Staples of the Calontir War Diet: Lean, Mean Fighter Biscuits

Written by Cassy of Wolf’s Rock, Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

This recipe has been taste-tested and approved by actual Calontir fighters!

(Many thanks to my own in-house fighter, Aurthour Augestyne, who tasted the test batches.)

The original recipe makes tasty fighter biscuits, but they have a very high fat content. The Lean, Mean recipe reduces the fat content from 63% to 38%, and increases the protein and carbohydrate content, giving these fighter biscuits greater potential to provide quick energy.

Original recipe

(63 calories per fighter biscuit; 63% fat; 21% carbohydrate; 16% protein)

  • 1 pound sausage

  • 3 cups Bisquick

  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

  • ½ cup milk

Lean, Mean recipe:

(43 calories per fighter biscuit; 38% fat; 35% carbohydrate; 27% protein)

  • 12 ounces Jimmy Dean Reduced Fat Sausage

  • 4 ounces (1/4 package) regular sausage (I use Jimmy Dean Hot)

  • 3 cups Reduced Fat Bisquick

  • 3 cups Kraft Free Fat-Free Cheddar

  • 1/2 cup 1% milk

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup water

  • Pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Use your hands–it’s messy, but efficient. Be sure you add enough water to make your dough almost too sticky to handle–your fighter biscuits will be moist and tasty, and will not dry out in the oven. Roll the dough into 1-1/4 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 75 fighter biscuits. Can be made ahead and frozen.


My goal while developing the Lean, Mean version of this recipe was to make it healthier without sacrificing the flavor. One test batch used all reduced-fat sausage, but the flavor suffered, so I included 4 ounces of regular sausage in the Lean, Mean recipe. This adds to the fat content a bit, but makes a big difference in the taste! Pepper helps bring out the favor, too, but you could add Tabasco, jalapeno sauce, rosemary, or other spices as you choose. I wouldn’t recommend adding salt, as both versions of the recipe contain about 150mg of sodium already. The reduced fat ingredients are available in most grocery stores.

The Fighters of Calontir as a de facto SCA Period Fencing Guild, pt 2

A Study of the London Masters of Defense

[by Don Dylan, formated to WORD by Harald Isenross] Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

Who were the London Masters of Defense?


The Company of the Masters of Defense of London was an officially recognized guild of teachers of fencing in England (centered mostly around London). Henry VIII gave the guild a charter in 1540 granting it a monopoly to teach proficiency in all of the weapons of war that a gentleman should know. [1] The concept behind the guild was not unique: there are hints of similar schools to teach equestrian, painting, dancing and song. [2] The charter, like most Court documents, needed to be renewed by each new monarch. It was renewed by Edward VI, but there are no documents showing that Mary, Elizabeth or James I renewed it.


This guild divided its membership into 3 ranks: Free Scholar, Provost and Master. At the top of the structure were the Four Ancient Masters, who ran the business of the guild itself; below them were all of the other Masters. The Four Ancient Masters apparently changed as time progressed, but there is no mention in the manuscript of a ‘changing of the guard.’ Each Master had students from the lower ranks who swore an oath of loyalty to their master. To advance through the various ranks a student, or scholar, would study weapons for a minimum specified time, then, with permission of their superiors would ‘play the prize’ for advancement to the level of Free Scholar. The next level for the prize was Provost, which allowed Provosts to open up a school in their master’s name, where they would pay their master a small fee for each student. The last level was that of Master. The prizes for each level generally involved more and varied weapons than the previous. Incidentally, this is where the term ‘prize fight’ evolved.


The best source of information we have on the guild is a book entitled: ‘The Noble Science’ which is a study & transcription of the Sloane Manuscripts 2530, Papers of the Masters of Defence of London, from the 1540s to the 1590s. The author, Herbert Berry has published several works on Elizabethan England/London, including one on Shakespearean Playhouses. The book contains the Sloane MS, and Berry’s interpretations and commentaries on the MS. The Sloane MS 2530 was collected by Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) and donated to the British Museum in 1754. [3] It was written by 11 or 12 people; through hand-writing analysis Berry estimates that ~80% written by one person. The MS contains 3 primary forms of info: prizes, challenges, and formal documents (charters, rules, etc.) It mentions 78 men and 108 prizes: some dated, some without dates and others only partially dated. [4] The MS is far from complete; Berry states that there are omissions of prizes/agreements by which 20 men became Free Scholars and Provosts, and between 1558 and 1578 there is a gap in prizes for masters, but there are hints in other areas that at least 15 advanced in those years. [5]


There are conflicting opinions about the intent of the manuscript. Berry believes that it is an informal document and that the first hand was hired to copy older documents sometime in the 1580s and that others finished it. [6] Craig Turner states that it was commissioned by William Mucklowe in 1573 [7], calling it a Book of Minutes, which conflicts with Berry’s supposition that this is not a register of the Company’s affairs. I lean more toward Turner’s interpretation; there are enough official documents and rules to make it official, or at least Muckelowe’s official version. I call it this because it has Muckelowe’s school charter in it, and is therefore more representative of an individual than of the entire guild.





First and foremost, the guild was a business. This business made money in three areas: charging money for lessons in various forms of combat, through a fee structure (for both normal business as well as penalties) for the guild, and by charging for attendance to it’s public functions (prizes).


Master William Mucklowe’s school charter stated that a scholar must pay half of his tuition up front for learning, and half at some unspecified later time. His charter suggests 30 or 40 shillings for the fee, which was quite a bit of cash back then. In addition to paying out all of this money, the scholar must bring own weapons or make prior arrangements for their procurement. [8] Since the manuscript only mentions 78 people in the guild, beginning students, or ‘scholars’ were probably the main source of income for the company, which depended on high turnover, much like today’s health clubs do.


The second form of income for the guild was fees charged to members and schools. A scholar had to pay 12 pence upon taking an oath to a master, and 4 pence for entrance into the guild. When a candidate successfully played the prize, he also had to pay a fee in order to advance to the next rank.


The Company benefitted from the success of the individual members in a profit sharing system, almost like a multi-level marketing scheme, much like Amway today. The provosts gave 2 pence to their master for every student they had, and all masters put 2d. per scholar in a box and gather twice a year, presumably to divide it (the rest of this piece cuts off in the manuscript.) [9] Unfortunately, we are left to our own speculations as to how the money was divided.


In addition to the regular fees that the Company charged for it’s day to day affairs, it also charged penalty fees to members who failed to carry out guild business in a proper manner. A penalty fee of 5s. per Provost was charged to prize candidates who did not properly notify other members of the Company about the upcoming prize. A penalty of 6s. 8d. was charged to Provosts who did not show up to prizes without a valid excuse (such as illness, service to the crown or distances involved). [10]


Playing the prize was also quite lucrative. The Company charged the public for attendance of the prize, and the public was encouraged to throw money if they liked the bouts as well. The candidate had to pay for the posting notices about the prize, and in some cases had to pay half of the travel expenses of Company members, but the candidate also received some of the money generated by the prize. There is no direct evidence of how much money a prize generated, but in one prize, a tavern owner demanded a cut of the procedes and received 40 shillings, which was more than he earned for most plays. [11]


Prizes were more than just a direct revenue stream; they were also a form of advertising for the masters and provosts. The teachers had the opportunity to publically display both their skills, and the skills of their students for the benefit of the audience. This would then draw interest in their individual schools and hopefully attract more students. [12]



Playing of Prizes


Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the actual playing of prizes. Prizes were held in public places like markets, inns and theatres and that they were a popular form of entertainment, drawing a paying audience. In fact, prizes were banned in times of plague or infection for fear of spreading disease through the crowds.


