"Bruised Knights: Crusade veterans at the tournament in thirteenth-century Artois "
An "Embodiment" Paper
Every society faces times of war and peace and must find ways to reconcile the psychological discontinuities that they introduce. Modern western democracies that segregate the experiences of military service and civilian life are put to the test when attempting to reintegrate soldiers returning from war. By contrast, the feudal societies of medieval Europe developed over centuries to maintain and privilege an elite fighting class—the bellatores. This talk pursues thirteenth-century fighters once they traveled home from crusade. Using eye-witness accounts, conscription registers, and the archives of Count Robert II of Artois (1248-1302), I document the presence of veteran warriors (anciens) at tournaments in northern France. The discovery that veteran crusaders—not just aspiring ones—fought in the competitions challenges accepted theories about the function of the tournament as a training ground for the young men in society. Tourneys and jousts attracted a following among the graybeards of the military orders, I argue, because they enabled comrades to rejoin the community of the living while honoring the dead. Alongside medieval testimonies, I engage with post-medieval research on combat trauma and ‘moral injury’, to investigate how the tournament served as an enactment of a martial ideal, and an embodiment of comradeship and community.