Royal Splendour

Chapter 2 : Tournament for the Duke of York’s Investiture

Edward IV, Henry VII’s father-in-law, had introduced many of the customs of the Burgundian court, noted throughout Europe in the latter fifteenth century as the richest, most refined and most culturally advanced in Europe, and Henry, perhaps influenced by his wife, Elizabeth of York, continued this trend. Part of this court ritual included the joust and several were held during Henry’s reign.

For Henry VII, these occasions were about showing his authority, rather than for personal gratification, and the first tournament, that of 1494, was conducted as a warning to the supporters of Perkin Warbeck that the King was in charge. The purpose was to mark the investiture of Margaret’s younger brother, Henry, as Duke of York. It was necessary to have a lady to act as prize-giver, and so Henry’s five-year-old daughter, Margaret, was given that privilege.

The tournament was held at Westminster, following a public announcement that would have been circulated in the European courts. It was to take place on the 4th, 9th and 12th November, just weeks before Margaret’s birthday. The event was held for the pleasure of the King, the Queen and the ladies and ‘specially for the pleasure of the redoubted lady and fairest young princess, the eldest daughter of our sovereign lord, the king.’

The prizes were to include two rings of gold, one with a ruby, the other with a diamond.

On 9th November, King and Queen took their places in a ‘house’ (what we might call a pavilion) above the competition ground. The house was hung with blue arras, embroidered with gold fleur-de-lis. Henry and Elizabeth were richly arrayed, seated on cushions of cloth of gold, with cloths-of-estate above them. They were accompanied by Margaret’s grandmother, the Countess of Richmond, the newly created Duke of York, the Duke of Bedford (Jasper Tudor) and the Duke of Buckingham (Edward Stafford) as well as numerous other nobles. Margaret is not specifically mentioned, but we can infer her presence.

Challengers for the King, dressed in his colours of green and white, were the Earl of Suffolk (Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, Edmund de la Pole); the Earl of Essex (Henry Bourchier, her second cousin); George Nevill, Lord Bergavenny; Sir Robert Curson, Sir John Peche and Matthew Baker

The Answerers were the Earl of Shrewsbury, Sir John Cheyne, Sir Edward Borough, Sir Edward Darrell, Thomas Brandon, Guillaume de la Riviere, Roland de Vieilleville, Henry Winslow and William Craythorn.  It appears from the account that there were more Answerers than Challengers but I cannot explain why that should be so.

After the joust, the dancing began, then Lady Anne Percy and Lady Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Westmorland, presented the winner, Sir John Peche to Margaret, who bestowed the prize ruby ring on him.

The second day, further courses were held, and on this occasion the Earl of Suffolk was the winner. He was presented to Margaret by Lady Elizabeth Stafford (Buckingham’s sister) and Lady Anne Neville, and she gave him the diamond ring.

Finally, Margaret received Thomas Brandon, introduced to her by Maud Herbert, Countess of Northumberland, and Lady Elizabeth Herbert, the Countess’ niece, and first cousin to Elizabeth of York through her mother, Mary Woodville. Brandon received another ruby ring. Further jousts were held on 13th November, and Margaret presented an emerald ring to the Earl of Essex.

At the end, a great feast was held, but it seems that Margaret was considered too young to attend as she is not in the list, although the Duke of York, even younger, was present.

Seven years later, in January 1502, Margaret again presided as lady of honour at the tournament to mark her proxy marriage to James IV. The competitors on this occasion were almost the same as those who had taken part in 1494.

They were: the Marquis of Dorset, nephew of Queen Elizabeth; the Earl of Essex; Lord William Courtenay, married to Margaret’s aunt, Katherine of York;  Sir John Peche; Sir John Nevill, Guillaume de la Riviere; Roland de Vieilleville; John Kerr; Reyne de Shezelles and a rising star in the jousting world, Charles Brandon. It was Devon to whom Margaret gave the prize the next day after politely thanking all those who had taken part.

The Duke of Buckingham, although he did not take part in the jousting, won admiration for the brilliance of his horsemanship, and the beauty of his two coursers and their gorgeous trappings. The first horse had a demi-trapper embroidered with castles, whilst the second had a trapper of blue and crimson, embroidered with the Garter and the Duke’s other emblems. 

The Earl of Bothwell, who had played James’ proxy for the wedding ceremony, gave a present of his robe and 100 crowns to Clarencieux Herald, who as one of the Kings-of-Arms had responsibility for the tournament. Henry VII, however, forbad Clarencieux from accepting the tip. He himself gave James’ Herald, Lyon King-of-Arms, a gown and money.