Tournament of King John III

The museum’s ‘Knight-in-Residence’ Andy Deane is no stranger to the clattering lances and thundering hooves of the Royal Armouries annual tournament, but how does he fare when competing away from home? The Royal Armouries recently had the honour of competing in the Tournament of King John III at Gniew Castle in Poland. Here, Andy tells us about his experience. 

What is the Tournament of King John III and how did the Royal Armouries come to be involved?

The Tournament started at Gniew Castle around 26 years ago, it began as a foot combat, archery and crossbow competition and over the years has developed into a big jousting event. The people at Gniew have their own jousting team who perform in regular horse shows. About three years ago I met some of these Polish jousters at Arundel Tournament and we got on like a house on fire. From there, they invited me to compete individually in Poland in 2015 and 2016, and then this year thanks to the backing of a number of our staff, we were invited as Team Royal Armouries.

Andy Dean, donning the armour
Andy at the Tournament of King John III.

Are there any differences in how the Gniew Castle Tournament is run compared to the Royal Armouries Tournament?

I’d say the Royal Armouries is seen as a focal point for world jousting, and I think many places see what we have done in the past and try to emulate it. The thing with Gniew Castle is they have the spectacular background of a Teutonic castle, so they have perfect grounds for hosting a tournament. One of the great things with going to the tournament was that my teammates and I were able to slot straight in – we knew the rules as they’re very similar to Royal Armouries ones, but there were a few differences that brought jousting into the 21st-century.

Who competed alongside you for Team Royal Armouries?

Alongside myself, there were two other jousters who have both been associated with the museum in the past. Andrew Balmforth used to be an interpreter at the museum and he was one of our regular jousters for a number of years. My second teammate was Nicky Willis who has taken part in tournaments for us before, and is very proud to represent the museum. Not only were they great jousters, they are both incredibly enthusiastic about the Royal Armouries and what we do.

Andy, representing the Royal Armouries
Andy, representing the Royal Armouries.

Why do you think it’s important for the Royal Armouries to compete internationally?

It’s important because in many ways the Royal Armouries is still seen as the leader of tournaments around the world. We have two exceptional trophies here, the Sword of Honour and the Queen’s Jubilee Horn; I like to think of them as the Excalibur’s of the jousting world. Competing on an international stage allows us to spread the word of what we do here in Leeds and keep our torch burning as one of the leaders in the sport.

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Andy Deane, Andrew Balmforth and Nicky Willis in the grounds of Gniew Castle.

What are the Winged Hussars doing here in the summer?

The Poles are very proud of their heavy cavalry, in particular the Winged Hussars, who in the 17th-century developed two things; one, an extremely long lance, and two, fearless polish horses that were happy to bash into barriers, unlike any other horses. They quickly became known as the greatest cavalry to ever exist, and at Gniew they’re incredibly proud of that heritage and put on regular shows to honour it.

Tickets for this summer’s ‘Winged Hussar Horse Shows’ at the Royal Armouries are now on sale! Don’t miss out!