Playwrite Ben Johnson included a posting of a Prize in his play, Cynthia’s Revels:


    BE IT KNOWN to all that profess arms that we, A.B., Master of


the Noble science of Defence, do give leave and licence to our


Provost, C.D. to play his Master’s Prize against all Masters in their


subtile mysterie at these weapons, viz: longsword, sword and


buckler, Morris pike, and rapier and dagger.  These are to give


notice that our said Provost will be present the …th day of the


present month to perform and do his utter most for the acheivement


and bearing away of the prize.






Prizes usually began with a procession, very often starting in BlackFriars, going through the Ludgate and into the City Proper. Company members marched in the procession by rank. It tended to swell as it went along, with people joining and following it to it’s destination. This caused problems for merchants who either had no business or too much business as a result. [14]


Many of the earlier prizes were played in market places, which had no rent, but as things evolved, the theatres and inns seemed much more popular, probably because the raised stage/scaffold gave access to larger audiences. The area that the fencing took place could be anywhere from 20-60 feet on a side.


After arriving at the prize site, there was an intentional delay in activity while speeches were made: words were spoken by the Prizor, the answerers to his challenge, and the ‘sticklers’ or seconds. This tended to be a long drawn out process that continued on until enough money was thrown on stage. Drummers then drummed until the crowd was relatively quiet. The Prizor’s master then read the bill of challenge, introducing the Prizor, the answerers and sticklers by name and accomplishment. The four ancient masters then announced “the first bout at such and such a weapon.” The prizor fought two bouts per weapon per answerer, fighting each weapon against all answerers before starting with the next weapon. Four challengers and 3 weapons at 2 passes per weapon would mean about 24 passes for the prize. Many prizes had more challengers and weapons, and could conceivably have 70 or more passes. The four ancient masters then announced the next form, and so on. It is possible that more money was collected during the breaks. At the end of the prize, the four ancient masters decided and announced the result during a flurry of drums. The Company then recessed back to Blackfriar’s where the Prizor would take the necessary oaths and pay appropriate fees.[15]


Although there is remarkably little information about the actual conduct of the prize, we do have some small glimpses. On conduct during the prize, the Sloane manuscript has the following:


                And at anny prize Whether it be maisters prize Provosts prize or


                fre schollers prize who soever dothe play agaynst ye prizor, and


                doth strike his blowe and close withall so that the prizor cannot


                strike his blowe after agayne, shall Wynn no game for anny Veneye


                so geven althoughe it shold breake the Prizors head




which can be paraphrased as:


        at any prize, at any level, if whoever is fencing against the prizor


        hits him while closing so the prizor can’t riposte, he doesn’t score


        the point no matter how hard the hit was


                        (my paraphrase, with help from Jay Rudin)


This would suggest that there was a definite code of conduct during the prize. In this particular case, it seems that while effective, infighting was frowned upon in the prize. It is hard to figure out why such a rule would be in effect. Possibly it was considered to be less skillful, or maybe it would make it difficult for the candidate to show his skills in such a situation, or maybe it was considered to be too dangerous. Keeping the audience in mind, it would certainly be difficult for the audience to follow.


There were other codes of conduct as well. Aylward says that there were no blows allowed below the waist; there was also the scholar’s prerogative which banned blows to the face.[17] Another code of conduct is mentioned by George Silver in his book. He writes about the ‘evil rules or customs’ of the London Masters. Specifically, he claims that the London Masters did not allow the thrust with a broadsword and did not allow the cut or blow with a rapier.[18]


There is one other hint at the prize in the period sources, this time more factual. In “Noble Science”, Berry quotes “The Summary of the Chronicles of Englande … abridged” by John Stow, 1573 in an incident concerning a judicial duel. In 1571, there was a land dispute in the civil courts. The defendant requested a trial by combat, which was legal in England (although rarely used) until 1819. An interesting side note is that this was a civil suit, not a criminal one, nor was it a manner of honor or insult. Both sides chose champions for their cause. Henry Naylor, a Master in the Company was chosen by the Plaintiffs, George Thorne was picked by the defense. At the Duel, the judge gave the land to the defense without combat. Naylor then challenged Thorne “to playe with him halfe a score blowes.” Thorne refused, saying that he had come to fight, not play. [19] Like the example in Hamlet, Naylor, a member of the Company has suggested the idea of swordplay to a counted number of blows or bouts without intent of injury, and for the benefit of an audience.


The scant information about the prize means that we have scant information about injuries during the prize (Hamlet not withstanding). The only concrete information we can find is in the Sloane MS where we find that Izake Kenard’s prize was postponed a few days due to injury [20], but there is no other information about what kind of injury it was. Turner mentions broken bones and cracked skulls as common outcomes. [21] Aylward claims that Thomas Overbury asserts that a lucky master had both eyes, and that Overbury harps on bruises in fencing (admitting though, that the bruises were only skin deep). [22]


Bated weapons were commonly used during the period but nothing mentions their use in prizes. Considering that the weapons used for the prize included pike, it is doubtful that all of the weapons were bated, although it is conceivable that they made a pike with no edge. It is also uncertain if participants wore armor during the prize, but it is reasonable to assume that they wore at least some armor, perhaps a buffcoat. Terminology here is also confusing. Foils were blunted and had no edge, but none of the manuscripts that I have looked at use the term foil. The only use of the word foil that I am aware of, comes from a reference stating that King Philip took 2nd place for ‘fairest and most gallant entry’ and first in the combat with foils.[23] Shakespeare used the term foil interchangeably with sword and rapier, making interpretation of their usage of the words difficult.


The weapons that were used in the prizes and challenges were quite varied. They include the long sword, bastard sword, dagger, back sword, two handed sword, staff, sword and buckler, rapier and dagger, sword and dagger. Some of the forms were reserved for the higher level members of the guild (like pike and bastard sword). It must be remembered that the Company was teaching the weapons of war, not just the Art of the Duel. The Elizabethan concept of ‘fencing’ is far different than our modern/SCA concept of the same term (more than just a foil/epee/rapier). Some interesting things to note: Rapier was not added as a prize until 1578 or so, and it was only added for the Master’s prize, however, they were using the rapier in challenges 25-30 years earlier.


Not all of the candidates played the prize to advance a level. Several candidates for the prize were advanced upon the agreement of the Masters. Why this occurred is uncertain; its hard to understand why they’d give up the potential cash that a prize would bring in. In any case, we don’t know exactly what the Masters looked for in a candidate, but from the manuscript we know that the candidate had to show the Masters that they had the skills necessary and that they would cooperate with the guild (see rules below). Since a Provost or Master could open up schools of their own, new members would bring in money for everyone under the profit sharing arrangements of the guild.


The guild had several rules governing the playing of prizes, including fees paid, weapons forms used and the process of getting permission for the prize.


Here are most of the rules for the playing of prizes:


The order for playinge of a schollers Prize


To play a scholars prize, the candidate had to do the following:


1) notify his master of his intentions


2) master will notify other masters & set up prize upon agreement of the other masters


3) Master will set up the time and place


4) the candidate must play with 6 scholars minimum at long sword and backsword as a trial or proof


5) if the masters concur, a prize will be set


6) at the prize, the candidate will play with as many schollars as possible at long sword and back sword


7) if the masters agree & he can pay all orders and duties, he is allowed to be a FS.


