanying me in my wanderings. It hangs within a few feet of me as I write, as it hung forty-three years ago in my room in Berlin and later in Petrograd, Lisbon and Buenos Ayres". Whatever else, The Eglinton Tournament did succeed, some too might say 'spectacularly', in publicity terms and described as a 'revived Eglinton Tournament', an indoor tournament was held at The Empress Hall at London's Earl's Court on July 11, 1912, four of the six knights who jousted, before an audience which included Queen Alexandra, Lord Curzon, Lord Rosebery, Winston Churchill and Pierpont Morgan, were descended from participants in 1839 Eglinton Tournament and one, The Earl of Craven, was even wearing the armour that his grand-father had borne at the lists 73 years earlier. Of that somewhat tragic figure Lady Flora Hastings, her circumstance of some conjecture and some interest in its bearing on Victoria's life, the ever informative Wikipedia entries provide us with the understanding that, when Victoria came to the throne aged just eighteen on June 20, 1837 and even though queen, as an unmarried young woman, Victoria was nonetheless required to live with her mother, with whom she was more than quite angry over her upbringing under what was known as 'The Kensington System'. The Kensington System was a strict and elaborate set of rules designed by Victoria's mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and her attendant and supposed lover Sir John Conroy, concerning the upbringing of the young Victoria as the future queen, the system aimed at rendering the young Victoria weak and dependent upon her mother and Conroy, Victoria never allowed to be apart from either her mother, her tutor or her governess and kept isolated from other children, her mother and Conroy strictly monitoring and recording the young Victoria's every action and entirely controlling whom she was allowed to meet, The Kensington System also endorsed by Victoria's half-brother, Carl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen, who supported his mother's ambitions for a regency. When it became clear that the young Victoria would inherit the throne, Victoria's mother and Conroy, via a long series of threats and brow-beating, tried to induce Victoria to appoint Conroy her personal secretary and treasurer, little surprisingly in view of Victoria's hatred of their controls, to no avail.
Acceeding to the throne, Victoria decreed that she should immediately have an hour each day when she should be left alone, The Kensington System designed to deny her any privacy whatsoever and, Victoria too ordered that her bed should be removed from her mother's room, that move presaged the cessation of her mother's influence and, through her mother, that of Conroy too and Conroy banned from Victoria's apartments. Victoria's relations with her mother were to remain cold and distant for the rest of her mother's life, Victoria vitrually banishing her to a remote apartment in Buckingham Palace and usually refusing to meet her in later time, Lord Melbourne advising Victoria that her best course of action, to be free of her mother altogether, was marriage. The focus now turned to Conroy for, in 1839, one of Victoria's mother's ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Hastings, had developed an 'abdominal tumour', her 'growth' widely rumored to be an out-of-wedlock pregnancy occasioned by Conroy, who was also suspected of being the probable lover of Victoria's mother, Hastings at first refusing to submit to a physical examination by a doctor, Victoria believing the rumours and Victoria's reputation somewhat damaged when Hastings eventually allowed herself to be examined and was found to have a terminal tumour which resulted in her death, just before The Eglinton Tournament, in July 1839, Conroy and Hastings' brother immediately organizing a press campaign accusing The Queen of spreading false and disgraceful insults about Lady Hastings. Victoria's beloved Albert visited at Windor in mid-October 1839 and, though she had previously resisted attempts to rush into marriage, she proposed to him just five days after his visit ended, the couple marrying in the Chapel Royal of London's St . James' Palace on February 10, 1840 and Victoria then, at last, able to evict her mother from the palace. When the foundation stone of the new Eglinton Castle in Kilwinning was laid in 1797, 'Soldier Hugh', The 12th Earl of Eglinton, was proud to have the ceremony performed by Alexander Hamilton of Grange, grandfather of the American hero Alexander Hamilton, who was to become one of the most influential Scots in American history. Hamilton's family lived on the estate of Grange, which bordered on the Kilwinning lands at Stevenson, though he himself was born in the British colony of Nevis, in The West Indies, his father being Scottish and his mother Huguenot. After serving bravely in the field as Captain of The New York Provincial Company of Artillery and as ADC to Washington, Hamilton went on to be one of the main authors of the Federalist essays, instrumental in the forming of the Constitution, he became the first US Secretary of The Treasury and developed an impressive and effective financial plan that created immediate faith in the government of the new nation and it was Hamilton who drafted Washington’s Farewell Address which, after editing was delivered on September 19, 1796. Hamilton's New York house, "The Grange", named after his family home in Ayrshire, now a National Monument. As earlier noted and now given the American link about Hamilton, it was thanks to one of The Eglinton Tournament's American spectators, perhaps a friend of the Hamilton family, one William Gilmor of Baltimore, that "tourneys", as they were called, were introduced into America the following year, in 1840, the story of that and other American 'tourneys', given in Hanson Hiss' "The Knights of The Lance In The South". In the good old colonial days of The South, a hundred years ago and more, when every man was known by his horse and the tongue of a pack of fox-hounds in full cry was deemed far sweeter than any music; when Washington was yet a raw militia colonel, paying his unsuccessful addresses to the pretty 9
