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Masculine competition

In the Tudor tiltyard
21st January - 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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Speaker: Dr Emma Levitt

This lecture will explore the fierce male competition that took place inside the tiltyard, which saw Henry VIII go lance-to-lance with his knights in lethal combats to prove who was the better man. To dominate in the tiltyard in Henry’s reign, men had to achieve high scores and present manly bodies, with elaborate suits of armour, large codpieces and impressive entrances on horseback.

The medieval tournament in Henry VIII’s reign continued to be an important arena for men to showcase their martial prowess as they entered into the tiltyard to perform feats of arms. In the tiltyard competition was fierce and Henry was not excused from defeat because he was king, in fact it was essential for his masculine image that his matches were viewed as hard fought battles.

This lecture focuses on the model of manhood that Henry and his men heralded as being the ‘male pinup’ in the early 16th century – the medieval knight. This talk will highlight how in the tiltyard masculinity was judged according to a definite set of rules and a unique scoring system, referencing contemporary score sheets that still survive today. Tournaments saw masculinity manifested in physical prowess, strength, and courage, and – as this talk will highlight – jouster’s bodies. This will be revealed through Henry VIII’s surviving suits of tournament armour, held at the Royal Armouries that are still the best material source for a study on male embodiment.

Find out more about how Henry VIII and his favoured jousting companions used the tiltyard as a theatre of manly display by registering for this lecture.


Please register in advance for this lecture. A link to the online presentation will be sent in due course.


This is a free event but we would welcome donations to support our work as guardians of the national collection of arms and armour. The Royal Armouries is a charity and you can boost your donation by using Gift Aid.

Please note: Fees are payable on donations made on Eventbrite. Donations can be made directly to Royal Armouries.