8) the candidate cannot play the provost prize for 7 years[24]


The order for playinge of a provosts Prize


To play a provosts prize, the candidate had to do the following:


1) ask master to play


2) master & FS/candidate go to the 4 ancient masters


3) if the 4 masters agree, they pick a day


4) must play at 2 handed sword, back sword and staff against all provosts who come


5) must notify at own cost all provosts within 60 miles of the site of the prize 4 weeks before the prize there is a penalty of 5 shillings PER unwarned provost paid to the ancient masters


6) if no provosts within 20 miles of the site can come to the prize and the candidate has not given the proper 4 weeks notice to those beyond the 20 miles, the candidate must pay 1/2 travel cost for those outer provosts nb: this contradicts [f.16 of Sloane] which states that any provost more than 20 miles gets 1/2 travel cost regardless


7) must pay the duties set before him


8) cannot keep a school within 7 miles of any master without permission


9) cannot teach any scholar who doesn’t swear to his master


10) must pay master 2d. for every scholar taught and 2d. to each of the 4 ancient masters


11) must show his books quarterly


12) must go to any prize within 60 miles with proper warning, or get permission not to go penalty for non-attendance: 6s, 8d. must be sick or on queen’s business to not attend


13) not play masters prize for 7 years (5 yrs mentioned elsewhere)[25]


The order for playinge of a maisters Prize


To play a maisters prize, the candidate had to do the following: more of the same, modified by the following:


1) weapons include: 2Hd Swd, Bastard Sword, pike, backsword, rapier and dagger


2) 60 mile radius, 8 week warning[26]


Rules are made to be broken, and the rules for playing the prize were broken on several occasions. The Sloane MS clearly shows many candidates advancing to the next level way before the proscribed period, in some cases only one year after their last advancement. Again, we are left to speculate why this is the case. The most obvious benefit to the guild would be money: it is quite possible that the candidate had potential students and could open up their own school.



Oaths for Advancement


After playing the prize, the candidate had to take an oath upon advancement: (below is a summary of most of the oaths)


Masters Oath:


Swear as a christian to the following:


  • be true to the church
  • be a true subject of the queen [because the Sovereign at the time was a Queen? Harold Kraus], and report all traitors within 24 hours if possible, even if its your father, and serve the queen with life and property
  • obey and work with the other masters
  • don’t teach suspect peoples (murderers, thieves, drunkards, quarrelers) and don’t associate with them
  • in any game, prize, or play at weapons, give true judgment without favor or hatred
  • any scholar must take oath to you and charge same amount as other masters
  • do not challenge any English Masters or your master & pay your master all of your debts and duties to him
  • be merciful when you have the upper hand (no weapon, on ground, back turned) exept in self defense or in service to the crown
  • give aid and strength & help all masters & provosts, widows and fatherless kids, and help any poor Masters at each prize (pass the hat or something)
  • do not teach another master’s scholar without permission and only if that master was paid in full
  • call all masters to set up a prize
  • do not set up any prize for a year and a day after becoming a master
  • cannot advance anyone without 2 other masters
  • do not allow others to keep school in your name and other masters/provosts that allow you to do so shall lose their license as well[27]


Provosts Oath


swear as a christian


  • uphold & be true to the church
  • uphold the queen & turn in all traitors
  • be a true provost, agree with masters and provosts; obey your master
  • don’t teach suspect peoples (murderers, thieves, drunkards, quarrelers) and don’t associate with them
  • don’t teach anyone without oath to your master
  • don’t challenge any master or compare yourself with any master especially your master
  • be merciful when you have the upper hand (no weapon, on ground, back turned) exept in self defense or in service to the crown
  • do not train others without masters permission & only if scholar has paid his master in full[28]





The manuscript also records several challenges, all of which were played before the crown. Challenges are recorded as taking place before Henry VIII, Edward VI, Philip & Mary, and Elizabeth I, with a wider variety of weapons than was used in the prizes. Weapons used include axe, pike, rapier, rapier and target, rapier and cloak, dagger, and two swords, a far greater mix of weapon styles than played in the prize. At least one prize was fought as part of a challenge: Richard White fought his scholars prize before Henry VIII. Given the middle-class status of the Company, one can imagine the Crown giving It’s time to It’s chartered guild as mostly a formal piece of business, much like our modern politicians at a ribbon cutting ceremony, or touring a factory. It is far more likely that these interactions were part of the job of the Crown than that the Crown was directly interested in what the Guild was doing.


Silver mentions challenges in two separate places in his books. In the first one, he makes a challenge to all strangers and ‘false teachers’ (his description for the Italians and their rapier play) to fight 9 bouts, broken into 3 groups of 3 bouts each. Three bouts were to be against English Masters, who knew their swordwork, three against unskilled men, although stout of heart and the last three against drunks. Silver noted that if challenger couldn’t win then they should be killed for their false teaching.


His second mention of a challenge is the one that he and his brother, Toby set up against Saviolo and Ieronimo. He proposed the use of the following weapons: Single rapier, rapier & dagger, single sword, sword and target, sword and buckler, two handed sword, staff, battle axe and morris pike – nine weapons in all.


I took a look at Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, the duel between Hamlet and Laertes as an possible example of a challenge. This fit in with Turner’s notion that Shakespeare wrote for his audience. [29] The following is from Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, where Osric, a servant of the King is arranging Hamlet’s duel with Laertes:


(Osric, a servant speaking to Hamlet)


Osric: The king, sir, hath laid, that in a dozen passes


       between yourself and him, he shall not exceed you


       three hits: he hath laid on twelve for nine; and it


       would come to immediate trial, if your lordship


       would vouchsafe the answer. [30]


This is not so much a duel as a challenge. Originally I took it to be a prize, but the number of passes (bouts) mentioned leads me to believe otherwise, especially in the light of Aylwards information on the prize (2 passes/person/weapon). It is not to the death (or at least Hamlet thought), but to touches, the king betting 6 horses vs. 6 french rapiers (an interesting equivalence) that Laertes not exceed Hamlet by 3 hits, and switching the challenge from 9 to 12 passes. A little later in the scene, the duel takes place:




    Set me the stoops of wine upon that table.


    If Hamlet give the first or second hit,


    Or quit in answer of the third exchange,


    Let all the battlements their ordnance fire:


    The king shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath;


    And in the cup an union shall he throw,


    Richer than that which four successive kings


    In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups;


    And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,


    The trumpet to the cannoneer without,


    The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth,


    ‘Now the king dunks to Hamlet.’ Come, begin:


    And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.




    Come on, sir.




    Come, my lord.


    (They play)
















    A hit, a very palpable hit.




    Well; again.




    Stay; give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine;


    Here’s to thy health.


    (Trumpets sound, and cannon shot off within)


    Give him the cup.




    I’ll play this bout first; set it by awhile. Come.


    (They play)


    Another hit; what say you?




    A touch, a touch, I do confess.




Note that there are judges (Osric) for this duel, and that there are no actual blows struck that could result in injuries to either party (at least not yet). This sounds very much like it could be a challenge or a prize could being conducted.