mistress of Greenway Court and the commercial supremacy of the present finished city of Alexandria was a matter of greatest envy to ambitious Baltimoreans, the dashing gallants were as near like the gay cavaliers of the time of Queen Bess, or the chivalrous knights of Isabella’s court, as matter-of-fact, democratic America has ever produced. They were thoroughly conversant with the horse, and could read anag’s faults or virtues at a glance. Woe be unto the enterprising horse-dealers who penetrated The South, from the colonies of Pennsylvania and New York, in quest of bargains; they soon discovered that they were in territory where they met more than their Greeks. These were literally raised in the saddle and, as small children, were as familiar and fearless with a horse as with a clog. When scarcely old enough to leave the apron-strings of their affectionate and solicitous black "mammies", these scions of the old proprietary nobility, for such they were, were given ponies, which they loved and rode, until, having reached a stature and estate befitting a more suitable mount, each selected a full-grown horse from his father’s stable of thoroughbreds. With it went a black boy, to tend the animal and keep its coat like satin, who took charge of his young master’s stables when he married and settled down on an estate of his own. They were a proud, hospitable and frank lot of young fellows and would eat with you, drink with you full of good will, or fight with you as quickly as their ancestors. One might judge from the foregoing description, that these gay Southern blades of preRevolutionary days were not an altogether model set of young fellows; but such is not the case, however. That they were brave and dashing, a hundred brilliant exploits on a hundred battle-fields in three wars will testify. Their gallantry and courtesy to the fair sex has been recorded in imperishable verse and it is to his love and admiration for them that The Southerner, in the present year of grace, owes the beautiful tourney, his most popular form of outdoor sport, practiced almost daily during the months of August, September and October, in every town, county and State south of Mason and Dixon’s Line. The tourney, from its inception to the present day, has been a sport entirely Southern and peculiarly fitted to the temperament and environment of The South. In many respects the founders of the sport were not unlike the knights and cavaliers of The Middle Ages, in the romantic and sunny days of chivalry, who, brave and fearless, in bright armor and flowing plumes, shivered their lances in oft-times fatal combat, under the eyes of their appreciative mistresses. In many cases, they were directly descended from these same knights, who distinguished themselves on hard-fought battle-fields in France, against the flower of French chivalry. It was but natural, in view of his ancestry and characteristics, that The Southerner should have gone back to a period fruitful in romance and instances of personal bravery and daring for a sport in which he might distinguish himself under the admiring eyes of an own fair mistress. Just when and where the tournament originated in The Southern colonies is a matter in the history of manly sports concerning which no writer of the time has left a record and it is more than probable that it will ever remain shrouded in mystery, far back in the sepulchre of American colonial history.
Dr William Hand Browne, of The Johns Hopkins University, the gifted author of Maryland’s history, is of the opinion that it is a Virginia custom of early colonial days instituted by the English cavaliers. Mr R. A. Brock, Secretary of The Virginia Historical Society, holds the same opinion and urges in support of his belief, that Virginia was one of the oldest colonies and ever emulated the mother-country customs and amusements. On the other hand, many of equally eminent authority as stoutly maintain that it originated in what is now Charles County, Maryland, early in the seventeenth century. Certain it is, however, that the sport has been practiced in The Southern States, with but a short interregnum, from the earliest colonial days to the present time and in its great popularity may be fitly termed the national sport of The South. The tourney of to-day differs in but few respects from its original form of the Middle Ages, when the sport was championed by The Kings of England and France and only knights of noble lineage were allowed to enter the lists. The same faultless horsemanship, the same immobile seat in the saddle and the same unerring aim with the lance, elicit the applause of fair women as in the time of King Arthur. Good horsemanship is a sine qua non in a knight, but, as a matter of fact, poor horsemanship is seldom encountered where the horse holds the place always assigned him by natural right in a country where chivalry has taken soot. It has ever been as natural for a Southerner to ride as for a Baltimore girl to have roses in her cheeks. An Englishman may be traduced when it is said that he always wants to "go out and kill something", but a native of Dixie transposes the longing and wants to "go out and ride something". The only material difference between the ancient and modern tourney lies in the fact that instead of tilting at approaching knights, the