Fulke Greville's tournament helmet with swan knights crest now in the Mary Magdalene Chapel of Warwick Castle
Champion of the Tiltyard
As a young man, Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, was a famous champion of the tiltyard. In the New Year's Day Tilt of 1582, watched by Queen Elizabeth and thousands of spectators, he fought the Dauphin of France.
Greville always fought as a ‘Swan Knight’, being a full heir (through the Beauchamps), of the De Toney family of Flamstead. Greville’s early success with Elizabeth and other European monarchs can be attributed, in part, to his recognised status as a Knight of the Swan.
Greville's tournaments helmets with their swan crests, lay for hundreds of years on his monument in St. Mary's Church, Warwick, along with his 'robesword' and three daggers.They are now all on display in the Mary Magdalene Chapel, Warwick Castle.
Greville has the distinction, with his friend Sir Philip Sidney, of
introducing tournament imprese into England. An imprese was a paper or pasteboard shield painted with an emblematic device and motto which would be carried and interpreted for a knight by his squire. Such a ceremony is portrayed in Pericles, Scene 6.
Imprese are first mentioned by name in the Revels Documents in connection with one of the most famous tournaments ever held in England – The Four Foster Children of Desire , written by Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville (Friedrich Brie): ‘ done & performed before the Queen’s Majestie, & the French Ambassadours, on the Monday and Tuesday in Whitson weeke last, Anno 1581’.
The theme of the tournament was Sidney’s and Greville’s
opposition to the proposed ‘French Marriage’ on the grounds that Elizabeth belonged to the English and not to the French, in the form of the Duke of Alençon.
The four ‘Children’, Sidney, Greville, the Earl of Arundel and Lord Windsor, issued a challenge in which they claimed the Queen (‘Perfect Beauty’) as theirs ‘by right of inheritance’ and announced their determination to defend her against all comers.
The tournament was held at the tiltyard which adjoined the Queen’s house at Whitehall. The Queen and her ladies sat in the gallery (‘the Fortress of Perfect Beauty’), defended by twenty two knights and ‘an Unknown Knight’. The crowds who came to see the tournament were so vast that several spectators were crushed to death.
Nicholls in his Progresses of Queen Elizabeth , described Greville’s entrance to the tiltyard:
Then came Master Fulke Greville, in gilt armour, with rich and fair caparisons and furniture, having four spare horses with four pages riding upon them, and four trumpeters sounding before him, and twenty gentlemen and yeomen attending upon him, who with the pages and trumpeters were all apparelled in loose jerkins of tawny taffeta, cut and lined with yellow sarsenet, and laid with gold lace, and cut down the arm and set with loops and buttons of gold, Venetian hose of the same (lined as aforesaid) laid with gold lace down the side with loops and buttons of gold, with each a pair of yellow worsted stockings, and hats of tawny taffeta with gold bands and yellow feathers.
Greville and his three companions each ran six courses against the twenty three defending knights and then fought them with swords and finally at the barriers. Naturally, the ‘Foster Children’ were defeated and they submitted to the Queen who presented them with an olive branch.
In the ‘Accession Day’ tilt of November 1590, Greville fought his cousin and close friend, the Earl of Essex. ‘The Friends who went as Enemies’ were immortalized by George Peele in his Polyhymnia .
Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, was a brave gentleman
Sir Robert Naunton (1641), p. 50.