The London Masters and the Italians


Elizabethan London was the scene of two conflicting movements: The renaissance, which moved into England later than the rest of Europe, bringing with it European influences; and a certain ultra-nationalism, manifesting itself in the intense competition with the other European powers (the Spanish Armada comes to mind), and possibly as a backlash toward the newer styles and attitudes that competed with English tradition. The Company definitely reflected this attitude in its manuscripts and history. The Sloane manuscript shows a challenge that was fought before Edward VI against all aliens and strangers, but does not record who, if anyone fought in the challenge on the part of the foreigners[32]. The oath that members were required to take for advancement also included loyalty to the crown. It appears that the guild took this quite seriously.


By most accounts, the English Masters were very stuffy, conservative and tied to their traditions. Anglin says that this lead to a lack of English Manuals on the defensive arts and virtually guaranteed that any new trends in the Art of Defense would occur on the continent[33]. Silver’s manual was a response to the Italian influence, and was the only English originated manual, for several reasons: 1) the guild members were middle class and most likely didn’t have the resources to write and publish books; 2) If they did so, teaching revenues would most likely go down; and 3) the guild had nothing new to say.


For a while, the Company had a monopoly on teaching weapons to the public, by virtue of its letters patent from the crown. This warrant had to be renewed by each monarch, and it was probably not signed by Mary or Elizabeth. This probably allowed teachers from Europe to move into a previously closed area, competing with the Company.


The Company was a middle class guild in an extremely class conscious society, teaching their craft to the middle class, but the Italians were drawing wealthier students, and behaved as if the members of the Company were below them in station. Saviolo’s stated goal was to teach the nobility and gentry, a far cry from the middle class. While the London Masters were charging 40 shillings for instruction [34], Silver indicates that Rocco Bonetti was charging 20-100 pounds. [35]To give an idea of how different these amounts of money were, a laborer’s wage was about 5d a day, a craftsman about 1s, a gentleman about 2s 6d. (12pence = 1 shilling; 20 shilling = 1 pound). As a reference, basic entry to a theatre was 1d. The fees charged by the London Masters were about a month’s wages for a craftsman, but the fees charged by the Italians were clearly out of reach of most of the populace, including the London Masters.


One of the Italians that we have decent records of was Rocco Bonetti. He set up a school in London in 1576, calling it a “colledge”. His students were typically “Noblemen & Gentlemen of the Court”, and his colledge reflected this. It was decorated with the devices of his students and there was a writing desk with stationary and even a clock, clearly reflecting a clientelle beyond the hopes of the London Masters. [36] Bonetti’s patrons included Sir Walter Raleigh, and one of the Queen’s best swordsmen, Lord Peregrin Willoughby, both men of high stature. [37]


The London Masters did not have the same kind of patronage. While there is evidence where the Earl of Warwick wrote on behalf of his servant, John Davis to arrange for his provost’s prize, this is far different from patronage. In fact, many of the Masters had other jobs. Richard Tarlton was a comic actor, who later became ‘groom to the ordinary of the Queen’s chamber,’ and another master was a master gunner at the Tower of London. While some may have been able to live off of their income as masters, clearly all were not able to do so (or will unwilling to try).[38] In our modern world, with our modern concepts of class, it is hard to comprehend what this means, but there was a near insurmountable wall between the multiple class levels and it must have been extremely frustrating to the London Masters to see the Italians parading around at the next level, and possibly even the level beyond that.


Bonetti was at one time a Captain in the service of Venice, which is probably where he learned his swordplay. He came to England in 1569. There is some evidence that he was involved in low level espionage, carrying messages at some point during his stay in England. Sometime after Bonnetti opened his colledge, the London Masters, unhappy with Bonetti’s success, offered to allow him to fight a master’s prize (generously offering to waive the requirements for scholar & provost). Bonetti declined on grounds of class. Shortly after, two provosts (identified by Aylward as Francis Calvert and Isaac Kennard – [39]) apparently tried to provoke Bonetti into a fight, which he managed to avoid. To add to Bonetti’s troubles, his landlord, the Earl of Oxford was upset to find out that his property had been leased to Bonetti without the Earl’s knowledge or approval, and sent men to cause Bonetti trouble. This harassment was so bad that Bonetti asked his patrons on Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council to intercede on his behalf. [40] Other sources say that Bonetti went to Scotland while things cooled off.[41] The Council eventually directed the Mayor to jail the offenders, which shows that Bonetti’s patrons had quite a bit of influence[42], but there is no evidence that anything was actually done to Bonetti’s harrassers.[43]


In 1587, Bonetti fought in a brief duel with Austen Bagger. The fight took place outside of Bonetti’s colledge, and Bagger managed to wound him in the legs. Bagger then “trode upon him” – a direct violation of the spirit of the rules of conduct for the Company. Bagger spared Bonetti’s life.[44] Anglin claims that the Italian died of his wounds sustained in the duel.[45] Aylward found some evidence of Bonetti’s death in Thospital, but no information tying it to his fight with Bagger.[46] Bagger is not mentioned in Sloane, but Anglin says that he is a member of the Company [47]; Anglin also claims that Silver was a member of the Company, which I find highly questionable since Silver was in a much higher social class than the London Masters.


Silver also mentioned a time when Bonetti drew his rapier upon a boatman and was soundly beaten upon by the other boatmen using their oars.[48]


Bonetti was succeeded by Ieronimo, who was either Bonetti’s son or close assistant. Vicentio Saviolo joined Ieronimo at the school in 1590, and the two taught fencing throughout England, much to the annoyance of the Masters. Saviolo was a professional teacher of the sword in Italy, and had more humble roots than Bonetti did, but still seemed to look down upon the English from a professional standpoint. In response to a comment attributed to Saviolo and Ieronimo about English running away, George Silver and his brother Toby issued a challenge to the two, to prove once and for all which was better. The Silvers didn’t get an answer from the Italians before they printed up the handbills and were quite embarrassed when the Italians didn’t show.[49] Silver later accused the Italians of cowardice.[50]


George Silver then talkas about Saviolo and his confrontation with a master of defense. Saviolo was in Somersetshire, outside of London, and was asked to play with Rapier and Dagger by Bartholomew Bramble, a local Master. Saviolo is reported to have said, “If I play withe thee, I will hit thee 1, 2, 3, 4 thrusts in the eie together” and later saying “by God me scorn to play with thee” when Bramble would not relent. Bramble was so incensed by Saviolo’s attitude that he boxed Saviolo in the ear and knocking him down. Fearing Saviolo’s response, Bramble reached for a blackjack, half full of beer. Saviolo fingered his dagger and claimed that he could have Bramble thrown into jail for his actions. The Englishman, in turn, called Saviolo a coward and poured the rest of the beer on him. Saviolo again refused to respond to the provocation, since Bramble had no weapon, other than the blackjack. When he met Bramble on the street the next day, the Italian bought him a present of a dozen silken points from a mercer’s shop, and promised to teach Bramble how to thrust further than his fellow Englishmen. Silver finishes the story by calling Saviolo a better Christian than a fighter [51]


Silver then tells of the time that Saviolo and Ieronimo were set upon by members of the London Masters. A wench (as Saviolo calls her) who was with the Italians ran screaming for help, and townsfolk showed up and broke up the fight, which the London Masters claimed was only a little brawl. Evidently this added to the Italians’ prestige in Court.[52]


The last story that Silver tells is of the demise of Ieronimo. Ieronimo was in a coach with a wench, when a man named Cheese rode on horseback after the coach and calling out Ieronimo to fight him. Ieronimo finally relented and was killed by a thrust with Cheese’s broadsword. Silver uses this opportunity to show why Ieronimo and his rapier teachings were false.[53]


The Italians believed that they were far ahead of the London Masters in class, and behaved that way. The fees they charged and the patronage of influential people certainly told the London Masters that this was the case. It is interesting to note that while Silver did not like the Italians, and called them false teachers, every single story that he tells has the members of the Company, or at least Englishmen provoking the fight.





