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.


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