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Justin Pasternak




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PostPosted: Sat 26 Jan, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: Questions about the "Ricasso" on swords and dagger         Reply with quote

(1) Is the Ricasso defined as being part of the blade of a sword or dagger or is it considered a separate feature on a blade of a sword or dagger? Confused

(2) For example, that's say there was a law in a country that fordid a sword's blade length to be in excess of 36 inches. Now, lets say there was a swordsman that wanted a sword custom made by a blacksmith and the length of the blade was to be 36 inches, with the addition of a 1 inch ricasso, between the blade and guard of the sword. Ultimately making the sword blade 37 inches in length. Would this then sword illegal to make or own? Blush
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sat 26 Jan, 2008 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Generally speaking, I'm pretty sure the ricasso is considered a part of the blade. If this hypothetical law only considered the cutting area, I could see how it would work as a loophole. But not otherwise, I believe, since the "blade" is more then just the edge.
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Dan P




Location: Massachusetts, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I cannot think of a single modern jurisdiction that has a law specifically mentioning the length of a sword blade. On the other hand there are lots of places that put limits on the length of knife blades. These limits are specified in every different way you could possibly imagine- total length, length of blade, length of edge, "is-it-longer-than-your-hand", etc. And even then the authorities don't know the letter of the law very well and whether or not that blade is too big to be legal more or less depends on the personal judgement of the cop who notices it, and the circumstances under which he sees it. This isn't a criticism of law enforcement, its just that there are too many laws and they are too complicated for an officer to commit all of them (including judicial precedents etc) to memory.

So if hypothetically there was a place that had some kind of law limiting sword blades to 36", and you did a 37" blade including a 1" ricasso one of two things would happen. One, no one would ever care unless you were involved in a crime and they wanted an extra charge to hit you with. Two, an officer who hasn't memorized the exact law concerning swords would confiscate the sword/give you a ticket/arrest you, and you might wind up hiring a lawyer (and possibly an expert authority on swords) to explain the ricasso vs edge thing to a judge.
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 8:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 9:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
myArmoury.com is not an appropriate place to seek legal advice.


I think that was just an example.

Unless Massachusetts has some really strange laws concerning swords.

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Justin Pasternak




Location: West Springfield, Massachusetts
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I apologize. I should have given a real example, instead of making a fictious one.

Let's go back to the year 1566 in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Where the length of a Rapier's blade could not exceed, "one yard and half-a-quarter". If my math is correct this would give a Rapier a maximum blade length of 40.5 inches. And then let's say there was a 1 inch ricasso on a blade, making the blade 41.5 inches in length.

Now, would this sword now become illegal to own because of the 1 inch ricasso? Blush
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Terry Crain




Location: Pennsylvania, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 6:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Assuming there was such an actual law in Elizabethan times, unless there is written documentary caselaw on point, I don't know how anyone can opine on whether your hypothetical blade with an extra inch of ricasso would have been considered in violation of such law (assuming that the exact wording of such law does not answer your question).

Are you asking if anyone has actual knowledge of documentary evidence of an Elizabethan court case on point? I think it highly unlikely that a transcript of such legal minutia would be preserved. But hey, who knows.

What was the penalty for violating this law? Are there any transcripts of any court proceeding of any violations of this law?

Are you thinking of putting an Elizabethan kit together and want a sword that is not in violation of this law or what? Confused

Terry

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin Pasternak wrote:
I apologize. I should have given a real example, instead of making a fictious one.

Let's go back to the year 1566 in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Where the length of a Rapier's blade could not exceed, "one yard and half-a-quarter". If my math is correct this would give a Rapier a maximum blade length of 40.5 inches. And then let's say there was a 1 inch ricasso on a blade, making the blade 41.5 inches in length.

Now, would this sword now become illegal to own because of the 1 inch ricasso? Blush


As in any time period it depends on the letter of the law or the spirit of the law and who is deciding and the power of the person being decided against !

I guess if Queen Elizabeth 1 saw you with too long a sword you might be able to convince her that it was within the law but a lot would depend on her liking you or not and on it not seeming like she was being defied !

A lower official might go either way if the law was ambiguously written.

Oh, and a small bit of extra length due to the ricasso might go over better than if the blade was a foot longer than legal !

In the spirit of the law I think one reason for this law limiting rapiers or swords commonly worn in civilian life was that the overlong rapiers would cause hot headed " Bravos " to get into fights using accidental tripping over swords as insults needing redress i.e. caused a lot of stupid and deadly duels ! A very long sword is a very long sword no matter if it's due to a long ricasso or blade.

