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Elisabethan pictures

Queen Elisabeth attends a wedding in Blackfriars.


This is one of my favorite Elisabethan pictures. It's clear evidence that rapiers weren't just for street thugs or pirates. Starting at the left we have Edmund Sheffield, later Earl of Mulgrave, in pink; Thomas Howard, Lord Howard of Effingham and Lord Admiral in white; George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland and Queen's Champion, in orange; Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, in a dark cloak with brown canions; an unknown knight (possibly Robert Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex--also shown below) in white; and Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, in green and carrying the Sword of State. Note that all of these men are Knights of the Garter, England's most prestigious order of knighthood, as is the figure in the foreground, Edward Somerset, the Earl of Worcester.

The fellows with the polearms lining the parade route are the Gentlemen Pensioners, Her Majesty's bodyguard.

Another Elisabethan favorite, the Pelican Portrait.

Pelican portrait.PNG

Swords (and other weapons)

Mostly from our 2003 trip to Britain.

An early seventeenth century rapier on display in Stratford-on-Avon.

Shakespearean rapier 2 Stratford.jpg

We stopped in New York on our way to Britain, and visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Elisabethan "fencing doublet" (as seen in Patterns of Fashion by Janet Arnold) and several rapiers.

The Met 5.jpg

Highly decorated rapier hilts.

The Met 10.jpg

More rapiers.

The Met 12.jpg

Still more rapiers.

The Met 15.jpg

Can you guess I'm fond of rapiers?

The Met 89.jpg

A collection of polearms. The tassles on the hafts and engraving on the blades suggests that these are ceremonial weapons, not intended for combat.

The Met 4.jpg

Royal Armoury, Leeds

Swept hilt rapier.

Royal Armoury Leeds 18.jpg

A ring dagger where the ring has been filled with a decorative plate to afford a bit more protection to the hand.

Royal Armoury Leeds 19 filled ring dagger.jpg

An estoc. Note that the blade has four edges, rather than the usual two. That makes it much stiffer, for punching through armor, but probably increases the weight as well.

Royal Armoury Leeds 8.jpg

A pair of mail duelling gloves. The palm of the right glove has no mail, to allow a firmer grip on the sword hilt. The left one is mail throughout to protect the hand when parrying or grasping an opponent's blade.

Royal Armoury Leeds 13.jpg

A concave buckler. Good for trapping the opponent's point.

Royal Armoury Leeds 20.jpg

Square curved buckler. The bars on the face of the buckler are raised slightly above the surface, to facilitate catching and breaking the opponent's blade. The central hook could also be used for blade-catching, or to hang the buckler from the belt when not in use.

Royal Armoury Leeds 15.jpg

For the folks who think a madu is a shield on a six-foot spear, here's a couple of real ones. Animal horns with a small buckler. Overall length two or three feet. They were only found in India, and date from the 1700s.

Royal Armoury Leeds 3 madu.jpg

They don't take themselves completely seriously at the Royal Armoury.

Royal Armoury Leeds 22.jpg

Combination pistol-bucklers at the Tower of London.

Tower of London Combination Bucklers 2.JPG

A collection of polearms at the Tower of London. Spears, bills, glaives and partisans.

Tower of London Various Pole Arms.JPG

We also visited the Victoria and Albert Museum.

An unusual rapier hilt decorated with small dots.

V&A Rapier Hilts 01.JPG

Very nice decorations on this rapier hilt.

V&A Rapier Hilts 02.JPG

More decorative rapier hilts.

V&A Rapier Hilts 04.JPG

Still more decorative rapier hilts.

V&A Rapier Hilts 03.JPG

Gold-plated hilt, decorative piercing on the blade.

V&A Rapier Hilts 05.JPG

Three-ring rapier hilt. Note also the elaborate cup-hilt in the background.

V&A Rapier Hilts 07.JPG

A shell guard, verging toward a cup hilt.

V&A Rapier Hilts 08.JPG

An unusual style, the blade and hilt are both made to look like sections of chain.

V&A Rapier Hilts 19.JPG

Some slightly earlier blades. "Sideswords."

V&A Rapiers 1.JPG

Left-hand daggers for rapier fighting. Lower, a stiletto; central, a blade-breaker design; upper, a standard dagger with triple quillons.

V&A Daggers 2.JPG

Same set of daggers viewed from the side, giving a better view of the stiletto's hilt and the blade-breaker design.

V&A Daggers 1.JPG

Another filled-ring dagger.