rider of to-day dashes down a straight course and with his lance captures rings suspended from a cross-bar. In this respect it resembles the old-fashioned English sport of tilting. Long before the hour set for the tourney to begin, the parade adjacent to the course is crowded with the society of the surrounding country, on horseback, in carriages, "T" carts, drags, surreys, on the grand stand and covering every possible point of vantage. As a rule, many carriages and wagons, gayly decorated and festooned, are left along the course from two to three days ahead of the entertainment in order to secure good positions. Everywhere there is a feeling of suppressed excitement, especially on the part of the scores of possible fair queens and maids of honor, who in vain attempt to hide a flutter of coy anticipation and possible triumph under a thin cloak of assumed indifference. It goes without saying that every knight, whether he stands a chance of coming off victorious or not, has mentally selected the fair one who he feels confident would most becomingly wear the muchcoveted crown as the fair queen of love and beauty. The knights form in an adjoining wood, where they give their names and titles to The Knight Marshal of The Tourney. The riders choose all sorts of titles, such as The Knight of Maryland, Knight of Rose Lawn, Knight of The Last Chance, or Knight of The Lost Cause, but the rule which seems to be the most popular is to assume the name of their town or ancestral estate. When the hour for beginning the contest arrives, the knights form in columns of twos, each with his lance resting on his right foot and, preceded by four heralds and a trumpeter, enter the lists and line up in front of the stand taken by The Knight Marshal of The Tourney, who 11
harangues them on their knightly duties and publishes the rules governing the contest. This is always a golden opportunity, never missed, for fervid oratory, delicious flights of romantic fancy and flattering allusions to the brilliant assemblage of youth and beauty. In laying out the tournament ground, great care is taken to select a good level course, usually facing east and west and one hundred and twenty yards in length. Three rings, an inch and a quarter in diameter, are suspended six and a half feet above the ground, from a cross-piece attached to two uprights. The lances used are light straight poles, eight feet in length and sharpened to a fine point at one end. The knights are required to ride down the course at a great rate of speed, on pain of being ruled out of the lists, the time allowed in making the distance being eight seconds. After the knights have received the charge from the eloquent Knight Marshal of The Tourney and have retired to one end of the course, one of the heralds, selecting the first name on the list, calls out in stentorian tones, "Knight of Maryland, prepare to charge". The knight of this name, bringing his lance to a rest and gathering his bridles closely in his hand, awaits the further order of, "Charge, Sir Knight". There is a blast from the trumpet, the flag in the hands of another herald drops to the ground and the rider is flying down the course at a break-neck speed, with his lance poised at the suspended rings and, if successful in capturing all three of them, is greeted with a hearty burst of grateful applause. To the casual observer it may appear an easy matter to capture the rings in a dash down the course, but it is by no means easy. There is always a rise and fall of at least three inches in the gait of the horse and this the rider must absorb by standing in his stirrups. In nine cases out of ten, an error in aim of a thirty-second part of an inch one way or the other will prove fatal. Not only that, but the rider must make the stab at the downward motion of the horse. In order to stand a chance of coming off victorious, the rider must secure every ring. If there are any ties, contesting knights tilt for rings smaller in diameter, until, by virtue of that ancient and inexorable law, the survival the fittest, but one victorious and happy knight is left in the list. All things considered, successful tourney riding is a matter of highly developed equestrian skill, matured after much practice and many failures. Each knight rides three times and, when all have tilted, the one who has been fortunate enough to secure the most rings is declared the victor and is given the distinguished honor of crowning the lady of his choice the fair Queen of Love and Beauty and, incidentally, he receives a handsome prize. The ceremony of selecting and crowning the queen is very pretty and unique. A trumpeter calls all the knights into line and, preceded by the heralds, they ride to the stand of The Lord of the Tourney. A floral wreath is placed on the lance of the victorious cavalier, who rides before the seats occupied by the spectators, eagerly scanning their faces for the one of his choice. This is, indeed, a trying moment for the fair friends of the victor and is only relieved by the knight lowering his lance and placing the wreath at the feet of his blushing and happy mistress, who is conducted to the stand and crowned by the victor, fair Queen of Love and Beauty. The three knights next in order then select their mistresses, who are crowned Maids of Honor to The Queen. The coronation address delivered by The Lord Marshal teems with flattering allusions to the fair ones of the royal set, coupled with stirring praise of the prowess of the victorious knights. 12
