Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1593 English swashbuckler
Subject: swashbuckling swordsman
Culture: late Tudor English
Setting: duelling, Elizabethan England mid 16th-early 17thc

Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)

* Castle 1885 p19-20
"Notwithstanding the general restrictions, a great deal of obnoxious swaggering was common among the fencing gentry, who were as a rule looked upon with dislike and suspicion by the quieter portion of the community.  The contemptuous name of 'swashbuckler,' applied to obtrusive devotees of the art of fence, graphically described these shady braves, and the chattering noise they created in their brawls, or even when merely swaggering down a narrow street.
    "It would seem that 'swashbucklers' congregated mostly in West Smithfield, the London 'Pré au Clercs,' one of the few spots where their rioting could be tolerated.
    "'They got their name,' says Fuller, 'from swashing and making a noise on the buckler, and that of ruffian, which is the same as a swaggerer, because they tried to make the side swag or incline on which they were engaged.' ..."  

* Withers & Capwell 2010 p43
"Duelling quickly became a craze.  Hundreds and then thousands of men were killed each year during the second half of the 16th century, all in supposed 'affairs of honour'.  These disputes could be caused by a verbal slight, physical altercation or even an insulting glance.  Sir Walter Raleigh -- the famous Elizabethan explorer who established one of the earliest American colonies at Roanoke Island in what is today North Carolina -- wrote earnestly that 'to give the lie deserves no less than stabbin'.  It was this brutal subculture that led to a number of key innovations in the design and use of edged weapons."

Sword & Dagger

* Higgins Armory Museum > Story of the Sword
"The name [espada ropera] became épée rapière in France, and 'rapier' in England.
    "By the late 1500s, the rapier was a distinguishing attribute of the gentleman, often worn with a matching dagger as part of a stylish ensemble.  These deadly fashion accessories also served in streetfights -- like those in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet -- and as implements of the duel."

* Norris 1938 p548-549
"In the reign of the Emperor Charles V, the RAPIER was introduced from Italy into Spain, and brought to England in the entourage of Prince Philip.  The rapier was also known in France and Germany, and became a fashionable weapon in England during the early years of Elizabeth's reign.
    "Stow in 1578 tells us that 'shortly after the thirteenth year [1571] of Elizabeth began long tucks [swords] and long rapiers, and he was held the greatest gallant that had the deepest ruffle and longest rapier.'  This type of sword had a long thin narrow blade, generally four-sided, the best being forged at Toledo, with a basket or cup-hilt either solid or perforated with a pattern, the smartest being of silver or silver gilt 'damasked, varnished, and engraven marvellous goodly.'  The quillons were straight or curved, and the handle long.
    "The rapier was expressly designed for thrusting.  Gentlemen rivalled each other in the length of their rapiers, so that Queen Elizabeth was forced to issue a proclamation in 1580 limiting the length of the blade to thirty-six inches.  The scabbards were as ornate as the hilts, being often covered with velvet decorated with gold or silver, and sometimes set with jewels.
    "In the Italian mode of fighting, the rapier was held in the right hand to attack, and the dagger in the left to defend, and divert the thrusts of the adversary.
    "The dagger, originally struck through the pouch and later (in the reign of Henry VIII) slung by a cord from the waist sash, was during the Elizabethan era passed through the waist-belt on the right side, the handle or dudgeon projecting in front so as to be readily grasped.  This fashion of carrying the dagger was introduced by the Spaniards in the last reign ....  Probably the first Englishman's portrait to show the dagger stuck through the waist-belt is that of Ambrose Dudley (1560) in the Wallace Collection.
    "... When carried by the nobility, the handle was often elaborately decorated.  The length of the blade varied, and daggers are usually referred to as long or short; but in 1562 the length of blade was limited to twelve inches."


* Norris 1938 p696-697(describing "a young gentleman of the 1570's and 1580's who is an expert in the art of sword-and-buckler-play") 
"He looks very smart in his doublet of cloth garded with black or dark velvet, but it is more in the fashion of the previous reign than of this.  His hat with a high crown bulging at the top is more up to date, and his shoes are decorated with cuttes and loops.  He is armed with a good long hefty sword and a small buckler known as a 'rondel,' 'rondelle à poing,' or 'boce.'  This particular art of self-defence or aggression began to decline towards the end of the century owing to the increasing popularity of the rapier, which caused a certain amount of dissatisfaction.  One of the characters in The Two Angry Women of Abingdon, 1599, expresses public opinion in the following words:
    "'Sword and Buckler play begins to grow out of use ... if it be once gone, this poking fight of rapier and dagger will come up: then a good tall Sword and Buckler Man will be spitted like a cat or rabbit.'
    "The word 'tall' was often used to mean courageous."