Medieval melee: "a brutal free-for-all with few rules"

Literature and the media have glamorized medieval battle, but the reality was much different. In truth, the melee was a "brutal free-for-all with few rules designed very much as a preparation for war."

In an article for BBC Timewatch Dominic Sutherland writes:

"But while jousting was popular in medieval Europe, it originated as the curtain-opener to a far more brutal affair. This was the melee tournament - a brutal free-for-all with few rules - designed very much as a preparation for war. It was a fearsome spectacle - in which many hundreds, sometimes thousands of knights clashed in a mass charge between opposing teams with lances lowered. Knights fell to the ground, lances splintered, horses reared. And the mass mock-battle could be fought over a vast area including woods, hills and rivers."