On June 30, 1559, a tournament in honor of the signing of a peace treaty with Spain took place at the Royal Place in Paris. King Henry II loved tournaments and was always an active participant in them, as befits the monarchs of that time. By the Renaissance, tournaments were already considered a relatively safe occupation, tournament armor was made in such a way that it was almost impossible to inflict bodily harm on the enemy ... However, when the king faced off in a duel with the Count of Montgomery, a misfortune happened: the earl's spear broke, and a chip got stuck in the eye socket helmet of Henry II. The king was dying in agony within 10 days, after his death tournaments were a thing of the past, first in France, and later in the rest of Europe.
The widow of Henry II, Florentine Catherine de Medici, although she banned tournaments, tried to find a worthy replacement for them, since such holidays clearly demonstrated the greatness and strength of the monarch in the eyes of his subjects. At that time, Italy was the trendsetter, and now the medieval war holidays were replaced by the aesthetics of the holidays of the Italian Renaissance and magnificent allegorical actions. By that time, the Medici court had found a suitable replacement for tournaments - horse carousels: large-scale performances on ancient or legendary subjects, from dozens of court horsemen who played equestrian ballets and performed all sorts of agility exercises, without engaging in direct fights with each other.
So horse carousels, appearing at the Florentine court, soon spread to France, and from there to all the states of Europe.
With the beginning of the Baroque era, France begins to dictate the fashion for the holidays. King Louis XIV was not distinguished by a mighty physique and growth, he was not a great commander, unlike his marshals. However, the holidays of the Court of Versailles were staged with such skill that the king, their most active participant, seemed a real deity for his subjects. Numerous sketches and engravings of the holidays of that era show fantastic and majestic images in which the king and his retinue performed.
One of the festivals of that era, which determined fashion for more than a century to come, was a large-scale carousel arranged in Paris in front of the Tuileries Palace in 1662. Although the palace itself has long been gone, the square in front of it is still called “Carousel Square” in memory of this grandiose event.
The celebration of the Renaissance and Baroque era is a space in miniature, so the main theme of the carousel was the competition of five nations from all over the world. There were Turks, Persians, Hindus, Romans, led by a king, and even a square dance of American Indians. Naturally, each horse procession was attended not by residents of distant countries, but by the courtiers of the French king, dressed in exotic "carousel" costumes, which had a very distant relation to real ethnographic costumes. The costume primarily demonstrated the wealth of the owner, so dozens of riders shone with gold, diamonds and giant plumes half a human height, to the surprise of ordinary Parisians who had never seen anything like it. The holiday was captured on engravings, which quickly spread throughout the courtyards of Europe.
Unfortunately, little physical evidence remained from the carousels. The mentality of the courtiers of that era assumed that the holiday showed generosity, so it was done only once (with a few exceptions), and everything that was used at the holiday was also used only once. Therefore, luxurious costumes were altered, and the scenery was scrapped. A lucky exception is Sweden, where it was customary to preserve the clothes of monarchs, so the perfectly preserved carousel outfit of King Charles XI is still in the collections of the royal palace. Thanks to her, we can imagine the luxury of the holidays of that era. I must say, few people could afford the scope of the Versailles court. Swedish courtiers had to make antique armor from papier-mâché for their carousel, and the Scandinavian climate forced the carousel to be held in an extremely short time, since they had to show off in Roman armor at sub-zero temperatures.
However, when, after Peter's reforms, the tradition of European court celebrations was transferred to Russia, the northern climate played its cruel joke on the organizers of the largest carousel in Russia. Catherine II, only ascending the throne, according to the tradition of the era, tried to strengthen her position with the help of mass holidays. In June 1765, a roundabout was planned in front of the Winter Palace. This carousel was supposed to repeat the very famous carousel of Louis XIV, which took place a century earlier. The director of the carousel, the chief equerry of the Empress, Prince P.I.Repnin carefully studied the descriptions, engravings and costumes from that holiday. Thousands of nobles came from all over Russia to watch or take part in this action. Architect Antonio Rinaldi erected an amphitheater for the entire palace square, and then ... the rains begin. The summer of 1765 was so rainy that no matter how they tried to postpone the date of the carousel, the weather interfered. The holiday had to be postponed for a year, which turned out to be very expensive both for the treasury and for the participants of the holiday.