The London Masters are far more complex than I ever expected to find. It is a fascinating, and unfortunately incomplete tale. We have somehow latched upon the Company of the Masters of Defense of London as a model of how to do things in SCA rapier combat (playing the prize, rankings of the EK Cord structure and the Atlantian Academy, etc), without truly understanding what they were about. Their definition of fencing included many many more weapons forms that we would define more as SCA heavy weapons. It was a business, and it seemed to do rather well as such. It wasn’t a school, rather it was a set of schools throughout London. It provided entertainment for the masses (which was also a form of self-promotion for more students). It was also very middle class, and due to its own mechanisms, very conservative, which lead to inevitable conflicts with rival teaching and weapon styles.


Understanding all of this gives us a better feel for how rapier combat fit into society at that time, and can hopefully give us a better sense of persona play, as well as appreciation of what came before us.


A table showing the LMOD’s Prizes
A table showing an analysis of weapon frequency in LMOD prizes.
A sample of text from Sloan MSS. 2530, courtesy of William Wilson.





1. Anglin, pg 395
2. Anglin, pg 394
3. Berry, pg 15
4. Berry, pg 27
5. Berry, pg 27
6. Berry, pg 23
7. Turner, pg 14
8. Sloane, f. 36, pg 113
9. Sloane, f. 21, pg 83
10. Sloane, f. 19, pg 79
11. Berry, pg 3
12. Anglin, pg 402
13. Aylward, pg 33 (add Scene and Act for play, if possible)
14. Aylward, pg 34
15. Aylward, pg 35
16. Sloan, f. 16, pg 73
17. Aylward, pg 36
18. Silver, pg 23
19. Berry, pg 11
20. Sloane, f. 3, pg 47
21. Turner, pg XX
22. Aylward quoting Overbury, pg 36
23. Young, Tudor & Jacobean Tournaments, pg 31
24. Sloane, f. 17, pg 75
25. Sloane, f. 18, pg 77
26. Sloane, f. 20, pg 81
27. Sloane, f. 22, pg 85
28. Sloane, f. 27, pg 95
29. Turner, pg XIV
30. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2
31. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2
32. Sloane, f. 37, pg 115
33. Anglin, pg 396
34. Sloane, f. 36, pg 113
35. Silver, pg 64
36. Silver, pg 64
37. Turner, pg 17
38. Anglin, pg 404
39. Aylward, pg 44
40. Turner, pg 16
41. Anglin, pg 409
42. Turner, pg 16
43. Aylward, pg 45
44. Silver, pg 65
45. Anglin, pg 410
46. Aylward, pg 49
47. Anglin, pg 403
48. Silver, pg 66
49. Berry, pg 4
50. Silver, pg 66
51. Silver, pg 68
52. Silver, pg 67
53. Silver, pg 72



Bibliography and Observations on my Sources


The Noble Science: Sloane Manuscripts 2530, Papers of the Masters of Defence of London, from the 1540s to the 1590s. author Herbert Berry, Univ. of Delaware Press, 1991. ISBN 0-87413-441-0.


I found this to be an excellent source, both the manuscript portion as well as Berry’s research and interpretation.


Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay, by Craig Turner and Tony Soper, Southern Illinois University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8093-1562-9


This had some good information, but I found direct conflicts with Berry, who I tended to believe more since Berry quoted period sources directly (ie, claims that the first prize to use Rapier was in 1583, but I found it to be 1578 in Sloane; Turner and Soper also claim that the Judicial duel that involved Henry Naillor was cancelled when the opponent didn’t show up, which is not true.) The purpose of this book was not research into historical rapier combat, but rather to make the ‘Three Elizabethan Masters’ (DiGrassi, Saviolo and Silver) more accessable for stage combat.


The Schools of Defense in Elizabethan London, Jay P. Anglin, Renaissance Quarterly, Volume XXXVII, Number 3, Autumn 1984, ppg. 393-410


A good source with lots of interesting, juicy information. I believe that Anglin makes a couple of potentially wrong assertions (Austen Bagger being a member of LMOD is neither proven or denied, yet Anglin says that he is a member without giving proof. He states the same about Silver, but I have seen other more credible assertions to the contrary).


The English Master at Arms, J.D. Aylward, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1956


A good source of information, but there are no footnotes/end notes per se. Instead, there is a chapter by chapter bibliography, so there is no way to determine what information came from which sources


The Paradoxes of Defence, George Silver, 1599


Silver has about 5 pages of stories about the Italians and their interactions with the London Masters. These stories are about the only period sources outside of Sloane I have seen regarding the LMOD and fencing at that time.


Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments, Alan Young, Sheridan House, 1987. ISBN 0-911378-75-8


An excellent text about Tournaments on the time, but only scant reference to fencing, with no references to rapier.


As of 9 May 1997, I have one other source that I cannot locate, which helped me better interpret Hamlet. I will add it to the bibliography as soon as I find it. That’ll teach me to put my toys away when I’m done with them



Jeffrey L. Singer
Dana Groff
Catherine Iannuzo
Bill Ernoehazy
Jay Rudin

The Fighters of Calontir as a de facto SCA Period Fencing Guild

A Comparison of Calontir Fighting Orders and the Historical Guild of the London Masters of Defense

Written By Harold Kraus, Jr., a.k.a., Master Harald Isenross, CoL, Adm. CRN Ret., and Free Scholar*, Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

Advertisement:  I once had the idea that there should be a Calontir Academy of Defense, an association of fighters interested in tournaments as well as researching the Period fighting styles but maybe not so interested in melee or able to go to SCA wars.  My original vision was of a rattan fighting guild with rankings that paralleled the common tiered Period and SCA guild structures.  Advancement in the guild would have been based on individuals achieving the conventional Calontir fighting ranks.  Then I chanced to read Don Dylan’s paper on the London Masters of Defense. Please, dear reader, consider my essay and Don Dylan’s paper, and see whether you agree that Calontir doesn’t so much need a period fencing guild as it is one already.

My source for information on the London Masters of Defense is Don Dylan’s (John D. Murray) exceptional research paper on the same.  In fact, his fine work is the entire cause for this particular essay – my work here is but to introduce and summarize his article for a Calontir audience.  My source for information on Calontir fighting orders is my 15+ years of regular participation in fighting within Calontir.  I can attest to those parts of Silver that Dylan cites, and I have made some study of other earlier manuals.  I also have some interest in studying historical guilds in general.

Don Dylan’s primary interest is in researching the history rapier combat in the context of recreating it with steel blades, whereas my interest is in the recreational study of the breadth of Medieval and Renaissance fencing, of which rapier was just one part.

Who knows, but for whatever reason, the SCA instituted its three levels of arms (AoA, GoA, PoA) that can be mapped to various historical guild ranks.  For whatever reason, Calontir instituted its three levels of Combat Order according to these SCA award levels.  For whatever reason, Calontir’s widely successful combat Orders happen to map to the guild ranks of the London Masters of Defense.  This mapping only spurred my interest in Don Dylan’s article.

In reading Don Dylan’s paper, I find many similarities between the historical institutions he describes and what I experienced in the years I participated in Calontir schools of fighting.  Here is a sampling:

·         Both organizations have conventions for safe exercise of combat skills in non-lethal manners.