The day’s entertainment is wound up by a grand the ball in the evening, which is opened by the royal set, who step off the first dance by themselves. Owing to the fact that an ideal saddle-horse is a prime factor in determining upon whose banner victory shall perch, sport is limited. It is not a recreation for the masses and even solid and substantial middle-class farmers confine themselves to the part of spectators. In the olden days it afforded the wealthy class an excellent opportunity for display and planters from all over the state would drive to the scene of the struggle in their coaches and fours, surrounded by coloured outriders and carrying with them great hampers filled with the good things of life. Master William Eddies, The King's Surveyor at Annapolis, wrote back to the mother country, in 1766 that he was amazed at the elegance, fashion and lavish wealth of the planters and the courtly style in which they lived. He praised the speed of their well-bred horses and attributed it in great part to the fact that English army officers, stationed in the colony in its infancy, imported from England the finest strains of race-horses and blooded brood-mares in their attempts to institute an American Newmarket. The writer dilates on the beauty and elegance of speech and expression used by the planters, the choice English spoken by the Maryland and Virginia maidens, whose rare beauty of face and form, even at that early day, created comment. But The War of Independence rudely banished these rounds of social festivities and turned the attention of these pleasure-loving colonists of The South to more serious matters and the sport lay dormant for a period of fifty odd years, when it received a most splendid and romantic awakening. No doubt there are many still living in the sere and yellow leaf, who heard echoes brought across The Atlantic Ocean by returning travellers of the great Eglinton Tourney, which was given by the dashing and courtly Earl of Eglinton at his feudal castle in 1839. It was a costly and commendable effort on the part of The Earl and his noble friends to revive in the nineteenth century the chivalrous scenes and doings which have cast a halo of romance about the actions and events of the fourteenth century. The knights were all of noble lineage and were drawn not alone from the ranks of English aristocracy but from those of France and Germany as well. While it failed to revive the sport in England, it served to recall into being The Southern tourney of today. Surely his lordship builded better than he knew. Among the many guests whom The Earl entertained at his castle in the Highlands, was Mr William Gilmor, a scion of one of Maryland’s oldest families, who, emulating the example of a long line of aristocratic ancestors, was "doing" the old world after completing his education at home. Handsome, rich, well bred and well read, he was a welcome guest in the most exclusive and aristocratic circles in England and upon The Continent. It is not a matter of surprise then, that he should have witnessed the gay scenes of The Eglinton Tourney. Greatly impressed with the social success of this revival of the feudal sport, he returned to his native country and began to make preparations for an entertainment along the same lines. Preparations were made on a very elaborate scale and no expense was spared in making the affair a memorable success both socially and in point of horsemanship. It was decided to hold the entertainment on the beautiful Gilmor estate of "The Vineyard", on the York road, just outside of Baltimore. A course was laid out, sweeping around the foot of 13
the lawn and arrangements were made for accommodating scores of carriages in view of the course. Mr Gilmor was a superb rider and all the contending knights, of whom there were a score or more, spent several weeks prior to the event in practicing on the grounds. They took every possible means of providing themselves with mounts that had been trained on the hunting field. Mr Oelrichs, the father of the well-known New York clubman, rode a great black charger and, at the close of an unsuccessful day, rode the animal into Jones' Falls, Baltimore's Niagara Falls and declared he would never again get on a horse. Every great family in Maryland and Virginia was represented and the wealth and fashion present was a matter of comment for many years afterward. The knights at this tourney did not ride at rings, as in the olden days, but at the impersonation of a knight, which was carved out of wood and seated on a wooden horse. The four legs of the dummy horse were buried deep into the ground, in order to secure absolute stability. A large auger-hole was bored in the center of the horse's back, through which a chain was let; one end of this was fastened to the dummy knight and to the other were attached two sixty pound weights. The riders, in order to unseat the wooden figure, had to give it such a tremendous blow with the lance that it would lose its balance and fall from the horse. The riders at this tourney wore very handsome and costly costumes and aimed to impersonate in dress, as far as possible, the knights of The Eglinton Tourney, the lances of the knights were festooned with gay ribbons and the riders wore handsome plumes on their head-dress. All were the hardiest of riders and the pace was of the fastest description. The Vineyard Tourney set the fashion for this species of manly sport and, a few years afterward, there was a similar one at "Cowpens", the beautiful country villa of the Howards. The occasion was the marriage of Miss Eliza Ridgeley to Mr John White of Baltimore. The marriage of a daughter of an old Southern family is always the signal for a round of festivities, dances, hunts and tourneys, at which neither time nor expense is spared. The successful knight at this time was Colonel Harry Dorsey Gough Carroll, whose name is one of the most honored in the military history of the state. He crowned as Queen of Love and Beauty, Miss Margaret