Surely You Joust

By CodingStrategies on April 20th, 2018

A Knight's Tale is a 2001 American medieval adventure-comedy film written, produced, and directed by Brian Helgeland. The action begins at a jousting tournament somewhere in 14th century Europe, where young squires discover that their master has died mid-match. In a desperate bid for the prize money, Squire William (played by the late Heath Ledger) wears his master’s armor, impersonates him, wins the tournament and takes the prize.

Although only nobles are allowed to participate in tournaments, William is now inspired to compete and win more prize money, fame and glory. Along the way to his first tournament, this motley crew encounters a young Geoffrey Chaucer, who is also destitute and agrees to forge the patent of nobility that will allow William to compete as a knight under an assumed name. The tournament is observed by Jocelyn, a noblewoman with whom William has become infatuated, and Count Adhemar, a rival both in the joust and for Jocelyn's heart. In the final joust of the tournament, Adhemar defeats William.

During subsequent tournaments, William proves his love for Jocelyn by complying with her requests, and sends her a letter declaring his love. The group ultimately travels to London for the World Championship, and William recalls leaving his father when he was apprenticed as a child, all the while hoping to change his stars. William dominates at the London tournament and takes time out to visit his father, now blind and living alone in a poor part of town. This visit is discovered by Adhemar, who alerts the authorities to William's false identity.

Because he falsely claimed to be nobility, William is placed in the pillory, but is defended from the hostile crowd by his friends. Just as the mob reaches its frenzy, Prince Edward emerges from the crowd, noting that his friends' dedication to him reflects an ability to inspire others that is in the best tradition of knighthood. In acknowledgement of William's character, Edward announces that William is actually descended from an ancient royal family and is of noble lineage, and knights him "Sir William Thatcher”.

William returns to the tournament to face Adhemar in the final match, but Adhemar cheats with an illegally sharpened lance, piercing William's shoulder and seriously injuring him. Entering the final pass, William is losing by two lances and must unhorse Adhemar to win. William, unable to hold the lance due to his injuries, has his squire strap the lance to his arm. Bellowing his true name as he races to the final tilt, he knocks Adhemar to the ground with a crushing blow. In the ensuing celebration, as Jocelyn and William celebrate with a kiss, Chaucer remarks that he really should write the whole story down.

The history of the tournament and jousting started as a means for knights to practice their horsemanship skills and prowess with the use of a lance: a pole weapon or metal-tipped spear used during medieval warfare. The invention of jousting has been credited to a Frenchman named Godfrey de Preuilly, and the first recorded jousting match was in 1066 by Godfrey himself. The decline of jousting began in 1520 with the invention of the musket.

As the oldest equestrian sport in the world, jousting was both fascinating and dangerous. It was a sport for nobles and knights, jousting tournaments were considered formal court celebrations, heralds sang songs about jousters, the original goal was to kill your opponent and jousting was rarely the main event at the tournament (the main event was the melee, a confusing hand-to-hand battle involving many fighters at the same time). Some of the participating jousters were not committed to a liege lord and would joust for anyone who paid the highest rate; they were called “freelancers,” a term that is still in use today.

When jousting first became popular, jousters would simply charge at each other head-on with no divider between them. It was dangerous and often deadly, which is why the list was introduced. The list is the barrier between the horses, which started as a piece of cloth stretched down the middle of the field. When it was turned into a wood barrier, it was called the tilt. Today’s knights still use lances, but instead of knocking each other off their horses, they spear small metal rings. In “Ring Jousting” a single horseman charges down the track with a lance, toward a series of rings hanging from arches along the path. The rings get smaller as the rider advances, ranging from 1.75 inches to 0.25 inches in diameter. The goal is to capture all the rings with the lance.

The Maryland Jousting Tournament Association was founded by a number of dedicated jousting enthusiasts. It boasts members from every corner of the state, as well as from neighboring states and the District of Columbia. During the 1962 session of the Maryland General Assembly, a bill was introduced to establish jousting as the Official State Sport of Maryland. This bill passed both houses by an overwhelming majority and was signed into law on June 1, 1962. Maryland then became the only state with an officially recognized State Sport, and that sport originated in medieval Europe.

On Jousting Day in Maryland, the tournament field is colorfully decorated and there is a Parade of Knights and Maids in medieval costumes prior to the contest. In addition, jousting contenders register and ride under a title of their own choosing, such as Sir Knight of Oak Lane, Maid of Misty Waters or a more humorous name. Each knight then gallops his horse down a track 80 yards long, beneath 3 arches, each of which includes a ring. If there is a tie spearing the larger rings, smaller size rings are used until only one victorious knight remains.


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So what could go wrong at a family sporting event like jousting? Let’s take a look at some of the ICD-10-CM codes for this potentially dangerous physical contest; in addition to any specific injuries that occur, there are codes for:

W55.1-                  Subcategory includes codes for bitten by, struck by and other contact with horse

V80.010A             Animal-rider injured by fall from or being thrown from horse, initial encounter

V80.11XA             Animal-rider injured in collision with pedestrian or animal, initial encounter

V80.710A             Animal-rider injured in collision with other animal being ridden, initial encounter

W20.8XXA           Other cause of strike by thrown, projected or falling object, initial encounter

Jousting combines a heritage of rich medieval costuming, battle traditions and pageantry. Jousting also perpetuates romantic visions of knights in shining armor on charging horses, Camelot, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. This romantic shadow is evident in the following quote from A Knight’s Tale, when William writes to Jocelyn:

It is strange to think, I haven’t seen you since a month. I have seen the new moon, but not you. I have seen sunsets and sunrises, but nothing of your beautiful face. The pieces of my broken heart are so small that they could be passed through the eye of a needle. I miss you like the sun misses the flower; like the sun misses the flower in the depths of winter. Instead of beauty to direct its light to, the heart hardens like the frozen world your absence has banished me to. I next compete in the city of Paris; I will find it empty and in the winter if you are not there. Hope guides me; that is what gets me through the day and especially the night. The hope that after you’re gone from my sight, it will not be the last time that I look upon you.