·         Both have comparable systems of advancement within organized levels of Rank.

·         In both cases, a primary basis for advancement in rank is demonstration of skills in Prize/tournament play.

·         Higher-ranking combatants perform the assessment of these skills in both systems.

·         Both recognize the importance of the public entertainment value of the Prizes and tournaments.

·         There is a complete correlation of weapons types employed between the London Masters of Defense and the SCA Kingdom of Calontir.

In his closing comments, Dylan confronts very briefly the challenge that the London Masters of Defense’s definition and system of fencing is one that is not incompatible with SCA rattan fencing as practiced in Calontir.

On the following pages, I present a table that more thoroughly illustrates the similarities and correlations between the London Masters of Defense and the rattan fencers and Fighting Orders of the Kingdom of Calontir.  Following that, I have appended a copy of Don Dylan’s paper as it appeared on his web site on March 8, 2002.  The attachment of his paper with his permission doesn’t imply his agreement with my assessment of the correlations between the London Masters of Defense and the Fighting Orders of Calontir.

In my opinion, based on my studies of Don Dylan’s paper, the Calontir Fighting Orders, and guild history, the Calontir system is a reasonable recreation of the period fencing school, excepting the quirk of using rank titles based on Anglos-Saxon military terminology instead of any late period guild terminology.   *I do not think it is unreasonable for a Calontir student of the Period Fencing Manuals to assume the title of Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost, or Master as an alternative to his personally achieved ranks of Man-at-arms, Fyrdman, Huscarl, or Knight/Master-at-Arms.


London Masters of Defense

The Calontir Marshallate and Fighting Orders

A late Renaissance School of Defense

An SCA Fencing School

The Crown(incidentally, a Queen for much of that time)

Issues the Guild’s Charter, which establishes sovereign license and authority over the guild.

The Crown(the SCA Sovereign)

Hold sovereign authority over martial judgments and as well as over who is permitted to fight in his/her Kingdom and with what equipment.

The Four Ancient Masters

      Run the business of the Guild

Earl Marshallate (mostly Knights & Masters-at-Arms)

Run the business of the Marshallate


Have a school of lower ranking students, charging them tuition for lessons.

      Excellence in many weapons.

Knights & Masters-at-Arms

Have a school of lower ranking students.                

Excellence in many weapons.


May have a school of lower ranking students, charging them tuition for lessons.

Competency with many weapons, excluding rapier.


Recognized as knowledgeable teachers.                      .

Competency with many weapons, including Calontir-legal rapier.

Free Scholars

Recognized as a viable student.

Competency with swords.


Recognized as basically competent.

Competency with two different weapons.


Student who have not passed their Prize.

Competency with a weapon has not been demonstrated.


Authorized but Un-elevated fighters.

Competency with a weapon is not required for authorization.


A committee of Masters judge and award all levels of advancement.

Advancement is nominally based on skills witnessed at a Prize.


The Crown judges and awards all levels of advancement in consultation not only with Knights & Masters with the relevant Orders of Huscarls or Fyrdmen.

Advancement is based on skills witnessed at a number of Prizes.


Announcements of Prizes are regulated.

Among other reasons, Prizes are held to demonstrate skill to the Masters for the purpose of advancement.

Prizes are held to entertain an audience that paid admission or may other monetary contributions.


Prizes (incidentally called Events or Tournaments)

Announcements of Prizes are regulated.

Among other reasons, Prizes are held to demonstrate skill to the Crown and Orders for the purpose of advancement.

Prizes are held to entertain an audience that paid site fee.

Armor Conventions

Some armor was worn; likely it was less than full combat dress.

Armor Conventions

Some armor is required, but definitely much less than full combat dress.

Combat Conventions

Rebated Weapons.

No grappling.

No hitting from behind.

No hitting on the Ground.

No blows below the waist.

No face blows.

Rules based on safety as well as the intention of witnessing skill with weapons.

(Note, some of these conventions are occasional, varying from time to time),

Combat Conventions

Rebated Weapons.

No grappling.

No hitting from behind w/o engagement.

No hitting on the Ground.

No blows below the thighs.

Lighter calibration on face blows.

Rules based on safety as well as the intentions of witnessing skill with weapons and keeping the combat entertaining and courteous.

Weapons Used in Prizes

Sword, Back Sword, Rapier and Dagger, Sword and Buckler, Sword and Dagger, Staff, Dagger, Two Handed Sword, Bastard Sword

Weapons Used in Challenges

Long Sword, Back Sword, Sword & Buckler, Sword & Dagger, Two Sword, Two Handed Sword, Rapier, Rapier & Target/Cloak/Dagger, Dagger, Staff, Axe, Pike

Weapons Used

Long Sword, Back Sword, Sword & Buckler, Sword & Dagger, Two Sword, Bastard Sword, Mass Weapon, Two Handed Sword, Rapier, Rapier & Shield/Dagger, Dagger, Staff, Polearm, Pike


Generally only Masters use rapiers.


All authorized Calontir fighters may use rapiers constructed to Calontir rattan combat standards.

Authorization to play in Prizes

The Prize combatant must acceptable to their superiors (through application for the prize).

Authorization to play in Prizes

All combatants must be acceptable to the Crown, generally thorough the proxy of the Marshallate and the institution of authorizations.

Social Status

These guys all had non-labor day jobs.  Students were likely of the citizen or yeoman classes.  Scholars and Provost had to have totally private means to pay their tuition and buy their gear.  Even the Masters didn’t pull in enough from fees to completely maintain themselves within
the middle class.  The guild schools were beneath the station of the aristocracy.

Social Status

These guys all have day jobs.  They are mostly of the lower middle and upper lower class.  All SCAdians have to have totally private means to pay their event costs and buy their gear.  With the increasing affluence and decreasing mechanical skills of all American income classes, the SCA traditions of making-it-yourself and being accessible to the indigent may become beneath the contempt of the public.



William the Conqueror and the Principles of War

Written by Sir Kirk fitzDavid. Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

Warfare in medieval Western Europe appears, at first glance, to have been conducted by amateurs.  When compared to the Romans who came before, and the Swiss and English armies which developed in the 14th century, medieval armies often seem like undisciplined mobs stumbling around the countryside as often missing as finding their opponents.   Campaigns were usually made up of massive raids or long sieges, with little permanent result.  Tactically,  this picture is not completely wrong since most armies were not well disciplined, inflexible mass formations were the rule, and cavalry was often a “fire and forget” weapon.  Strategically, few commanders seemed to understand and use what we term the “principles of war” today.  Perhaps the most successful commander in medieval Europe, however, demonstrated an intimate familiarity with the principles of war and used them successfully through most of his many campaigns.  This commander was William the Conqueror.

As they are used today, principles of war are enduring concepts such as surprise, offensive, maneuver, supply, and mass.  The list varies from person to person and country to country, but includes tools which a commander can use to achieve victory, and factors which he must take into account to prevent defeat.  They are not a step-by-step recipe for war, but when used together they enhance each other’s effects.  For example, the principle of mass is generally defined as grouping a large enough force together to meet your objective.  Maneuver, of course, is moving your forces in relation to the enemy.  By combining the two, massing your force and moving to a weak point in the enemy’s forces, you might be able to attack and win.  An attack without massing enough forces would be defeated, and attacking where the enemy is strongest doesn’t often work, either.

