The History of Leith

January 7, 2012

Royal tournaments

On the accession of James IV., in his boyhood, he sent a herald from Leith to demand the surrender of the Castle, and a commission consisting of the Lord High Treasurer, Sir William Knowles
(afterwards slain at Flodden), and others, took over all the personal property of the late king. The inventory taken on this occasion, according to Tytler, affords a pleasing and favourable idea
of the splendour of the Scottish court in those days.
In the treasurer’s accounts we have many curious entries concerning the various Scottish harpers, fiddlers, and English pipers, that performed hereto amuse James IV. “July 10, 1489; to Inglish
pyparis that cam to the Castel yet and playit to the king, viij lib. viij s.”
During the reign of the chivalrous and splendid James IV.—who was crowned at Kelso—Edinburgh became celebrated throughout all Europe as the scene of knightly feats. The favourite place for the royal tournaments was a spot of ground just below the Castle rock, and near the king’s stables. There, James in particular, assembled the nobles by proclamation, for jousting, offering such meeds of honour as a golden-headed lance, or similar favours, presented by his own hand or that of some beautiful woman. Knights came from all countries to take part in these jousts” bot,” says Pitscottie, “few or none of thame passed away unmatched, and oftimes overthrowne.” One notable encounter, witnessed by the king from the Castle wall, took place in 1503, when a famous cavalier of the Low Countries, named by Pitscottie Sir John Cochbevis, challenged the best knight in Scotland to break a spear, or meet him a outrance in combat to the death. Sir Patrick Hamilton of the house
of Arran took up his challenge. Amid a vast concourse, they came to the barriers, lanced, horsed, and clad in tenjpered mail, with their emblazoned shields hung round their necks. At sound of trumpet they rushed to the shock, and splintered their spears fairly. Fresh ones were given them, but as Hamilton’s horse failed him, they drew their two-handed swords, and encountered on foot. They fought thus ” for a full hour, till the Dutchman being struck to the ground,” the king cast his plumed bonnet over the wall to stay the combat, while the heralds and trumpeters proclaimed the Scottish knight victorious.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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