V&A Daggers and Bodkin.JPG

A classic main gauche-style dagger.

V&A Daggers 4.JPG

A spring-loaded three prong dagger. The release button can be seen just below the gold hilt.

V&A Tri-Bladed Dagger.JPG

Period Practice Weapons

This is a practice rapier belonging to Don Hans Durmast von der Wanderlust. When he bought it, the tip has a rounded point slightly wider than the blade itself--roughly the size and shape of a grape. He has since sharpened it.

Dormouse practice rapier.PNG

A main gauche and a practice main gauche on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Note how the practice dagger blade resembles a modern flexidagger. Judging by the hilt design, I'd say these are from around 1620. Another, slightly earlier practice dagger is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Here's a picture.

Dagger and Practise Dagger Met.PNG

An Italian practice rapier from around 1580, on display at the Royal Armoury in Leeds. The blade has a rectangular cross-section, somewhat like a modern Italian foil. Note the pyramid-shaped button on the tip.

Italian Practice rapier.PNG

Long Rapiers

A selection of blades from Egerton Castle's "Schools and Masters of Fence." Note especially items 7 and 9, a couple of rapiers that are nearly as long as the great sword, item 5.

Here is Castle's description of the various blades:

  1. Sword, early fourteenth century, with plain cross hilt, stiff double edged blade and disk pommel.
  2. Ancient Gothic two-handed sword (attributed to Wallace.)
  3. Italian sword, end of fifteenth century, with square Venetian pommel, quillons horizontally counter-curved, and long flat blade.
  4. Braquemar, middle sixteenth century, with short broad blade, incurved quillons, imperfect pas d'ane and broad side ring.
  5. Two hander, early sixteenth century, with long blade (5' 1") and extraordinarily long quillons. Inscribed "Je pense plus." [I think more.]
  6. Elisabethan rapier, close of sixteenth century.
  7. Italian rapier , close of sixteenth century, with ringed guard and blade of prodigious length (5' 5".)
  8. Elisabethan rapier, (blade 4' 2".)
  9. Rapier with conventional bar hilt (blade 5' 1" long.)
  10. German rapier, close of sixteenth century, showing straight quillons, with side ring, pas d'ane and shells.
  11. Rapier, first years seventeenth century, with small hilt, showing an approach to the Transition shape.
  12. Italian flamboyant sword. Hilt without pas d'ane.
  13. Venetian schiavona, with Spanish blade inscribed "Un Dios, una Ley, un Rey." [One God, one Law, one King.] Date about 1570.
  14. Venetian schiavona, with Spanish blade inscribed "Viva el Rey de Espana." [Long live the King of Spain.] Date, about 1580.
  15. Venetian schiavona in its original sheath. Date about 1580.
  16. Venetian schiavona, 1590.
  17. Italian basket-hilted sword, by Andrea Ferrara.
  18. Transition rapier, early seventeenth century.
  19. Broadsword, temp. Charles I. Blade by Andrea Ferrara.
  20. Long horseman's sword (claymore) middle seventeenth century.
  21. Rapier or spadroon without pas d'ane, middle seventeenth century. Blade inscribed "Sahagum."
  22. Broadsword, latter part of seventeenth century, by Abraham Stamp, Solingen.
  23. Colichmarde with silver hilt, temp. Charles II.
  24. Small sword, temp. George I.

Lantern Buckler

These are some pictures of a combination buckler and dark lantern from the Higgins Armory in Massachusetts. It was on display at the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University in Waco TX, in conjunction with a Lego Castle exhibit.

The description card for the lantern buckler
Front view, with the light flap open.
Another view of the front of the buckler.
Side view, showing details of the grip and lantern design.

And, just for fun, some pictures from the Lego part of the exhibit.

A pair of life-size Lego knights.
A dragon and its hoard.
A Lego copy of the maze at Leeds Castle in England.

Tourney Toys

Were rapiers used in tournaments? I've yet to find conclusive evidence.

Robert Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, armed for combat at the barriers, 1593.

This is one of several pictures suggesting that rapiers might have been used in Renaissance tournaments. The original is on display at the Royal Armoury in Leeds.

There is a similar picture in the National Gallery in London. if you go here and type "Moroni knight" in the search box, it's the top image. Once you get that image, there's a toolbar on the right edge that allows you expand the image and scan across it to get lots of details. The picture is dated 1554-58. (It's copyrighted by the National Gallery, so I can't put the image itself here, but it's well worth a look.)