Howard, the present Mrs Charles Ridgeley of Hampton. At the next memorable tourney, which took place in 1850, riding at the rings was resurrected after a period of seventy years and from that time to the present day its popularity in The South has been steadily on the increase. It was held on the lawn of Daughregan Manor, the seventy-thousand-acre estate of Charles Carroll of Carrollton and in the list of knights who participated nearly every great family of the "twin sister states" was represented. The manor house at Daughregan is situated some distance back from the main road, in the beautiful old-world fashion and fronting it is a broad sweep of level, well-kept lawn. A more ideal place for an exhibition of horsemanship can scarcely be imagined. The baptism of fire and blood which for four years plunged The South in mourning, effectually banished every thought of sports and pastimes from the minds of the people. Instead of charging knights and floral crowns, the attention of the brave young women was turned to lint and bandages, the heroines of mimic scenes of war were plunged into the throes of actual conflict. 14
The records of an Alabama cavalry regiment contain an amusing, albeit pathetic, account of a tourney which took place in their winter quarters along the banks of The Potomac River. The young women of the surrounding country united their efforts in securing great hampers of cakes, pies, fried chicken and roast pig and the young men of the command, many of whom had figured in tourneys prior to the war, enjoyed the first luxurious meal since the second year of the conflict. Many of the knights were without shoes and the uniforms of all were ragged. But even rags, the recollection of recent hunger and the certainty of a continuation of it on the morrow, were not of sufficient potence to dampen the latent gayety of the dashing Southerner in the presence of present happiness and the tourney was a wonderful success and had an audience of twenty thousand valiant men. The largest tournament the people of Virginia ever witnessed was held in Front Royal the year following the war. It is estimated that ten thousand people were there from every part of the Old Dominion. The town could not begin to furnish accommodations for them all and the great crowd overflowed into the surrounding country and were royally entertained at every farmhouse, manor and cross-roads inn for miles in every direction. This was the first gathering of its kind the Mother of Presidents, or, to speak more correctly just at this time, the Grandmother of Presidents, had witnessed since the war and the people hailed with delight the revival of their favorite sport. Another famous tourney was held in the village of Weldon, North Carolina, just about this time and it was an affair equally brilliant. It was attended by the youth and beauty of the two Carolinas. The cavaliers of The Palmetto State broke lances with their Tarheel neighbors, all of whom but recently had fought shoulder to shoulder against common foe. The handsome young women of the two states held high carnival at the ball in the evening and rejoiced with their elders that peace had once more spread its wings over the land. The most conspicuous rider was The Knight of Don Quixote, who was dressed in a manner becoming the namesake of so distinguished a personage as the knightly assailant of the windmill. He was a most skillful rider and rode a magnificent war-horse. In making the tilt he would be followed by the inevitable Sancho, unwieldy and corpulent as a Falstaff and mounted on a mule. The manner in which this grotesque figure stabbed at the rings his master was supposed to have left, provoked shouts of laughter. By a fortunate coincidence The Knight of Don Quixote was victorious and crowned a lovely North Carolina maid, Queen of Love and Beauty. Tennessee, at the close of the mar, revived the sport in a magnificent entertainment at Memphis. The Knight Marshal of The Tourney, a distinguished son of Tennessee, took advantage of the occasion to deny the charge made by a Northern journal that the state had not returned to her allegiance and waxed eloquent in describing the fealty of her sons and their gallantry in the face of danger during the "times that tried men's souls". The white rose and the red were blended as an historic reference to the wars of Lancaster and York having a parallel in this country. The costumes of the knights were of the most fanciful description. All rode with elegance and grace and after repeated tilting it was discovered that a tie existed between The Knight of Night Before Last and The Knight of Snowden, who was none other than Sir James Fitz-James, a real English knight. After a remarkable exhibition of horsemanship, the Tennessee knight managed to down his antagonist. He received a handsome diamond ring and crowned the queen with a gold crown set with diamonds and pearls. 15
Brooklyndale, the beautiful home of the Brown family in Long Green Valley, was the scene of a notable tourney in 1874. The grounds were elaborately decorated and the courtly elegance and distinguished bearing of the knights who represented the oldest blood of a state famous in history for the noble lineage of its founders were matters of comment. All were in costly costumes and a more splendid array could hardly be imagined. The successful knight was Colonel Harry Gilmor, one of the most dashing and resourceful guerrilla chieftains. In conclusion, be it said that this beautiful outdoor diversion as it exists in The Southern country to-day may be truthfully admitted to be the only remaining relic of that romantic and picturesque age which has furnished the bards of five centuries with themes.
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