Anyway, just some ideas I'm throwing out there for discussion. Wink Big Grin

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Terry Crain




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 6:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Correction, I should have said that unless there is written documentary caselaw on point, I don't know how anyone can opine with authority, as opposed to mere speculation, on whether your hypothetical blade with an extra inch of ricasso would have been considered in violation of such law.

I acknowledge that anyone can opine on anything at anytime. I was assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that you were looking for more than everyone's speculation or guesses...

Terry

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Terry Crain




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Delving into the realm of mere speculation, if the point of the law was to regulate sword lengths to eliminate unfair advantages in duels to individuals with extra long rapiers (a big "if" I grant you, but let's go with it), then in such a case, your extra inch of ricasso would result in a reach advantage to your sword, hence rendering it within the catagory of weapons the law sought to eliminate. Under such circumstances, if I were the Elizabethan judge, I would declare you in voilation of the law and send you off to the Tower for your affrontery to her Majesty's decree.

That will teach you Laughing Out Loud

Terry

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 7:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Terry Crain wrote:
Delving into the realm of mere speculation, if the point of the law was to regulate sword lengths to eliminate unfair advantages in duels to individuals with extra long rapiers (a big "if" I grant you, but let's go with it), then in such a case, your extra inch of ricasso would result in a reach advantage to your sword, hence rendering it within the catagory of weapons the law sought to eliminate. Under such circumstances, if I were the Elizabethan judge, I would declare you in voilation of the law and send you off to the Tower for your affrontery to her Majesty's decree.

That will teach you Laughing Out Loud

Terry


I think that what usually happened would be to have the tip of your sword broken off ! I think there was a case like this were the French ambassador had his sword broken by a lowly official to his great displeasure. I guess the law didn't make exceptions and diplomatic immunity didn't cover this particular regulation.

As to case law there are many laws that are written not taking into consideration all sorts of minute details or the legislators didn't anticipate something important: Law of unintended consequences. Wink Laughing Out Loud

So until the law is interpreted by a judge, creating case law, many of these questions can't be answered with any certainty.
( Talking of general principles and not this specific case or any specific law ).

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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Jan, 2008 11:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Terry Crain wrote:
Delving into the realm of mere speculation, if the point of the law was to regulate sword lengths to eliminate unfair advantages in duels to individuals with extra long rapiers (a big "if" I grant you, but let's go with it), then in such a case, your extra inch of ricasso would result in a reach advantage to your sword, hence rendering it within the catagory of weapons the law sought to eliminate. Under such circumstances, if I were the Elizabethan judge, I would declare you in voilation of the law and send you off to the Tower for your affrontery to her Majesty's decree.

That will teach you Laughing Out Loud

Terry


IIRC, Queen Elizabeth passed that law because extremely long blades was the fashion at that time and she simply found it unsightly.

(There was also a law against too long coats, or something like that.)

Considering this, I don't think an official of the queen would accept a long ricasso as an excuse. Razz

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

I think that what usually happened would be to have the tip of your sword broken off ! I think there was a case like this were the French ambassador had his sword broken by a lowly official to his great displeasure. I guess the law didn't make exceptions and diplomatic immunity didn't cover this particular regulation.


Yep. The wacky woman actually had people out on the street to stop passers-by, breaking their swords and cutting their coats if they were deemed to long.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

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David Evans




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 5:04 am    Post subject: Other bans         Reply with quote

Interestingly enough Elizabeth also banned dags, handgunes, harquebusses, calivers and the wearing of coats of defence also known as doublets of defence or privy coats.
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J. Erb




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some further food for thought, to go along with with Mr. Backlund said:

I think I remember reading in By the Sword that Elizabethan courtiers kept trying to out-do each other in terms of "rapier fashion," leading to longer and longer blades. It eventually got so ridiculous that, before being admitted to the Palace, people were required to have their swords measured. If the blade was longer than the prescribed limit, the excess was snapped off.

I'd never heard about the trimming of too-long coats, but somehow that doesn't surprise me. Big Grin

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 9:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't believe there's any actual proof that Queen Elizabeth banned rapiers purely on fashion, nor is there significant proof that rapier length was based on fashion. While I'm sure fashion did have a degree of influence (and let's face it, fashion had a degree of influence on most weapons even to this day), most of the assertations about fashion and rapiers is based more on Victorian ideas of the period.