Here's another suggestive image, taken from the Valois Tapestries of the early 1580s.

Valois Tapestry barrier color closeup.PNG

While the fighters are wearing rapiers, they're actually fighting with spears.

The entire tapestry can be seen here

But on the other hand, there are these sketches of Elisabethan tournaments:

Elisabethan tournament0001.jpg

Combat at the barriers. Note that the swords used do not look like rapiers. Note also the baskets of extra swords to either side. This suggests that the fighters are using wooden wasters, not steel blades.

Elisabethan tournament0003.PNG

More Elisabethan barrier combat. Note the screen in the background. It was set up to protect Her Majesty from flying splinters--another indication that the fighters were using wasters instead of metal swords. (Note also that the fighter in the foreground is fighting left-handed.)

Elisabethan tournament0002.PNG

The entire picture from which the previous image was taken. Tilt, tourney (mounted sword against sword) and barriers (spear and/or sword.) This was the standard format for Elisabethan tournaments.

Mask drape

This is a technique I've used ever since the rules were changed back in AS XIV (1979) to include covering the back of the head. Instead of a separate hood worn under my mask, I attach the hood directly to the mask. The major advantage is that once I take the mask off, my entire head is free to enjoy the balmy Ansteorran breezes. The only disadvantage of this technique is that you have to have a fairly high collar on your doublet to prevent blades from sliding under the edge of the mask drape and hitting skin.

Mask drape front and right.PNG

View of the front and right side. Note that the hood is sewn to the back edge of the mask. That means there is no fabric covering my ears or the sides and top of my head--again, slightly cooler than a hood. You can also see the strap I use to keep the mask in place.

Mask drape rear and left.PNG

View of the back and left side. Since the cloth is sewn to the inside of the mask, there is no rim of fabric to catch a blade tip as it slides by. You can also see the snap hook and D-ring I use for fastening my mask. This gives a nice, secure fit, but can be unfastened quickly and easily, even when wearing gloves.

Armor Requirements

Torso protection 3.PNG

A reasonably accurate (but not "official") diagram of what armor is required for various parts of the body in SCA Rapier and Cut & Thrust combat.

Women in duels

Here are several similar images from combat manuals of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The common themes are that the male combatant has limited mobility--he's either in a hole in the ground or, in the last image, in a large bucket--and that the woman is using some sort of flail weapon. Talhoffer describes it as a 4 or 5 pound rock either in her sleeve or her veil.

Solothurner Fechtbuch 1423 a.PNG

From the Solothurner Fechtbuch (or "Fight-book) of 1423. In this instance, the man appears to be unarmed, but obviously still able to defend himself.

Talhoffer 1467.PNG

A couple of very similar images from Talhoffer's Fechtbuch of 1467. This one is described as being a duel between a husband and wife.

Talhoffer, 1459.PNG

Another image, from the 1459 edition of Talhoffer.

Unknown combat picture.PNG

A slightly different method here. Unfortunately, the website where I found this gives no indication of what it is, or where it comes from. Judging by the woman's dress, I'd guess mid-1500s.

Another interesting image. This is from the Landeszeughaus Armory in Graz, Austria. It's not armor; it's actually plastic, part of a 2003 exhibit on women's clothing through the ages.

Armored dress.jpg

Crossbow Test

This is the result of a discussion about the efficacy of crossbows during a D&D game. Elapsed time, one minute. Eight bolts shot from a distance of 30 or 40 feet, all hitting lethal target areas.

Using an SCA combat crossbow at a distance of 30 or 40 feet, shooting as rapidly as possible.


From our trip to England in 2003.

Acre Castle is a motte and baily design, dating from around the time of the Norman conquest. As with many castles in the British Isles, this one is best described as "orderly piles of stones."

Acre Castle SCA tourney 16.jpg

We attended an SCA tournament at Acre. This is some of the tourney-goers crossing the motte on a modern bridge.

Acre Castle SCA tourney 2.jpg

Armored bridge battle at Acre Castle. Curiously, the powers-that-be allowed armored combat but no rapier combat in the castle itself. We had to do the rapier tourney outside the motte.

Acre Castle SCA tourney 7.jpg

My daughter Roslind had been doing Youth Rapier in Ansteorra since she was 14. She turned 18 while we were in England. A few days later, she authorized as a Drachenwald rapier fighter, and fought in her first adult touranment at Acre.

