The Remarkable Story of How the Maryland Sport Came to Be
In 1962, Maryland made history by being the first state of America to officially adopt a sport from medieval Europe—jousting.
The account of how the sport captured the hearts of the people of Maryland can be traced back to 1839 with a certain William Gilmore of Baltimore, Maryland. He traveled to Scotland and witnessed the Eglinton Tournament, which took place on August 30, 1839. The Eglinton Tournament of 1839 was a re-enactment of tournaments held in medieval times. Gilmore immediately fell in love with the sport and came back to his homeland in 1840 with the intent of introducing it to his people.
The summer of that same year, Gilmore hosted the first quintain jousting tournament in America at the vineyard of his home estate in Baltimore, Maryland. The tournament was a success and more of his people fell in love with the sport too.
The sport emerged from Europe during the 10th century. It was originally a means for knights to train for warfare. Knights would compete against each other in mock battles or practice tournaments where they would ride horseback and attempt to dismount each other using a lance. Although the lances were blunted in these practice tournaments, knights would still get severely injured and even die as a result. In the 14th century, kings and other men of nobility took it to jousting to display their skills, courage, and fighting prowess. Jousting was eventually dubbed as the “Sport of the Kings.” It was during the 15th century and onwards when jousting became a formal sport solely for public entertainment.
The Civil War in 1861 hindered Maryland from hosting more jousting competitions. The Maryland sport took a complete halt as everyone focused on the war. When the war ended in 1865, the sport made a comeback; jousting games were held to raise money for the post-war relief operations.
Before jousting became the official state sport of Maryland, the state was actively holding jousting games every year, which shows the unparalleled love of Marylanders for the sport. They called it “The Ring Tournaments.” Ring jousting became the state’s preferred version of the sport. A ring would serve as the target of the competing knight rendered with a lance or a long rod. The knight’s goal was to pick up the ring using the tip of his lance as he charges towards it on horseback. And as the years progressed, the state of Maryland continued modifying the sport so as to allow people of all ages to participate in the tournaments, making ring jousting the family sport of Maryland.
The official sport of Maryland continues to be celebrated in a more theatrical form in the state’s annual Renaissance Fair. The sport has retained its earliest concept of medieval costumes, pageantry, and horsemanship. The men who competed in the fair’s jousting games are addressed as “modern knights,” while the competing women are called “maidens,” or “maids.” And as tradition, the contestants register under a title which they make up. From Sir Knight of Walnut Lane to Maid of Missing Messes, the titles of the competing knights and maidens can come off as honorable as well as humorous. If a knight is declared the champion, he may offer his victory to a lady of his choosing and declare her “The Queen of Love and Beauty.” On the other hand, if a maiden wins, she is declared the queen and she chooses a gentleman to crown her.
Today, the medieval European sport of ring jousting continues to strive in America as the sport of Maryland, which is only befitting of the state with the slogan, “manly deeds, womanly words,” as the sport advocates honor and gallantry among all.
Cottom, Ric. “The Vineyard Tournament.” WYPR News station. June 15, 2016. Accessed July 16, 2017. http://wypr.org/post/vineyard-tournament-0.
Lam, Kennet K. “Jousting, Maryland’s Original Extreme Sport.” The Baltimore Sun. June 17, 2016. Accessed July 16, 2017. http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2016/06/jousting-marylands-original-extreme-sport/#1.
Samford, Patricia. “Jousting — The Sport of Kings.” Jefferson Patterson WordPress Blog. July 26, 2013. Accessed July 16, 2017. https://jeffersonpatterson.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/jousting-the-sport-of-kings/.
“One Thousand Years of Jousting History.” Maryland Jousting. Accessed July 16, 2017. http://www.marylandjousting.com/history.html.