Ice and Fire Sport

Ice and Fire Sport and the Medieval Age

With the popularity of Ice and Fire or “Game of Thrones” as it is popularly known on TV, a fantasy series based in the land of Westeros.  An interesting mix of medieval, Viking, fantasy and more which can be related back to a few different eras that we can compare to life as we once knew it on planet Earth.  Wondering just what the guys wore during battle and during their sports, how they were made, and the costs of it all got me to do a little digging.

Jousting was the main sport and other games that were prestigious were hunting, fighting, hawking or sword play and this all happened during the medieval age on our planet and so to this era we go.


Mock battles and sports were the great sport of early medieval times and these

English: Rüstkammer, Dresden - plate armour. F...
English: Rüstkammer, Dresden – plate armour. France, before 1588 Deutsch: Französische Plattenrüstung, Dresden Rüstkammer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

were fist fought by knights wearing boiled leather or a quilted gambeson underneath a mail shirt (hauberk).

At this time a mail shirt made of 25,000 rings was the equivalent of the entire income of a good sized village! This of course was way beyond the financial means of an ordinary man in the street. In addition a sword was required and these took nearly 200 man hours of labour to produce in the early 1100’s.  Lances were also the thing of the day and eventually had a specially fitted holster, for want of a better word, which was built into a saddle to house it.  All of the above where then placed on top of a horse which at that time would have cost around a £100, which when the average yearly income was around £40, cost a pretty whack (let’s compare it to the equivalent of purchasing a Ferrari today). The horse being such a huge investment was protected by chain mail itself and had its own set of armour.


In early medieval times open faced helmets were used and these later evolved into a closed steel helmet that was tied at the back with laces.  So to be able to identify the jousters, heraldry was added to the outfit so the sportsman could be identified.  In later times they were replaced by smaller head gear which sported visors.

One weakness of chain mail is that it did not stop a lance and when lanced or wounded the mail could get caught in the wounds and cause complications. Then from around 1286 plated armour began to be worn underneath the chain mail as a solution.

The 13th Century saw further improvements in the horses armour, steel gloves (gauntlets) and rounded shields made of a combination of wood and steel to better deflect blows.

As jousting developed more rules were brought in and the choices of weapons were restricted and the shield became the target for your opponent.  The “vamplate” was developed on lances (a protective plate around the handhold of the lance to protect the hand.) The lances were now made from Applewood or Ash (wood) and had blunt tips, which were made for sport instead of war.  Saddles were made higher and offered leg protection. Plate covered leather was replaced with full plate armour and badges replaced surcoats.


Supplies of Iron grew rapidly in the 14th Century due to bellows being used with water generated power, allowing for the generation of much higher heat temperatures. Swords as a result became stiffer and sharper and armour got lighter and stronger and more able to withstand impacts. Which reminds me of Jaimes sword, beautifully crafted and given to him as a gift from his father, Tywin Lannister in the epic Ice and Fire fantasy novels.

There were two main centres for armour in the day and they were Milan and Augsburg. In Milan they specialised in smoother armour suited to repelling lances and swords. In Augsburg a more rippled finished armour was produced and this armour was intended to deflect arrows and bolts.

As production increased it became possible to rent a suit of armour or even purchase a second hand one.

By the mid-15th C a highly sought after “white Armour” was being produced. This armour had a weight of just 36kg, and when wearing this baby there was no question of not being able to rise again when knocked to the ground.


Wealthy knights imported valuable birds and had fine and expensive hawking gloves made from the leather of a particular kind of sheep, the Mouflon. The best of these skins came from Cordoba, Spain, and in England makers of these gloves took the name of “Cordwainers”.  Hawks were so valuable that from 1360 that the theft of a hawk was punishable by death.


Interestingly other sports described that were enjoyed by knights were shooting with bows and arrows, rock throwing, hurling the lance, dice (gambling?) and a huge variety of other games.


Although there is not much recorded history about the various other winter sports one “William FItstephen” recorded sledging way back in 1175, sliding and curling on ice skates made of bone. Skates such as these have since been found in the London sewers. In Finland skis over 2 meters in length have been found dating back to 2000BC and a sledge dating back to 6500BC.


Well, if you have ever seen any pictures of shoes from the middle ages you will know that they had extremely long toes and these even curled upward! Not great for playing or participating in any kind of sport. These shoes became known as Cracow’s (in the UK) and Poulaines (in France) and reached such ridiculous lengths that laws was brought in to limit the length. Cracow’s had no heel and the toes reached up to 60cm in length can you imagine playing a game of football in a pair of these?

