Saturday, May 16, 2020

An Under Handed Duel

The Duel of Sir Guy of Steenvoorde and Sir Herman the Iron

Since I stirred up a hornet's nest, I feel that I should clean my pallet with something more humorous. A trial of combat between Sir Guy of Steenvoorde and Sir Herman the Iron. The following is not suitable for bardic piece at a school demo and probably should not be re-enacted as a Ice Dragon bardic performance.

In the 2nd quarter of the 12th century a Flemish knight by the name of Guy Steenvoorde was accused of being involved in the plot that killed Charles, the the Count of Flanders. The main point of the accusation was that Guy was married to the niece of another conspirator, who had just been killed by being beaten and then strangled with the bowels of a dog. While he, Guy, denied being involved, another knight, who was loyal to the late Count, named Sir Iron Herman, hotly accused Guy of being a murderer. I was unable to discover if Iron was his actual name, but all of accounts describe him as "a strong knight". 

Galbert of Bruges.wrote the following account on that April day in 1127:

"For this reason Iron Herman, a strong knight, had challenged Guy to single combat in the presence of the illegitimate Count of Ypres and immediately after [Provost] Charles had been killed because he had evilly betrayed his lord [Count Charles]. But Guy leapt forward, declaring himself ready to defend himself at any time against the alleged betrayal. And the next day that was assigned to them was the same on which the aforementioned provost suffered the torments of his death.
"Guy knocked his adversary from his horse and kept him down easily with his lance as he was struggling to get up. Then his opponent, running nearer, ran Guy’s horse through with his sword, disemboweling it. Sliding from the horse, his sword drawn, Guy attacked his adversary. A continuous and bitter encounter followed with exchanges of sword blows, until, worn out by the weight and burden of their arms, they threw away their shields and hastened to win the fight with their strength in wrestling. Iron Herman fell prostrate to the ground, and Guy threw himself on top of him, pounding the knight’s mouth and eyes with his iron gauntlets. But just as one reads of Antheus, [1] the prostrate man gathered strength bit by bit from the coolness of the ground and slyly made Guy think he was certain of victory while he rested. Meanwhile, having raised his hand very smoothly to the lower edges of the mail coat, where Guy was unprotected, and grabbed him by the testicles, he collected his strength for a single effort and threw him from him, breaking open all the lower parts of his body by this grabbing throw so that the prostrate Guy grew weak and cried out that he was defeated and was going to die.
"Then the Count, who wanted above all to enhance his reputation through this combat, ordered Guy to be hung on the same gallows next to the already dead provost so that they would die partners in torment just as they had been partners in betraying."

The only other account of the duel is recorded by Walter of Théroanne:

"When the judicial duel to determine the case between Guy and his accuser Herman, nicknamed the Iron, began, Guy had the better of the first and second exchanges of blows and fell on Herman and crushed him the the ground under the immense weight of his body and their arms (for Guy, like Herman, was armed with a heavy hauberk and a helmet). Then Herman, strengthened by God’s virtue, got up as if he no longer felt anything weighing on him and, throwing down in turn him who, as was mentioned above, had previously had the upper hand, began to press him to confer the crime he had committed. What more can I say? He was ultimately vanquished by divine judgement and convicted of the crime of which he was accused and thus sentenced to die."

Jeff Rider, a professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Medieval Studies at Wesleyan University, explains that Galbert of Bruges was not in Ypres to see this duel and was relying on the reports of others to recreate his account.

[1] Antheus was a giant, the son of Poseidon and Gaia. He loved to wrestle and was invincible as long as he remained in contact with the earth (Mom). He was killed by Hercules who held him above his head until Antheus grew weak enough to have the life squeezed out of him.

"Duels History and Purpose " Patrick Luo Final Project Blog 5.- Legio I Lynx Fulminata, 2 Dec. 2018,

Galbert of Bruges. The Murder, Betrayal, and Slaughter of the Glorious Charles, Count of Flanders. Translated by Jeff Rider. Yale University Press, Nov 26, 2013

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