The Queen and her Champion

The Ring Tournament, August 28, 1848

Shannondale Springs, WV


The Ring Tournament was a throwback to England’s chivalric jousts. The contestant would get his horse to a full gallop and would “win” if he could catch on the tip of his spear or sword a ring, hanging from a cord.  The men of Col. John Singleton Mosby or J. E. B. Stuart’s would sit for photos, with almost comically vast plumage leaping from their hat wear, a hint of the jousting spirit. – ED. 


As it appeared in “a Baltimore newspaper” (From the papers of Thornton Perry,  Shepherd College Library).


“August 28, 1848 was a day affording interest at this beautiful place in history than any other watering place in Virginia.  The morning dawned in autumnal splendor and shed a radiance bright as a halo over the mountaintops through the Valley.  The mist that rose heavenward to greet the opening day seemed myriad gossamer, fitting on sunlit pinions and dashing the refracted beams to earth in blithesome merriment.  Then came the gorgeous chariots of the day . . .


“All the throng was impatient to behold the brilliant feast to be performed . . .


“The sound of many feet and the murmur of voices rose through the vale.  The crowd gathered from all points to witness the expected pageant.  The rush of vehicles and horses was so great that they had to be left upon the opposite side of the river, and gentlemen and ladies were borne over in the large ferry boat . . . .  (They) walked thence to the hotel. It was truly an exciting and strange sight to see them stretching in hurried and confused steps across the lawn.  


“At ten o’clock the knights have in their names.  Eighteen brave and daring champions were registered.  They were then ordered to prepare themselves and horses for the tournament.  At eleven o’clock the crowds gathered beneath the umbrageous and majestic elms that overhang the fountains, where they had a near and far view of the scene.  The bugle then sounded and the knights all mounted, rode in from the assembled throng under the direction of the herald . . . dressed in peculiar and picturesque costumes with their tall lances glittering in the sunbeams.  They presented an imposing and brilliant spectacle. 


“The president of the day, one Henry Bedinger addressed them in such eloquent tones and elevated and inspired sentiments that the dullest bosum was roused to the highest daring and the true spirit of ancient chivalry was revived.  The privilege of selecting the fairest from the lovely array and crowning her the Queen of Beauty was to be the deed of the Victor, and there was not one among them would not have scaled a fortress for so rich a boon.  The speech of Mr. Bedinger was most appropriate and beautiful.  When he had concluded, the knights repaired to the place of starting.  Then began the most splendid contention that I ever witnessed.  It is impossible to give a detailed account of it, but the horses catching the spirit of the rider, flew like the wind and their flashing eyes and foaming mouths betrayed the high excitement . . .


“Mr. K, the victor, was then requested to name the first Maid of Honor and selected one of the belles of Jefferson County . . . After the selection, the company repaired to the hotel where a most sumptuous feast was spread there with the flow of champagne and the exchange of toasts consumed the afternoon.  Every one then retired to their rooms to prepare for the fancy ball.  At about half past eight o’clock, the spacious ballroom was thronged with spectators awaiting entrance of the Queen and her Champion and cortege and attendants.

At the sound of music, the folding doors at the upper end of the room were suddenly opened, and the Queen and her Champion, richly dressed in fancy costumes, the same wreath of such freshness . . . resting on his brow, appeared followed by the Knight and Maids of Honor and a long train of attendants all fancifully attired.  They proceeded to the far end of the room and took their stand when the crowds made their obeisance.  Then the Queen and her Champion and three Knights and Maids of Honor took hands, formed and danced a cotillion, and the ball was opened for the evening.  I have been to many balls and have seen much in this way, but have never seen one so bright and beautiful as this . . .


“The many characters represented every nation, and flitted before you in such rapid succession that it was impossible to identify. A few, however, were very conspicuous. 


“Mr. Lewis Washington, as the English hunter of the 15th century, so superbly he filled the character so to very life, and Mr. John Pendleton Kennedy in the court dress of Louis the 14th looked remarkably striking and handsome . . .”