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."


* 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."