The Real Dark Knight Behind Heath Ledger’s Antics
If you’re currently bringing up the Wikipedia page for A Knight’s Tale, we’ll save you the trouble. Yes, Heath Ledger’s character is called Ulrich von Liechtenstein. But we’re not here to talk about him. No, we’re here to talk about the actual guy he was based on. Oh you didn’t know Ulrich von Liechtenstein was a real guy? Virtually no one does, which is a shame because just like his fictional counterpart, he was a champion jouster with a taste for fine-ass women.
Now if you’ve seen the movie, which we hope you have because it stars J.A.R.V.I.S from Iron Man, the Joker and some guy from Firefly, you’ll know that Ulrich von Liechtenstein is the fake name Ledger’s character takes on so he can pretend he’s of noble birth and thus, compete in the joust as a knight.
Though within the context of the film Ledger’s name choice is audibly scoffed at and it is suggested that Ledger’s character came up with it on the fly, it did actually belonged to a real guy who kicked just as much ass, if not more ass than Ledger’s character did in the world of jousting. The reason we don’t know for sure is because most of what we now know about Ulrich’s life is gleaned from a book that takes so many liberties with the truth it’s currently being sued for child support by it–a book we should mention that was written by Ulrich himself.
The book, which is seriously titled The Service of Ladies details Ulrich’s life and his many, many victories in the sport of jousting and how he generally walked around Europe being a badass. Just for a second can we all appreciate the fact that when asked to pick the one fact from his life he wanted to emphasize in the title, Ulrich chose his endless pursuit of tail?
And one tail in particular–like his film twin, Ulrich competed in jousts not just for the honor and excitement of pushing people off of a horse with a big stick, but for the love of a woman. Again, just like the movie, she was not that kind to him. Remember that scene where Ledger proves his love by being repeatedly smashed in the face by spears? Well Ulrich has a better story.
When Ulrich lost the use of his finger in a particularly nasty fall, he wrote to his special lady friend to tell her about it, when she wrote a letter back accusing him of lying or exaggerating his wound, Ulrich straight up cut his own finger off and sent it to her, because suck it, Van Gogh. She rather understandably was not instantly enthralled by his self-mutilation even though–seriously, you just don’t get commitment like that these days.
This didn’t deter Ulrich in the slightest and after the finger incident he promised that he’d win a tournament dedicated to Venus, the goddess of love in her name. Which he did, while disguised as Venus herself, which just so happened to involve him wearing a long flowing, stark-white pimp robe and a wig, because Ulrich von Liechtenstein knew the importance of being fabulous at all time. If that wasn’t already impressive enough, you may recall or just happen to know that in jousting, breaking a lance against an opponents face was considered especially difficult, since such blows normally glanced off of such a small target. Ulrich did this 307 times during that tournament alone, in the process earning himself 271 rings, which we hope he wore all at once to complete the illusion of him being the ghost of a very angry future pimp.
A fact that was conspicuously left out of A Knight’s Tale is that if you knocked someone off of their horse but didn’t injure them, that person was allowed to try their luck at besting you in hand to hand combat for absolutely no reason other than one day a guy might decide to put it on an album cover. Ulrich was so hated at the tournaments he entered because of his habit of aiming for the neck and his even more annoying habit of winning all the time that it wasn’t uncommon for knights to attack Ulrich three at a time whenever this situation arose. However, considering that Ulrich was well versed in unarmed combat as well as the ancient martial art of pushing people with sticks, it’s likely every time this happened unbroken noses became an alien concept to him.
Despite his impressive spree of victories, Ulrich’s lady friend still decided to treat him like shit, after he won the Venusfarht (yeah, we know, let it go, guys) she invited him to her quarters but insisted he dress like a leper and wait outside her window instead of punching through every wall in his way until he’d fathered her children. Keen to impress his woman Ulrich waited, all night, in the rain while she slept soundly in her room. Seemingly oblivious she was missing out on the chance to sleep with future Heath Ledger.
The story ends well for Ulrich though because eventually the woman of his dreams agreed that she kind of liked him too. Which we hope is a lesson for everyone reading, never give up and if a woman hates you, just stab guys with sticks until she changes her mind.
Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked, Toptenz and Gunaxin. You should probably click those links to make sure he isn’t lying. He also runs his own website where he responds to the various pieces of hate-mail he’s gotten over the years, in fact, he got so much hate-mail that he wrote a book about it that you can buy on Amazon. When he isn’t writing, Karl also Tweets and uploads pictures of himself drinking on Facebook.
Speaking of hated and berated greatest athletes, check out The Boxer Who Started a Riot by Winning.