It is unlikely that ordinary people had special clothing for playing sport.  Even after the advent of the spinning wheel in the 14th C, clothing was hard to come by.  It was not often that people (commoners) had more than one set of clothing. The same goes for shoes and the custom of sons inheriting footwear from their fathers is reinforced by the sayings “Following in his father’s footsteps” and “filling his boots” all exist from these days.

Clothing for medieval commoners was plain and very simple stuff. The peasant or commoner wore a tight tunic that was short and belted with rope or leather. He might also wear short pants or trousers made of wool and a felt hat (this is the only type of hat he was allowed to wear).


The famous game of ball lived in those days and the ball was made from a cow or pigs bladder and stuffed with sad, straw or chalk and roughly stitched together. A pigs head would often suffice too!

In the 16thC a shoemaker presented the Drapers Company with a new ball which was worth three shillings and four pence for their Shrove Tuesday match, which at the price in the day suggests a top quality item.

It is clear that sport over the years has certainly had its costs and also the gear.

Looking at the cost of jousting and the safety developments in jousting way back then,  I could not help but compare how it reminded me of the huge costs, safety rules and adjustments that have been made in the modern sport of F1 racing sport over the last years, often a trail of Ice and Fire Sport itself and which is also the most expensive sport in the world today!

It is clear that nothing has changed over the centuries and that man will always strive to create both gear and clothing that will give him the edge in his preferred sport.

It all boils down to the same thing , the World of Ice and Fire Sport and the Medieval Ages all required huge sums of money to make things happen. Fantasy or reality, sport and exciting sport adventures in the history of mankind on Earth or in Westeros!

Formula One Grand Prix History

Formula One’s Grand Prix history (briefly known previously as Formula A), Grand Prix History can trace its roots back to the earliest days of motor racing, with the first Grand Prix’s being held from 1906 and its emergence from the up-beat European racing scene in-between WW1 and WW2.

English: "The famous French automobilist ...
English: “The famous French automobilist [Sisz] in his racing machine, after winning the grand prize for the contest over the Sarthe Circuit.” The contest referred to is the 1906 French Grand Prix. Sisz is on the left in the photo, and his riding mechanic M. Martaud is on the right. The car would not appear to be his race winning Renault. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In History 1906 was to be the year of the first Grand Prix. This was a two day event covering 12 laps of a 65 mile triangular course near Le Mans in the sparsely populated Sarthe region (departement). To avoid having to slow down through towns, a temporary wooden road was laid past the village of St Calais along which the drivers could speed at 90mph. In place of the old nation versus nation scenario, this was a maker versus maker race, a 1000kg limit was retained as a part of the emerging rules of racing and only the driver and the mechanic were allowed to make repairs. Detachable wheels were disallowed so damaged tyres had to be slashed off and depots were set up close to the spectator stands so that all could view the crews fetching oil, fuel and water for engines that had up to an 18 liter capacity. This the first grand prix was run over 770 miles. At the last minute it was decided the race would be run in an anti-clockwise direction in grand old roman style. It was won by Ferenc Szisz in a 13 liter Renault in blazing heat with an average speed of 63mph.

Brooklands was opened in 1907 as a response to the ban on road racing in Britain and the 20 mph speed limit. Brooklands was a purpose built course constructed on swampy forest grounds outside Weybridge. It took 700 men, 9 months to construct and cost 150,000 pounds. It was laid out on the model of a horse racing track and with horse racing rules put in place. It was a 2.75 mile course and had a 30 meter wide banked track that reached 8 meters in height. Brooklands was more of a speed track than an endurance track.  In 1907 Captain

Edge set out to break the 24-hour distance record at Brooklands. Medical opinion was divided and betting as to whether he would have a heart attack or go mad in the attempt. Edge ringed the course with lanterns and clocked up 1,581 miles. A French equivalent of Brooklands were roads like Arpajon near Paris, where a stretch of dirt highway was wet down to test cars at speeds of well over 100 mph.

The 1907 Grand Prix was run outside of Dieppe in France, it was run over the period of a day, the circuit was 47 miles long and was 10 laps long. Speeds of over 100 mph were seen here. It was won by Fiat.

In 1908 the Grand Prix was again run over the Dieppe course. The depots were put in front of the pits and sunk into the ground so as not to disturb anybody’s views. Mercedes won. Fed up by being outclassed by foreigners, 17 companies decided to abandon Grand Prix racing in a boycott that lasted until 1911.

By 1911 the US had developed the Indianapolis circuit where 300,000 people watched the first 200 lap race.


