Did Knights Cheat In Medieval Tournaments?

Today cheating is pretty common in competitive sports. But is cheating a modern phenomenon or did people in the past, like for example medieval knights, also cheat? And if so, what would cheating in a medieval tournament have looked like?

Let`s find out!

Since medieval tournaments did not only offer the chance to win fame but also fortune (and the risk of losing horse and armor in the case of a defeat) some knights tried to cheat. A popular way to cheat was to put a thick piece of leather under the saddle to lift one’s position and gain an advantage while jousting. Another option was to bolt one’s armor to the saddle to prevent getting unhorsed.

One example of such an attempt of cheating can be found in the joust, more on why knights jousted here, that was held during the Landshut wedding in 1475. Duke Christoph had agreed to joust with a Polish guest. But during the inspection of the two knights before the joust, it turned out that the Polish guest had placed a thick piece of leather under his saddle so that he had a higher position.

A higher seating position was beneficial while jousting.

But not only the seating position was sometimes manipulated. Sometimes the weapons were also manipulated so that a jousting accident, more on how dangerous jousting really was here, could be used to cover up a murder.

A good example of that can be found in 1252.

In 1252 the English knight Ernant de Montiguy was killed in a tournament in the English city of Walden. His opponent had secretly exchanged his dull tournament lance against a war lance with a sharp tip to take his revenge on Ernant de Montiguy who had broken his leg in a past tournament.

But even without that kind of manipulations tournaments were pretty dangerous affairs, more on that here. And even when the less dangerous jousting would replace the melee as the main event of a tournament at the end of the 14th century, accidents with deadly consequences were still a real risk.

But the question of how risky jousting actually was and how even a king was killed in a jousting accident is a story for another time. Please feel free to check it out here!

Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.

Until next time

Yours truly

Luke Reitzer


Malte Prietzel: Krieg im Mittelalter (Darmstadt 2006).

Sabine Buttinger, Jan Keup: Die Ritter (Darmstadt 2013).