A tournament (or tourney) is a great social event, thrown by a noble house to celebrate honor, chivalry and martial skill. However, they also allow a noble house to flaunt their wealth and status, as tournaments are enormously expensive. It can take a smaller house years to pay for one tourney.
There is no set format or length for a tournament, with modest ones lasting perhaps only an afternoon and consisting of a few events, whilst larger ones may sprawl across a week and feature many different contests and challenges.
A tourney may consist of one or more of the following events:
- The jousting lists: mounted knights charge one another with lances, with the aim of dismounting one another. The knight who remains mounted the longest is the winner.
- The melee: a number of men engage in combat using swords, maces and axes. Opponents have to be knocked over and made to yield.
- Archery: archers compete with one another to show who has the greatest accuracy and consistency.
- Axe-throwing: similar to the archery contest, but with axes.
- Horse-racing: Unarmored riders compete in a simple horse race around a track.
Tournaments also attract large numbers of side-events, including puppet shows, mummer performances and so on. Vast quantities of food and drink are consumed at a tourney, and blacksmiths can find plenty of work repairing damaged armor or buying the armor and weapons of defeated knights.
Whilst tourneys are non-lethal and some safety precautions are taken, accidental deaths or injuries at a tournament are not unusual.
List of Tourneys
Tourney of the Hand
King Robert Baratheon declared that a tournament be held to celebrate his appointment of Eddard Stark as Hand of the King. Ser Loras Tyrell won the joust against Ser Gregor Clegane. However, this prompted Gregor to fly into a rage, decapitating his own horse. Gregor then knocked Loras off his horse and attacked him, almost succeeding in killing him. However, Gregor's younger brother Sandor Clegane intervened and fought off Gregor to protect Loras, halting Gregor until he heeded King Robert's shouted demand to stop this folly. In gratitude, Loras yielded the tournament victory to Sandor.
In the books
Noted tournaments in the history of Westeros include:
- The great tourney at Ashford in the year of the Great Spring Sickness, when the king's heir died in a melee.
- The great tourney at Whitewalls which served as the catalyst for the Second Blackfyre Rebellion, crushed by the king.
- The great tourney at Harrenhal in the Year of False Spring, a year before Robert's Rebellion.
- The tourney at Lannisport to celebrate Robert Baratheon's victory in the Greyjoy Rebellion. Ser Jorah Mormont was festooned with honors during the tournament.