Grand Prix racing resumed in 1912, the year which marked the coming of the age of the petrol motor and the production of the first completely modern engine. This engine was the creation of Ernest Henry a Swiss engineer working for Peugeot. Henry devised the first multi-valve engine with four per cylinder. Enlarged from three cylinder to seven for racing in Grand Prix’s, Henry won the 1912 French Grand Prix, beating monsters nearly twice their size. Henry was so far ahead of the game that it would be 1983 before standard production cars such as corolla and civic caught up

Henry being more pre occupied with reliability rather than speed and probably never realised just how good his engine was, other manufacturers caught on quickly and the three liter, fast revving Sunbeams managed to finish third, fourth and fifth overall. Fiat developed a new push rod system and the Hispano Suiza developed the supercharger which pushed more air into the engine. At the same time the American Cadillac developed the electric starter motor which eliminated the need for a car to be started by two people.

With a continued trend to shorter circuits and increased laps the 1913 Grand Prix took place near Amiens with a 29 lap and 19 mile circuit. The race was run clockwise, with the stands being on the outside and the pits on the inside which were serviced by a loop road and tunnel for safety of access. As the racing formula became more complex, cars now had to comply with a fuel limit and a maximum weight of 800 kilos. Henrys engines won at both Amiens and Indianapolis and were back in the following years boasting streamlining and four wheel brake systems.

In the last year of racing pre WW1 the Grand Prix moved to Lyon, where the circuit boasted Le Piege de la Mort (the death trap). The latest rules were an engine size limit of 4,5 liters. Mercedes used a simplified, faster revving version of Henrys car which was supercharged to reach 116 mph. Mercedes also introduced team tactics into the sport, sacrificing a car to wear down George Boillots Peugeot.

The effects of WW1 on European motor manufacturers were a huge expansion in production capacity as well as improvements in metallurgy and design as rival engineers such as Mercedes and Rolls-Royce developed lighter, faster revving, supercharged, multi cylinder engines for use in planes. For the USA the 1914-1918 war had been the 1917-1918 war, and while the French, British and Germans were fighting, American motorsport had developed in its own way, they developed a 3–cubic inch capacity formula and improved on the French designed cars which had won the 1914 Indy 500.

The first post-war race, the 1919 Targa Florio was typically demanding and was won by George Baillots brother Andre, who cried, “cest pour le France” and collapsed after the rigors of the race in which he had shot off the wolf infested, rutted mountain tracks at least six times.

Normal Grand Prix racing resumed in 1921 with a three liter maximum capacity and an 800 kilogram minimum weight. This era was dominated by the US Dusenbergs and their “straight eight” engines. They triumphed is a series of European races including the Big one, The Le Mans Grand Prix. (the 24 hour race did not start until 1923).

Plans for a Formula One drivers’ championship were discussed in the late 1930s but were shelved again with the beginning of World War 2.

The WW2 ended on the 15th August 1945 and motor racing returned the following month with a Coupe des Prisonniers held in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. with much of Europe in ruins motor racing was not a high priority. Most cars had not raced in years. Two years later there were still only four Grand Prix, the Swiss, Belgian, Italian and the French, but by this time the FIA had re adopted the 1941 planned formula; 4,5 liters maximum or 1,5 liters supercharged. This formula was intended to encourage as many cars to take to the track as possible, big or small.

While the supercharged Alfas dominated Europe the Argentinians, not as affected by the WW had specialised in its own epic race of a thousand miles called the turismo carretaria. The greatest popular star in these grueling races was 1940 champion Juan Fangio, legendary for his cool head. In 1948 the Argentinian government backed Fangio to compete in Europe in which Fangios own co-driver died in a crash. The following year armed with a Maserati, Fangio took on and won in front of 300.000 fans .

In Europe, the huge new motor racing presence was Ferrari, who had begun making its own cars after Alfa shifted to voiturette racing in 1938.

Enzo Ferraris team made their first car in 1940, but were banned from using his name, so the 8 cylinder 1,500cc motor was called the Tipo 815. Three years later they moved their production to Maranello near Ferraris hometown of Modena, this site was bombed the following year. By 1947 a 1,5 liter V12 Ferrari had appeared. Followed the following year by a supercharged version. 1948 is the year which also marked the year in which Michelin introduced radial tyres and Dunlop created the new lighter tubeless tyres.

In 1947 the decision was made to launch the drivers’ championship. It took until 1950 for the details to be hammered out and in May 1950 the first world championship race was held at Silverstone – in England, where concrete filled oil cans where decked with flowers. The result was a one-two-three victory for the gas guzzling 1,5 miles per gallon Alfas.

The first F1 race had taken place a month earlier in Pau.

Only seven of the twenty odd Formula One races that season counted towards the title but the championship was up and running.

The exciting world of F1 racing had begun.