William the Conqueror used many of the principles of war to great effect.  He achieve particular success with the principles of objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, surprise, security, and supply.  The objective is aim of the campaign, what you hope to achieve.  To be on the offensive is to take and hold the initiative, and make the enemy react to your moves.  You call the shots, not him.  Economy of force is the opposite side of the coin from mass.  It means not wasting your strength in areas you don’t need it.  Surprise is attacking where your enemy is not ready and cannot react effectively in time to prevent your move.  Security is preserving your freedom of action.  The best example of this is to prevent the enemy from surprising you.  Supply (or logistics) is providing your forces with the materials they need to win–food, fodder for animals, arms, armor, etc.  Finally, William used one more technique which we don’t consider a principle of war, but he probably thought of as equivalent to modern principles.  This was terror or intimidation, and he turned to it when he thought it would serve his purpose better than other methods.

William conducted campaigns throughout his adult life, from the time he secured his duchy at the battle of Val-es-Dunes in 1047 until his death from injuries he suffered at the sack of Mantes forty years later.  Three of his campaigns illustrate his strategic mastery of the principles of war.  He used offensive, maneuver, surprise, and terror to defeat Geoffrey of Anjou’s invasion of Normandy in one of his earliest campaigns in 1051.  William defeated the most serious rebellion of his reign in England in 1069-70 by again using maneuver, mass, economy of force, and terror to beat one rebel group after another.  And in his greatest campaign, William was able to mass his forces, keep them supplied, and secure Normandy behind him in order to launch his invasion of England in 1066.

William faced the first invasion of Normandy in 1051.  The county of Maine, on Normandy’s southern border, was taken over by Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, when the old count died.  After moving into Maine, Geoffrey continued north and took the fortresses of Domfront and Alencon on the Maine-Normandy border.  In early fall, William gathered his forces to counterattack.  He took the offensive, moving into the area between the fortresses, and attacked Geoffrey’s army.   He drove off Geoffrey after some hard fighting, giving him the freedom to besiege Domfront.

The duke was not content to conduct a long siege.  Leaving part of his force at Domfront, William marched the 35 miles to Alencon in one night.  This surprised the garrison, and William took the town by assault.  The defenders had apparently mocked William by waving hides from the walls (William’s grandfather was a tanner).  He took his revenge on them by cutting off the hands of the captured garrison. He returned to the siege of Domfront, and his cruelty so intimidated the defenders that they surrendered with his promise of good treatment.

William had used the principles of offensive, maneuver, surprise, and finally terror in sequence to conduct his campaign.  He regained the initiative by taking the offensive against Count Geoffrey, and driving him from the field.  This victory gave the duke the freedom to maneuver, first besieging Domfront and making his sudden move against Alencon.  His sudden attack surprised the defenders, and he overpowered them without a siege.  His cruelty intimidated the last opposition and finished the campaign.

 In 1069-70, a rebellion and invasion of England forced William to conduct an even more remarkable war of offensive and maneuver.  He had already put down some small, uncoordinated rebellions in England after the conquest.  In the summer of 1069, the sons of Sweyn Estrithson, King of Denmark, raided the English coast from Kent to the Humber.  The Viking army was nearly the size of Harald Hardraada’s, and came ashore near York as Harald’s had three years before.  This sparked a general rising in Yorkshire, and English rebels joined with the Vikings to attack and wipe out the Norman garrison in York.  The revolt rapidly spread, to Chester in the west and Dorset and Somerset in the southwest.  The Scots provided support in the north, and the Welsh aided the western rebels.  The Danes spread out and moved south from York, and were welcomed by the English.  The Normans had lost control of almost all of northern England.

King William reacted quickly.  He gathered an army and moved north toward the Danish force, and the Vikings pulled back north over the Humber.  Leaving enough troops behind to keep the rebellion from spreading south again, William turned west to deal with the rebellion around Chester.  He suppressed the rebellion there, and sent troops south to deal with Dorset and Somerset.  By this time the Danes were moving again, and were heading for York again.  William returned to Yorkshire, burning the land that had welcomed the Vikings.  When he arrived at Christmas, William decided to suppress the rebellion once and for all by destroying all means of livelihood.  He killed all the adult men he could find, and destroyed all the livestock and farming implements.  The devastation was so great that the damage was readily evident in the Domesday Book, and the area did not completely recover for 70 years.

William bribed the Danes to leave by letting them keep the booty they had gathered so far, and allowing them to stay the winter before returning to Denmark.  This let him return to Chester, where the rebellion had resumed when he left.  William had to march through a terrible storm in the dead of winter, but he and his army arrived in time to disperse the rebels once and for all without serious fighting.

Offensive, maneuver, mass, economy of force, and finally terror were William’s tools in crushing the rebellion.  From his first moves against the rebellion, William kept constantly on the offensive.  He never let the disjointed parts of the rebellion unite, and maneuvered rapidly against each in turn until all the outbreaks were crushed.  William first massed his forces to deal with the most serious threat, the Viking army.  He then carefully split off detachments, either to hold the line in the north or to deal with the southern rebellion.  Finally, to end the repeated revolts, he again used the option of terror by devastating the countryside and destroying the ability of his people to live, let alone rebel.  His tactic of cruelty was entirely deliberate, because William had demonstrated his control over his troops in many other wars.  He had prevented the sacking of cities after sieges such as at Exeter in 1068 and Domfront above, and had put down the earlier English rebellions without much destruction.  But clearly he was out to make an example of Yorkshire and to deter any future rebellion against him.

In his most successful campaign, William invaded England and defeated King Harold.  To do this, though, he had to demonstrate his mastery of the principles of mass, supply, and security.  William had to assemble and transport a very large army for the time.  He needed to take all the Norman troops he could, and hire mercenaries to give him the numbers he needed to defeat the large English army.  He had to keep all these soldiers fed, as well as building the ships to take them across the English Channel.  William also had to worry about the security of Normandy while he was gone.  He had to make sure he wouldn’t lose his duchy to a sudden attack while most of the troops were gone.

At the end of Edward the Confessor’s reign, England had one of the largest armies in Europe.  Several thousand huscarls were always available.  The select fyrd acted as trained reserve, and could be quickly mobilized to form a large, infantry-based army.  William’s army needed to be nearly as large as Harold’s to gain a victory.  Much of his strength was in cavalry, and he needed to build hundreds of ships just to transport his 2,500 or so horses.  To get as many men as possible, William hired all the mercenaries he could, either paying up front or promising land in England.  He also pressed his Norman vassals hard to bring all the troops they could.  William managed to gather a force of about 10,000 soldiers and sailors, with at least 700 ships.

While gathering his force, William faced two problems.  How could he supply his troops, and how could he keep Normandy from being attacked while he was gone?  The second problem was more complicated, and William started on it almost as soon as he decided to invade England.  In the previous 20 years, William had fought against France, Anjou, and Brittany at one time or another.  He was ringed by potential enemies.  He decided to conduct a diplomatic campaign to both justify his claim to the English throne and to prevent attack on Normandy.  William first got the Pope to declare his invasion of England a crusade.  This made any attack against Normandy an attack against the Church.  William also sent ambassadors to King Sweyn of Denmark, Philip I of France, and Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor.  None of them promised William aide, but they all promised to help if Normandy were invaded.  Finally, William left a few of his most trusted and powerful vassals behind to help his wife rule the duchy.

