Chivalric games at the court of Edward III: The jousting letters of EUL MS 183

Sarah Carpenter, Philip E. Bennett, Louise Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In the Special Collections of Edinburgh University Library is a manuscript known as the ‘Royal Letter Book’. Written in the 1390s–1410s, it contains several hundred copy letters of royal correspondence stretching from the reigns of Edward III to Henry IV. Among the diplomatic and administrative communications, five quite different letters have recently come to light. They are written as if from imaginary or exotic queens or ladies, each recommending a worthy combatant to the lady presiding over a joust at the English court. Cast in fictive frame, in Insular French, they appear to be vivid early contributions to the deliberate theatricalisation of battle games between members of the court. In tones ranging from the magnificent to the comic, the letters draw together romance motifs and real individuals; they offer engaging, intimate but enigmatic insights into the entertainment, relationships, and administration at court. Since this group of letters has been almost wholly unnoticed and unknown until now, and deserves wider availability, we are presenting here an edition with translation and commentary. This is introduced by a preliminary essay on the significance and implications — theatrical and historical — that the letters may carry for all who are interested in late medieval courtly culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-342
Number of pages38
JournalMedium aevum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


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