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  • Writer's pictureSSG Scribe

The (new) Company of Saint George and the Wedding Pas d'Armes

Lonnie Colson waits for a fight while Brian R. Price stands ready.

Back in 1991, Gavin Danker and myself co-founded the Company of Saint George, inspired by Gavin's attendance at a Chaucerian living history event in Toronto. We wrote a Middle English version of the charter, and, through Chronique: The Journal of Chivalry, began to inspire other groups to set up tournament companies of their own. These groups, like the Tenans of Noble Folly and the Company of the Star, flourished during the 1990s, some within the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and some outside.

At the prompting by Sam Fishburne starting in 2018, we set about re-establishing the Company of Saint George. Sam, with a background in re-enactment, was drawn to the authenticity aspects of the CSG, while in the original we tried hard to blend the chivalric ideals found in surviving romance and chronicle with the historical physical culture. Today's CSG continues that quest, with the same charter we had back in 1991.

We attempted to blend the re-establishing of the CSG with Brian & Wendy's wedding, since we figured most folks would be in town for that event already. Unfortuntely, COVID reared it's head, and the October, 2019 wedding date was pushed to 2020. With COVID still raging, the wedding celebration was cancelled, (though the marriage happened anyway, on 18 April). So we reset the tournament date for 11 Sept., 2021, but, the still continued COVID concerns prompted a number of cancellations at the last minute, though this time the show went on anyway!

This time we invited a cross-section of folks from different traditions, including HEMA, the SCA, and other similar groups. In all, we were much honored to have people from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, and even Alaska and Hawaii, plus many of the newer folks from our April cohort of the SSG Montgomery. Among them were:

Alex Cooley, Knight & Duke, SCA

Andrew Mackenzie, SSG Honolulu group co-leader; Baron, SCA

Bernadette Tix, SSG Anchorage Study Group leader

Brian R. Price, SSG Co-Founder; CSG Co-Founder; Knight & Earl, SCA

Bryan Johnson, SSG President; SSG Atlanta Group Leader

Chris Kelly, SSG Montgomery, Turtle Cohort

Cliff Nunery, SCA knight

Dan W. Simmons, SSG DFW, Birmingham, AL

Ed Wells, SSG Atlanta

Jesus Abete, SSG Montgomery, Turtle Cohort

Jon Hendrickson, SSG Montgomery

John "Dude" Allen, SSG Montgomery, Turtle Cohort

Josh Beck, SSG Pensacola Study Group Leader

Julian Arnold, SSG Springfield

Garrett McDowell, SSG DFW, Garland, TX

Garrick von Kopke, SCA duke & knight

Gene Arnold, SSG Sprinfield, MO Study Group Leader

Lex "Cat" SchuilNaam, SSG Montgomery, Turtle Cohort

Lonnie Colson, Jouster, Denton, TX

Rachel Evjen, SSG Montgomery, Turtle Cohort

Stan Roberts, Mobile, AL

Whitney Hood, SSG Pensacola

Armour was a challenge. The original intent was to run the "vespers" tourney on Friday evening, to give those without full harness a place to exercise themselves in arms and demonstrate their prowess. However, with a number of folks cancelling for COVID, we shifted and allowed combatants to fight without full harness and we bent rules we usually have in place about things like helmet grilles (one Internet troll posted a video of a fight with rebated sword and buckler citing it as what NOT to do; however, the face was declared as not a target, and neither combatant had any difficulty staying away from it. Similar things were done for the many combatants without leg harness, etc.).

Working in the weeks prior, however, we managed to get most of the new combatants--the self-styled "snapping turtle" cohort, into gear at least for the upper body, and the Friday evening affair was more of a practice/warm-up. In the days of the early WMA symposia that the SSG ran on the West Coast, the vespers tournament was a place where we could observe unknown combatants before letting them into the rebated Saturday list. That worked. Historically, there are references to Vespers tournaments within Wolfram von Eshenbach's Parsifal, as a place where squires and bachelors could show their worth.

Cat & Lonnie Colson

Helping this state of affairs was the extreme largesse of Bryan Johnson, who brought two trunks of armour. From these trunks, combatants drew extra pieces of gear and at least one was completely kitted out as a result. The following day, Ed Wells did the lion's share of wiping and waxing the pieces used, and did some polish work to remove a bit of rust.

On the day, Lonnie Colson and Stan Rogers stood out with their full harness; Lonnie in high Milanese, featuring multiple helmets in his garniture, and Stan Rogers, in a more gothic influenced set of of Italian plate. Ed Wells fought in full transitional kit, also.

Stan makes his challenge

On the day prior, the brand new list enclosure was set up, painted in bright red. This was painted by the snapping turtle cohort in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Also a small barrier was set up, 4' wide, as was done at the first Company of Saint George pas d'armes in 1991. While that one became a great favorite--nearly all the combats in the third round were fought over it with poleaxes in 1991--this one wasn't favored by many of the combatants, and I believe only two fights were made over it. For combatants without a legharness, though, it could be a great way to try the poleaxe!

On the day, it was unseasonably hot and humid. This presented a greater challenge for the combatants than did their opponents, and throughout the day combatants shed pieces of armour or withdrew. For next year, we've moved the tournament to mid-October in an attempt to mitigate this.

Chris' 1st tournent - v. Gene Arnold

Whitney stands ready for a fight in her first tournament

The new Company of Saint George banner hung over the center of the proceedings, flanked by the saint's shields that were used to declare challenges. Assorted banners of the combatants were arrayed across the back, and the three shade pavilions were set up. We were definitely short of chairs, benches, and that sort of thing. For next year, we also hope to replace the saint's shields with four properly gesso'd and painted ones.

