Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Pas d'armes, Stirling, 1449


Sir John Ross of Hawkhead takes on Simon de Lalain.

The pas d'armes (passage of arms) was part of the chivalric tournament scene, where knights would face one another in organised combat. One of the most famous tournament fighters of the time was a Burgundian knight named Jaques de Lalain. He came to Scotland in 1449 with his uncle Simon de Lalain and a squire from Brittany named Herve de Meriadec. King James II himself adjudicated a combat of six with the Scottish trio of James, master of Douglas (brother of William, 8th earl of Douglas), James Douglas of Ralston and John Ross of Hawkhead.
The Burgundian court chronicler Georges Chastellain left a detailed (if a little one sided) account of the engagements, describing how the combatants 'were to fight with lances, axe, sword and dagger a outrance, (unsparingly) or until the king signified his will'. Nobody died, and it appears the Burgundian trio got the best of it. I'm almost certain strong drink would have been taken afterwards!

Jacques de Lalain, and a modern edition of Hans Talhoffer's 15th century fighting manual.

Tournament fighters would embark on a feats of arms career travelling far and wide to fight for honour, glory and no doubt money and women too. There were many different weapons employed, and as a result many different techniques were developed. Master swordsmen closely guarded their methods, only passing them on to their fechtschule pupils in return for hard cash. Hans Talhoffer was one such fechtmeister, who became infamous for actually publishing an illustrated manual of his techniques, which he in turn no doubt learned from others. The first edition appeared in 1443. You can't help feeling that the de Lalains, and their noble Scottish counterparts knew of Tahlhoffer, or would have been familiar with this style of fighting.


The figures for the Stirling scene represent a sequence from Talhoffer, with the swordsman on the left menacing his opponent with the 'thrust of wrath' (brilliant!) pretty much as shown in the Talhoffer illustration above.

The Stirling pas d'armes is another of my 'time machine moments', what an amazing spectacle it must have been to witness. More pics of the Perry Miniatures plastic figures below. It's probably unlikely the combatants would have worn their scabbards during the combat, but I stuck them on anyway since these figures will be probably be used elsewhere.


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Raising the standards

While working on the Threave project I painted a couple of standards, using an online document 'A facsimile of an ancient heraldic manuscript' as my source. It's fun, so there may be a few of these.

Duke of Albany

Constituent parts of the standard, from left - Earl of March, Royal, Lord of Man, Lord of Annandale




Alexander Stewart, b.1454, was the brother of the future James III, and was made Duke of Albany in 1458. Albany loosely refers to the lands north of the River Forth, roughly the former kingdom of the Picts.

In the course of a colourful political and military career he forfeited his honours in 1479, was restored in 1482, then forfeited again in 1483. Perhaps most famous for intriguing with England in an attempt  to usurp his brother's throne, he eventually died whilst watching a jousting tournament in France in 1485. He caught a splinter in the eye, how unlucky is that.

Mary of Guelders


Mary was queen to James II, married at Holyrood Abbey in 1449. She was daughter of Arnold, Duke of Guelders and Catherine of Cleves.

Mary's marriage was arranged by her great uncle Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, one of the most powerful men in Europe at that time. He was the one who gifted the hugely expensive bombard Mons Meg to James in 1457.  

Mary had a warlike husband and in her turn seems to have been happy to pick up the sword when necessary. When James was killed  at the siege of Roxburgh in 1460, Mary took charge, bringing the siege to a successful conclusion.

James Lindsay was provost of Lincluden Collegiate Church in Dumfries and held the post of Keeper of the Privy Seal more than once during the reign. He was a favourite of Mary, and so I have portrayed her standard borne by a Lindsay man at arms. The backdrop is a watercolour of Lincluden as it is today.