In a quiet corner of Lincolnshire lies an ancient family that holds an historic role of nearly a thousand years longevity, “The Kings Champion”.
Scrivelsby is a tiny village about three miles south of Horncastle. As you dive along the road it is literally a case of “blink and you will miss it”. However, it is not too difficult to notice the Lion Gate and the parkland that is periodically grazed by sheep on one side and a tiny church with a spire on the other side of the road.
The village is the home of the current King’s champion, Francis John Fane Marmion Dymoke, an ancient role held initially by the Marmion family and passing to the Dymokes in 1377 when Sir John Dymoke performed the role of King’s champion at Richard II’s coronation.
The role was derived because the King was not permitted to partake in single hand to hand combat against any challenger other than his equal. The role required the Champion to ride into Westminster Hall in full battle armour accompanied by the Earl Marshall and the Lord High Constable during the coronation banquet and await the challenge of all comers. The last King to have his Champion perform this role was George IV and the challenge issued at this event was:
"If any person, of whatever degree soever, high or low, shall deny or gainsay our Sovereign Lord George, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, son and next heir unto our Sovereign Lord the last King deceased, to be the right heir to the imperial Crown of this realm of Great Britain and Ireland, or that he ought not to enjoy the same; here is his Champion, who saith that he lieth, and is a false traitor, being ready in person to combat with him, and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him on what day soever he shall be appointed."
George IV’s successor William IV held no coronation banquet and Queen Victoria did away with this ceremony. That is not to say that the Queen’s Champion did not have a role to play at Elizabeth II’s coronation for at this event Lieutenant-Colonel John Linley Marmion Dymoke was standard bearer of the Union Flag.
Whilst the current Champion may be quite prepared to perform his duties it is possibly as well that the challenge ceremony is no longer carried out for it was not without its hazards and humiliations as was seen at James II’s coronation:
“ When Champion Dimmock let off his horse to kiss King James II. hand, after that he had challenged any one that durst question the King's rights to the crown, as the custom is, the Champion in moving towards the King fell down all his length in the hall, when as there was nothing; in the way that could visibly cause the same : whereupon the queen sayd ' see you, love, what a weak Champion you have.' To which the King sayd nothing, but laught, and the Champion excused himself, pretending his armour was heavy, and that he himself was weak with sickness, which was false, for he was very well, and had none."
For more information look up “Scrivelsby Home of Champions” written by Samuel Lodge in 1893 and available on open source internet.