But the next year, everything was carried out without overlapping. The scale of the holiday really could match that of the French. The carousel was attended by quadrille of nations from all over the world, but Slavs were added to the already familiar nations (Romans, Indians, Turks), which, however, had no effect on the costumes of horsemen dressed in antique style. In addition to the cavaliers, ladies also took part in the holiday, but not on horseback, but on chariots. The set of exercises for cavalrymen was standard - take off the ring with a lance, throw a dart at the target, cut off the heads of the dummies. The competition was closely watched by the judges, and if in the carousels with the participation of the monarch the winner was a foregone conclusion, then the judges were not a decorative instance, but really disagreed on who would get the first prize - a diamond button and a buttonhole on a hat. The first prize was eventually received by the lieutenant colonel of the Cuirassier regiment, Prince I. A. Shakhovskoy.
By the end of the 18th century, Gothic and chivalric romance gradually returned to fashion. Emperor Pavel, an admirer of knightly traditions, also intended to hold carousels in his Gatchina residence. He initiated the construction of the arena for tournaments, which was never completed due to the untimely death of the emperor, but has survived in unfinished form to this day.
With the death of Paul, the 18th century ends and another era begins, more pragmatic, in which there was no longer room for wasteful baroque celebrations. However, the horse carousel tradition did not die out, but simply changed. By the second quarter of the 19th century, Gothic had become the most fashionable and popular trend in architecture, and the historical novel was the most popular genre of literature. Russia has long been in the mainstream of European fashion, Emperor Nicholas I - a passionate Anglophile, admirer of Walter Scott - chose Gothic as the official style of his residence - Peterhof and, above all, Alexandria Park. Since then, horse carousels are primarily a game in the Middle Ages, not even in the Middle Ages itself, but in the “dream” of an era from a magical knightly novel or an old fairy tale.
The wife of Nicholas I, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Frederic Charlotte Wilhelmina), when she was a Prussian princess, was called the White Rose, in honor of the heroine of de La Motte Fouquet's novel The Magic Ring. This romantic nickname has survived in Russia, and a wreath of white roses adorned the coat of arms of the royal residence. In 1829, on the Empress's birthday, one of the largest knightly carousels of the 19th century, "The Magic of the White Rose", was held in her honor in Potsdam. The name alone hinted at the fabulous plot of the holiday. The court architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel erected a classical setting in front of the royal palace. A quadrille of knights dressed in stylized medieval armor entered the huge triumphal gates. Knights demonstrated skill in saddlery, equestrian ballets, theatrical battles, and agility exercises. In addition to the knightly quadrille, the guests were presented with numerous "living pictures", and the celebrations themselves ended with a ball and awarding the winners. The memory of the holiday was kept for a long time, and albums with illustrations continued to be published and republished for decades.
Nicholas I also decided to hold a large-scale knight's holiday in Tsarskoye Selo - it was there that then a large collection of weapons and armor was kept, now presented in the knightly hall of the Hermitage. For the first time in their lives, the emperor and the courtiers had to put on real medieval armor, which did not always fit the figure. Note that during the Prussian merry-go-round the armor was specially made and resembled medieval armor very remotely. FP Litke, educator of the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich, left such amusing memories: “The cavaliers were given armor from the Arsenal. All this to clean up and drive in a week, ladies to sew suits for themselves. They all knocked off their feet. But this is not the main thing: one should have seen these unfortunates when they climbed into iron cases, not sewn on them, perfect martyrs, and in this state they were driving a horse. The note cavalrymen admitted that they were not at all calm, especially since the horses were not used to such figures. The Emperor, trying on his helmet, almost suffocated. With his disposition to the flow of blood to the head ... In a word, longing filled the soul until everything was over! .. Meanwhile, nevertheless, it is an interesting fact and it is worth keeping it in memory ... ”However, not all reviews were so critical. Konstantin Nikolayevich himself was pleased with the holiday: “There was a merry-go-round, men in armor, ladies in suits. We are pages. Everyone is in awe. " However, judging by the famous painting by Vernet, the pages were much easier in their light suits.