CSG Companion Alex Cooley

As is traditional for the CSG, we did a short invocation stating the reason for the tournament, which we call the "commencaille". This was followed by a melee, fought with hardwood batons to "first blood" and "three good blows." It is a free-for-all format, without teams, where each combatant engages with one other until one or the other (or both) are struck. When struck, that blow counts of one of the three allowed; the combatants are expected to salute and choose another combatant until the melee is out of combatants. In this case, we did not communicate that in the SSG, double strikes are COUNTED, so a number of combatants discounted theirs--a point we need to fix for next year. In the melee there was precisely the sort of swirling action one sees in and reads about in the accounts of medieval tournaments, save that all was done on foot rather than in the saddle. Perhaps ironically, our only jouster Lonnie Colson won the melee.

This year, the challenge format was fairly wide open in order to accomodate the many different traditions. Combatants were free to fight with batons, with weapons of steel or with ones of poly/hard plastic. This useful tradition enables combatants with widely varying backgrounds to share an exchange of blows, and once again, it worked. Everyone seemed to give their opponents grace and the benefit of the doubt when it came to blow calibration, so judges were and remain unnecessary. The chivalric expectations, if well set, can abrogate the need for them. Also, we didn't have the personnel to staff with arming sergeants and judges, since we let the semi-armoured new folks compete.

Some fights were fought to "satisfaction," while most were fought with counted blows, in a form we now term a plaisance--that is, accepting all strikes landing with solid power as "good." Contrast this with the fight done a outrance by Lonnie and Stan, judged by Benaiah, where "armour counts." Next year we will have one pass where the weapons will be declared, but the kind of bout (counted blows a plaisance or a outrance, timed, or to satisfaction) will be randomly chosen by a drawn token.

After the commencaille, combatants were divided into two groups. The Companions of the new Company of Saint of Saint George were the defenders (tenans), augmented by a couple of folks. All others were on the challenger side (the venans). While modeling how this was done historically, it also had the effect of concentrating the fighting experience on the tenans' side, something we mean to address next year with a new kind of pass, "in the round," where anyone can challenge anyone. For myself, I would have loved a pass with Lonnie, or Stan, or Gene, or Alex (Baldar), or Garrick--though I really enjoyed all the bouts.

To open, the venans introduced themselves one by one. Benaiah Anderson played squire/herald for Stan, and did a magnificent job playing up the role, acting a bit like Chaucer in the Knight's Tale film. Benaiah continued in the role all day, adding considerably to the day's gravitas.

Jon Hendrickson makes a challenge

Next, the tenans introduced ourselves, and we chose from the venans the honor of first, second and third challenge, as has become tradition since the 1991 first pas d'armes.

The tenans and augmentees:

Brian, Stan, Lonnia, Benaiah, Bryan, Gene, Alex, Andrew, Garrick, and Dan.

Because of the heat, only three rounds or "passes" were fought, out of the four planned. But it was so hot that no one felt they had not "done enough," so it seemed all were satisfied. As is traditional, the defenders could receive multiple challenges in a pass, but any not challenged could make a challenge of their own. As a result, I had three or four fights per pass, which happened to a number of my fellow tenans also.

Cliff strikes at Gene

Ed wells v. Lonnie


Garrick and Alex in a "ducal" poleaxe bout over the barrier (both are SCA dukes)

During the day, we asked a couple of combatants "across the line" to bolster the tenan's number, in recognition of their fine prowess and courtesy. Garrick von Kopke was brought across, and asked to join the founding members of the new Company of Saint George as a companion. Stan Rogers was asked over also.

John "Dude" v. Brian

Whitney v. Gene

Jon Hendrickson breaks his spear on Lonnie

Dennis v. Daniel

Many fine deeds were done during the course of the day, and there are many videos of those fights which we'll link below. On the whole, Stan Roberts seemed to win the accolades spoken of by many for both his knightly demeanor and his prowess, while Ed Wells earned high renown for his blend of fighting skill, chivalric comportment and warm assistance to the many new fighters. But, as is correct for a deed of arms, all combatants earned renown that day, "though he (or she) who did more is more worthy," as Geoffrey de Charny wrote in the mid-fourteenth century. Though on this day, "doing more" meant high prowess with high conduct, fighting both heat and opponents to bring everyone to a higher level of prowess.

BJ v. Brian poleaxe

After the day was done, we enjoyed an evening dinner of meat and other local fare, and gifts were exchanged. This was done in the tradition of Geoffrey Matthias, who made a silver ring for the first pas d'armes in 1991 and gifted it at the dinner following an eloquent speech. On this day, Jon Allen gave each of his three plumes away and I gave King Rene style swords to both Lonnie and Stan. Bryan Johnson gave a poleaxe to BJ, though flying back to Anchorage, Alaska, we still have to find a way to get it to her!

The Company of Saint George has been re-established, and an annual feat of arms set up. While the Schola Saint George focuses on the fighting as a structured martial art, the Company of Saint George seeks to encourage combatants the equip themselves to the highest standards of authenticity for some point during the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453-ish), and to comport themselves with the highest standards of chivalry, as noted in the charter below. During the evening, a number of combatants petitioned to become Errants of the Company, signaling their intent to arm and comport themselves accordingly. Building harness takes considerable time, and some serious resources; but Jon Hendrickson and Dennis Pritzel, B.J. Tix, Julian Arnold, Cliff Nunery, and Josh Beck are all on that road.

Companions of Saint George

Dr. Brian R. Price

Sam Fishburne

Dr. Alex Cooley

Lonnie Colson

Andrew Mackenzie

Gene Arnold

Bryan Johnson

John "Garrick"


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