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Running of the Rings

At the James Madison Museum, we have much more beyond our in-depth exhibit about James Madison; that’s why we added the phrase “of Orange County Heritage” to the museum’s name.

Another one of our unique items is this jousting lance from the mid-20th century.  It is 82 ½” from the tip of the spear to the base with 10” of leather wound around the shaft, with small nails incorporated for grip. The metal spear is 16 ½” in length.

Unfortunately records on this artifact are incomplete.  It might, possibly, not definitively, have belonged to the Virginia State Jousting Champion, whom Orange toasted as the “King of Jousting” – Billy Brockman.  Brockman, “Knight of Rapidan, Orange” was inducted into the Jousting Hall of Fame in 1987.

Jousting, possibly dating back to the 9th century, was a man-against-man sport; at times a fatal sport.  Classic movies such as the 1952 “Sir Ivanhoe” provide an idea of the pageantry and skill involved; and of course, the Medieval Codes of Chivalry.  However, the deaths of several nobles and King Henry, II of France 1599 put an end to the sport. 

Jousting did not disappear; it merely changed.  During the reign of King James, I the evolution of the “Running of the Rings” gradually became the new style of jousting and made its way to the American Colonies. 


It is interesting to note that while interest dwindled in Europe it increased in the Colonies. Through several ebbs and flows, there was a strong renaissance in the “Knights of the Lance” in the roughly 52 year old U.S. in the early 1840s. From that point, jousting could be found is most “every civilized county South of the Mason-Dixon”.[1]  Following the tournaments there was always a grand ball; well, until the American War Between the States; or as we more commonly refer to it – the American Civil War – although there was nothing civil about it - a common southern/southwestern phrase.


The National Jousting Association writes of two jousting tournaments held in Virginia during the war: There was an “interesting account of a tournament hosted by an Alabama cavalry regiment at their winter quarters along the Potomac. They rode in rags and barefoot, but with great enthusiasm.[2] The second was a “famous” joust held on the lawn of Monticello in the Spring of 1863. The Association noted  “The Confederate soldiers and their ladies hosted a splendid tournament when the Yankees were bragging that even a crow couldn't fly across the valley without their consent.”[3]


 There are still events and tournaments held today and you can find them listed on The National Jousting Association's website.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


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