Acre Castle SCA tourney 19.5 Rosalind's 1st adult tourney.JPG

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Arundel Castle. It was built shortly after the Norman Conquest, and has been occupied almost continuously since that time. Starting as a motte and bailey design, a number of renovations and additions have been made over the years, and today it is one of the largest and most spectacular castles in England.

Arundel Castle 05.JPG

A view of the exteior wall of Arundel Castle.

Arundel Castle 07.JPG

An interior courtyard at Arundel Castle.

Arundel Castle 10.JPG

Built around 1300, Beaumaris Castle in Wales is a large, symmetrical-plan castle with a moat, two concentric rectangular walls and a large open area in the center.

Beaumaris castle 2.jpg

Although classed as a "ruin" Beaumaris is in much better shape than Acre. This is a slit window for archers to defend the castle.

Beaumaris castle 4.jpg

The walls are mostly intact. This is the area between the outer and inner walls.

Beaumaris castle 6.jpg

But the windows, doors and roofs are missing. This is the front gate area.

Beaumaris castle 16.jpg

Bolsover Castle was probably the most modern castle we visited. It was built in the early 1600s, primarily as a residence and showpiece of the Cavendish family.

Bolsover castle 7.jpg

Indoor riding arena at Bolsover Castle.

Bolsover castle 3 riding arena.jpg

Fireplace and wall decorations in one of the rooms at Bolsover Castle.

Bolsover castle 10.jpg

More wall decoration in another room. Pretty much the whole place had this level of ornate decoration at one time.

Bolsover castle 12.jpg

Caernarfon Castle in Wales also dates to around 1300. As with Beaumaris, it was built by Edward I of England, as part of his conquest and pacification program in Wales.

Caernarfon Castle 2.jpg

This is the other end of the courtyard. The raised area where the people are standing is where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Caernarfon Castle 3.jpg

Slate platform used for the investiture of Prince Charles.

Caernarfon Castle 24.jpg

Ruins of the kitchen area at Caernarfon Castle. I'd guess this was used to hold a large cauldron, with space beneath for a fire. It's about two or three feet across.

Caernarfon Castle 13 kitchen.jpg

The interior of one of the towers. The wooden floors have long since rotted away, leaving only the stonework. (And a modern walkway from one side to the other.)

Caernarfon Castle 5.jpg

This is the main gate at Edinburgh Castle. It is (obviously) a popular tourist destination in Scotland.

Edinburgh castle 1.jpg

Inside Edinburgh Castle, stained glass windows and gargoyles decorating the chapel.

Edinburgh castle 3.jpg

Interior buildings at Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh castle 4.jpg

Tintagel Castle, on the Cornish coast is another castle in the "orderly piles of stones" category. These are ruins of a house inside the castle.

Tintagel 2.JPG

More piles of stones, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background.

Tintagel 1.JPG

Ruins of the great hall and kitchens at Tintagel Castle.

Tintagel 3.JPG

While most of Tintagel Castle is built on a pinensula that is almost an island, this section was built on the mainland. Note how steep and narrow the stairs are. The stairs to the main part of the castle are even steeper. Imagine trying to climb those stairs in armor with unfriendly strangers throwing rocks and shooting arrows at you.

Tintagel 5.JPG

Sea caves below the main castle at Tintagel.

Tintagel sea cave.JPG

Totnes Castle, a smaller motte and bailey castle.

Totnes Castle 2.JPG

Interior view of Totnes Castle. Only the shell of the wall remains.

Totnes Castle 1.JPG

Ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness.

Urquhart castle 1.jpg

A trebuchet on the grounds of Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart castle 3.jpg

Front gate of Warwick Castle. They were having some kind of medieval fair when we visited.

Warwick castle 7.JPG

Inside the gateway, looking up at the clock tower.

Warwick castle 11.JPG

Medieval combat reenactors, part of the fair at Warwick Castle.

Warwick castle 40.JPG

The original motte and bailey at Warwick has undergone a few changes over the years.

Warwick castle 14.JPG

Like Arundel, Windsor Castle has been continuously occupied for most of the past millenium. This is one of the gateways between the Upper and Lower Wards.

Windsor Castle 09.JPG

The Round Tower and a section of the gardens.

Windsor Castle 06.JPG

St. George's Chapel, where the Knights of the Garter meet. The inside is beautiful, but unfortunately, photography is not allwed.

Windsor Castle Garter Chapel.JPG

This is part of the exterior wall along Thames Street. Note the arrow slits.

Windsor Castle 01.JPG