In Italy, during the late Middle Ages, when jousts and tournaments and feats of archery had given way by a century or more to the more deadly and impersonal bombard and cannon, the courtiers made up a pageant to commemorate the olden days.
Grouped into sets of four, each set distinguished by similar old-time costume, and mounted upon gaily caparisoned horses, they engaged in harmless and picturesque tournaments, mainly exhibiting equestrian skill.
Such a pageant was called a carosello. When introduced into France, in the early seventeenth century, the Italian name was altered to carrousel, from which the English term was derived. Other features were added to the pageantry in France, the most popular being to run with a lance at the pasteboard head of a Turk or Moor.
The carousel of the United States, which we usually call “merry-go-round,” retains the gaily caparisoned galloping horses, though they are now of wood and move mechanically up and down on steel posts, and the Turk’s head at which they charged is replaced by an arm containing, now and then, a brass ring that permits the lucky young “knight” to mount his trusty steed for a free second joust.