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.
Swords (and other weapons)
Mostly from our 2003 trip to Britain.
An early seventeenth century rapier on display in Stratford-on-Avon.
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.
Highly decorated rapier hilts.
Still more rapiers.
Can you guess I'm fond of rapiers?
A collection of polearms. The tassles on the hafts and engraving on the blades suggests that these are ceremonial weapons, not intended for combat.
Royal Armoury, Leeds
Swept hilt rapier.
A ring dagger where the ring has been filled with a decorative plate to afford a bit more protection to the hand.
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.
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.
A concave buckler. Good for trapping the opponent's point.
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.
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.
They don't take themselves completely seriously at the Royal Armoury.
Combination pistol-bucklers at the Tower of London.
A collection of polearms at the Tower of London. Spears, bills, glaives and partisans.
We also visited the Victoria and Albert Museum.
An unusual rapier hilt decorated with small dots.
Very nice decorations on this rapier hilt.
More decorative rapier hilts.
Still more decorative rapier hilts.
Gold-plated hilt, decorative piercing on the blade.
Three-ring rapier hilt. Note also the elaborate cup-hilt in the background.
A shell guard, verging toward a cup hilt.
An unusual style, the blade and hilt are both made to look like sections of chain.
Some slightly earlier blades. "Sideswords."
Left-hand daggers for rapier fighting. Lower, a stiletto; central, a blade-breaker design; upper, a standard dagger with triple quillons.
Same set of daggers viewed from the side, giving a better view of the stiletto's hilt and the blade-breaker design.
Another filled-ring dagger.
A classic main gauche-style dagger.
A spring-loaded three prong dagger. The release button can be seen just below the gold hilt.
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.
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.
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.
Here is Castle's description of the various blades:
- Sword, early fourteenth century, with plain cross hilt, stiff double edged blade and disk pommel.
- Ancient Gothic two-handed sword (attributed to Wallace.)
- Italian sword, end of fifteenth century, with square Venetian pommel, quillons horizontally counter-curved, and long flat blade.
- Braquemar, middle sixteenth century, with short broad blade, incurved quillons, imperfect pas d'ane and broad side ring.
- Two hander, early sixteenth century, with long blade (5' 1") and extraordinarily long quillons. Inscribed "Je pense plus." [I think more.]
- Elisabethan rapier, close of sixteenth century.
- Italian rapier , close of sixteenth century, with ringed guard and blade of prodigious length (5' 5".)
- Elisabethan rapier, (blade 4' 2".)
- Rapier with conventional bar hilt (blade 5' 1" long.)
- German rapier, close of sixteenth century, showing straight quillons, with side ring, pas d'ane and shells.
- Rapier, first years seventeenth century, with small hilt, showing an approach to the Transition shape.
- Italian flamboyant sword. Hilt without pas d'ane.
- Venetian schiavona, with Spanish blade inscribed "Un Dios, una Ley, un Rey." [One God, one Law, one King.] Date about 1570.
- Venetian schiavona, with Spanish blade inscribed "Viva el Rey de Espana." [Long live the King of Spain.] Date, about 1580.
- Venetian schiavona in its original sheath. Date about 1580.
- Venetian schiavona, 1590.
- Italian basket-hilted sword, by Andrea Ferrara.
- Transition rapier, early seventeenth century.
- Broadsword, temp. Charles I. Blade by Andrea Ferrara.
- Long horseman's sword (claymore) middle seventeenth century.
- Rapier or spadroon without pas d'ane, middle seventeenth century. Blade inscribed "Sahagum."
- Broadsword, latter part of seventeenth century, by Abraham Stamp, Solingen.
- Colichmarde with silver hilt, temp. Charles II.
- Small sword, temp. George I.
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.
And, just for fun, some pictures from the Lego part of the exhibit.
Were rapiers used in tournaments? I've yet to find conclusive evidence.
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.
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:
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another image, from the 1459 edition of Talhoffer.
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.
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.
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."
We attended an SCA tournament at Acre. This is some of the tourney-goers crossing the motte on a modern bridge.
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.
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.
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.
A view of the exteior wall of Arundel Castle.
An interior courtyard at Arundel Castle.
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.
Although classed as a "ruin" Beaumaris is in much better shape than Acre. This is a slit window for archers to defend the castle.
The walls are mostly intact. This is the area between the outer and inner walls.
But the windows, doors and roofs are missing. This is the front gate area.
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.
Indoor riding arena at Bolsover Castle.
Fireplace and wall decorations in one of the rooms at Bolsover Castle.
More wall decoration in another room. Pretty much the whole place had this level of ornate decoration at one time.
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.
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.
Slate platform used for the investiture of Prince Charles.
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.
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.)
This is the main gate at Edinburgh Castle. It is (obviously) a popular tourist destination in Scotland.
Inside Edinburgh Castle, stained glass windows and gargoyles decorating the chapel.
Interior buildings at Edinburgh Castle.
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.
More piles of stones, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background.
Ruins of the great hall and kitchens at Tintagel Castle.
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.
Sea caves below the main castle at Tintagel.
Totnes Castle, a smaller motte and bailey castle.
Interior view of Totnes Castle. Only the shell of the wall remains.
Ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness.
A trebuchet on the grounds of Urquhart Castle.
Front gate of Warwick Castle. They were having some kind of medieval fair when we visited.
Inside the gateway, looking up at the clock tower.
Medieval combat reenactors, part of the fair at Warwick Castle.
The original motte and bailey at Warwick has undergone a few changes over the years.
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.
The Round Tower and a section of the gardens.
St. George's Chapel, where the Knights of the Garter meet. The inside is beautiful, but unfortunately, photography is not allwed.
This is part of the exterior wall along Thames Street. Note the arrow slits.