Now that I am back home, safe in the dry company of my little library, I am in a position to attempt an answer to a question posed by a reader back on 2 November. That question involved the assertion that the lances of late Renaissance tournaments were peculiarly fragile—as in ‘deliberately’ fragile.
The assertion that prompted the question was made, with some confidence, by Sydney Anglo back in 1960 and a quick search tends to point back to Anglo’s paper rather than other primary sources. Unfortunately, my go-to alternatives, which have waited patiently for me back here in the library, don’t seem to address this issue. Thankfully Anglo revisited the problem, if obliquely, in his more well known The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (Yale, 2000).
Anglo (243-5) mentions the work of Giovanne Dall’Agocchie (or Delle Agoccie), Dell’arte di scrimia libri tre… (Venetia: [Francesco Portonari] Giulio Tamborino, 1572) who advocates breaking lances instead of unseating your opponent. To aid in this endeavour, Agocchie describes how to make three-piece lances that will more easily break when struck square on a target. That’s a start, and while it does not prove a wide and deliberate adoption of ‘frangible’ lances in the latter half of the 16th c. it is consistent with a general trend away from the practical and towards the theatrical. These little things are worth further investigation and one should expect another update on this, when I actually get around to it.