William achieved his greatest success in his handling of the supply problem.  Armies of the time carried no more than30-60 days of supplies when they gathered for a campaign.  After that ran out, the armies either broke up and went home, or plundered the countryside for food.  William began building his fleet in the spring, and did not finish until the end of July.  Then, for six straight weeks, he waited for favorable winds in order to sail.  He needed to keep the army concentrated so they could board the ships as soon as a good wind arose.  But he also couldn’t let it forage in the countryside, or his vassals would desert so they could defend their homes and land.  He had to buy mountains of supplies to keep the army fed, and use his powerful personality and persuasive arguments to keep his troops from plundering.  Without this success, the invasion would never have been launched.

All this planning and preparation was required just to get the invasion underway.  Compared to the personality conflicts, supply problems, and defections that plagued the First Crusade only thirty years later, this must have been a model of an efficient, well-organized army.

William the Conqueror demonstrated his mastery of the principles of war throughout his adult life.  His campaign against Geoffrey of Anjou combined the offensive, maneuver, surprise, and finally terror in sequence to drive the Angevin forces from his territory.  He again used maneuver, backed up by mass, economy of force, and terror, to defeat a rebellion which had taken nearly half of England from his control.  And his careful planning and preparation enabled William to mass his troops for the invasion of England, keep them supplied, and secure Normandy while he was away.


William the Conqueror, by David C. Douglas.   This biography of William is widely available, and is the most comprehensive book I’ve found on him.  Covers the politics and military matters very well, though the battles aren’t as detailed as they could be.  William’s ruling methods and relations with the Church are given particular attention.

1066:  Year of Destiny, by Terence Wise.  A much better book for getting the flavor of the times.  Covers the Vikings and the English as well as the Normans, with plenty of good maps and pictures.  Incorporates a great deal of recent (after 1950) archeological information.  Wise has the unconventional opinion that the English army, and in particular the huscarls, fought from horseback much of the time, including at Stamford Bridge (but not Hastings).  Also covers events in England up to 1070

Invasion:  1066, by Robert Furneax.  A somewhat dated book, focusing mostly upon Hastings. Fills some gaps in the other two.

Theory vs. Practice v1; The Armor Defense

Written by Lord Robert (Rob) McKynnon, Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

Let me preface this by saying that I have nothing but love for the combat in the SCA. This is not intended to be a rant, nor a condemnation against SCA combat. For the purposes of this article, I am sticking to the time frame generally acknowledged to be encompassed by the SCA, namely 600AD-1600AD.


For just a moment let us be completely honest. No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to have our SCA battles accurately recreate any of the historic battles in the SCA timeframe. Even ignoring the whole “live steel vs. rattan & foam” debate, any student of historic combat who is also even passingly familiar with SCA combat must admit one simple fact. SCA battles or wars, by definition, are not and can never be historically accurate.


As I can hear the muttering already, please allow me defend my statement. The first defense I would offer would be the case against armor. For my case I would ask that you pick up the Marshall’s handbook. It doesn’t really matter which one, any will do. Listed in there is the minimum armor requirements and the average armor recommendations. Let’s see… full helm, gorget, chest/back protector, kidney protection, arm armor (upper and/or lower), elbow protection, gauntlets, leg protection (again, upper and/or lower), knee protection. I think that about covers it. Regardless of persona or time period, this is the list.


“Yes, and…?” says the intrepid reader. Bear with me, for when you look at that list of armor, you realize that it is the armor of a fully decked out knight! And a late period knight at that. And there is nothing wrong with that, per se… except that the majority of the soldiers in a medieval battle were not knights.


Throughout the era generally represented by the SCA, the knight was the medieval equivalent to the modern main battle tank. They were equally adapt at assaulting infantry units as others of their kind. Infantry had to be really lucky, very well equipped, really numerous, or a combination of the three to defeat a single one, let alone a formation of them. And they were never the most numerous part of the army.


Part of the reason that most knights were of the nobility was due to the sheer cost of putting together a set of armor, weapons, and a mount. Anybody who has purchased all of the above armor can attest to that! For the average foot soldier it was a helmet and a jack of plates if the lord was generous and wealthy enough. Otherwise, it was make due with what could be found or acquired.


In the First Welsh War, approximately 1277, King Edward of England fielded a truly impressive number of knights, mainly being veterans of the Crusades, totaling 1000 feudal knights. Yet his foot soldiers consisted of 15,000, not including archers, mercenaries, and other support personnel. All in all, the full armored contingent of his army consisted of about 1/20th of its total. This trend continued well into the 16th century, with Henry VIII fielding approximately 1100 knights, 12,000 foot, and another 11,000 sundry others (archers, artillery, support train, etc.) The French ratio tended to be a bit better, averaging 500 knights per 4000 foot during the same timeframe.


Armor during this time period varied for the foot soldier. Canvas jacks, jacks of plates, brigandines, and mail shirts still outnumbered the infantry plate armor even at the end of the SCA time period. Most musters of the late 1500’s showed approximately 1/2 to 1/4 of any foot force could be fielded in the infantry plate armor. The rest used the older armors. Of this armor witness reports, woodcuts, and pictures all show that it was mostly if not all upper body covering. Helmets seemed somewhat more common, averaging about 1/2 to 2/3 of the foot soldiers of the day, but the arms, legs, neck, and the rest all went unarmored among the infantry.


By simple weight of historic evidence we see that the average soldier of the era had entirely different armor standards than the average SCA fighter. Not that I see the SCA requirements as bad things; on the contrary, I appreciate un-smashed fingers and knees as much as the next person (perhaps more, considering the poor condition of my hands & knees!). Yet this simply means that the difference in armor make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to accurately recreate a historic battle using SCA fighters.

Jerky Inspires Calon Shieldwall tactics at Gitmo

Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

The following from a private e-mail has been forwarded with permission from Ld Damien MacGavin:


Little did I know that munching on the Calon army jerky only made me long to fight other wars.  Things here at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are not too different from what you see on CNN and the local news.  We work everyday in the prison camp in the sun and think of what’s going on back home.  Once in a while we do make it to the beach and relax but then it’s right back to the same grind over and over.  I read everyone’s notes from the book signed at Coronation, and I thank you all for the kind words.  I think of back home in Calontir and long for it and to be back there daily .

One of the better parts of this trip away from Calontir is my job here.  One part of which involves training in “Riot Control Formations” and makes me gleam with joy when it is mentioned.  This is the one place where both of the Armies that I support actually come to an agreement.  No kidding, I end up in Kevlar body armor, helmet with grill, elbow and knees, a 48″ plastic shield and my 36″ solid ash riot baton (just like home!).  Next thing I knew I was wrapping my riot baton in duct tape because “It just didn’t look right”.

Then, after flipping through the army’s “riot control procedures” I promptly took the manual and tossed it to the side, telling my guys “let me show you another way”.  Next thing I know, there are large groups with shields going after one another, and I’m feeling a little more at home with every minute.

Now after some basic Calontir shield wall instruction given by yours truly, and much to the dismay of our superiors, our line was just as strong as the war proven shield walls that I long to be behind.  Things were glorious and I was loving it and just then, I was reminded in the only way one should be, that all men can and will fall with enough tear gas.  After sitting down on the ground coughing and gagging for a good 20 minutes, I realized my lesson that day and thanked the stars that I wouldn’t be seeing that one at my next war.

Until then, I count the days to get back on the field and with the Calontir army, and I shall try to bring the other army of our land up to par with our standards, except for the tear gas thing of course!

Still in service to Country, justice, Kingdom and the shire of Deodar..

Damian MacGavin
Spc. Adam Hoge