There is a theory that Elizabeth's banning of the length was actually a form of foreign control, since the law really only affected those coming into London, not the people already there. The thought being that outsiders with long weapons must be up to no good, and therefore their weapons must be broken down. As it is, though, most ideas on why the law was passed are pure speculation.

Regarding blade length, many Renaissance fencing treatises encourage very long swords for the purpose of outreaching an opponent, and many make a point of saying that you absolutely should not use a very long sword. This implies to me that it was a preference having to do with one's martial training moreso than one's fashion preference.

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Brad Harada




PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 1:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It was ruffs and rapiers, not coats. The reference is from a quotation by John Stowe:

“he was held the greatest gallant that had the deepest ruff and longest rapier the offence to the eye of the one, and hurt unto the life of the subject that came by the other—this caused her Majestie to make proclamation against them both, and to place selected grave citizens at every gate, to cut the ruffes and breake the rapiers points of all passengers that exceeded a yeard in length of their rapiers, and a nayle of a yeard in depth of their ruffes.”

Then there is also this (from "The Life of Queen Elizabeth" by Agnes Strickland p.412):

"...the French Ambassador, Mauvissiere, chancing to recreate himself with a morning ride in Smithfield, was stopped at the Bars by officers who sat there to cut swords, who insisted on shortening his rapier, which exceeded the limit prescribed by the recent statute. To impugn the taste of a Frenchman in any manner connected with his dress, is attacking him on a point of particular importance; but for the clownish officials of Smithfield Bars to presume to make a forcible alteration upon the costume of the man, who represented the whole majesty of France, was an outrage not to be endured, even by the veteran statesman Mauvissiere de Castelnau. He drew his threatened rapier instead of surrendering it to the dishonoring shears of the officers, and sternly stood on the defensive, and but for the seasonable interposition of Lord Henry Seymour, who luckily was likewise taking the air in Smithfield, and hastened to rescue the insulted ambassador from the hands of the executive powers, evil consequences might have followed. Mauvissiere complained to the queen, and her Majesty greatly censured the officers for their want of discrimination, in attempting to clip so highly privileged a person."
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 8:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brad Harada wrote:
Mauvissiere complained to the queen, and her Majesty greatly censured the officers for their want of discrimination, in attempting to clip so highly privileged a person."


Who you are, who you know in power, counts for more in an absolute monarchy than what you do:
It's good to be the King as Mel Brooks says in " The History of the World part 1 ": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_W...he_King.22

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Justin Pasternak




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PostPosted: Sat 09 Feb, 2008 1:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know this topic is a bit old now, but I found a short article on the "Elizabethian Sword Edict". Just in case someone was curious. http://www.zipworld.com.au/~zebee/length.htm
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Robin Palmer




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As i recall the law in question was in fact a double law if I remember it right it concerned the length of blades and the size of ruffs being worn.

The law ordered men to be placed about the city at key points with measures with orders to cut down both blades and ruffs if they exceeded the legal measure. Ruffs were common fashion for all gentry but as ever the fashion conscious young rich pushed the point and ruffs grew in diameter. Up to a point starched linen will support itself once they grew beyond that point the makers turned to a frame of metal rods to give support. Ruffs reached three feet plus wide which in Londons narrow streets made the metal rods a hazard to passers by hence the law.

The same group of rich young men pushed the fashion for extremely long swords. They were noted for gambling whoring drinking brawling dueling and generally causing trouble their families rank and position made them largely immune to prosecution nothing much changes does it. The laws were aimed at a specific group and worked as to the riscoss the men had a measure and that was it guard to point any over was broken off.

On the matter of envoys beyond any other consideration they were protected by rules which gave them protection plus nations tended to choose reasonable experienced men as envoys. They lacked modern communications so had to act with a degree of autonomy unknown today so it is unlikely such men would be swayed by such a fashion.
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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Feb, 2008 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Erb wrote:
Some further food for thought, to go along with with Mr. Backlund said:

I think I remember reading in By the Sword that Elizabethan courtiers kept trying to out-do each other in terms of "rapier fashion," leading to longer and longer blades. It eventually got so ridiculous that, before being admitted to the Palace, people were required to have their swords measured. If the blade was longer than the prescribed limit, the excess was snapped off.

I'd never heard about the trimming of too-long coats, but somehow that doesn't surprise me. Big Grin


I'm pretty sure it was in By The Sword I read about it in the first place. Imagine that. Happy

Brad Harada wrote:
It was ruffs and rapiers, not coats.


*snaps fingers* I knew it was an article of clothing, but I couldn't remember which one. My bad, thanks for correcting me.

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"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
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