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Aimee Moore




Location: Citrus Heights, CA, USA
Joined: 12 Aug 2009

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Aug, 2009 8:36 pm    Post subject: French and Scottish Swords of the 16th century         Reply with quote

Hello, I was told by Yahoo answers that you kind people could help me. I am budding novelist writing about 16th century England, France and Scotland. Two of my main characters need to carry swords and daggers. One is French and will need something relitively ornate. The other is Scottish and will sometimes use a Claymore but other time will need something smaller and more decorative. Also, if my ladies need daggers, suggestions?
Thanks in advance!

Amiee
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Christopher Gregg




Location: Louisville, KY
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Aug, 2009 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Aimee, welcome to the forum! I'll throw in my two cents worth for your consideration.

Your Scot, whom I presume you mean to be a Highlander, would carry a big two-handed sword occasionally (correctly called a Claidheamh Da Laimh), and a dirk (but depending on which part of the 16th century, perhaps a ballock knife). The Claymore (in Gaelic, Claidheamh Mor) was the basket-hilted broadsword used along with the targe (a small round shield) and the dirk (a single-edged guardless knife). In truth, these terms (and items) all really came into vouge in the middle of the 17th century, along with the great kilt or belted plaid. In the early 16th century, Scots Highlanders dressed more like traditional Irishmen, with long pale yellow tunics and brats (plaid shoulder wraps that eventually became the belted plaid). Lowland Scots dressed much like the English: breeches, shirts, doublets or jerkins, hose and simple shoes, flat caps), and would have carried weapons similarly, perhaps cut-and-thrust swords, long guarded daggers). Don't even THINK of having your guy own a Sgian Dubh! They're 19th century! If your Scot is in the LATE 16th century, say Elizabethan times (1575-1600ish), then you could arm him with an early basket hilted claymore (perhaps a ribbon-hilt) and a very early dirk (but a dudgeon dagger with octagonal hilt might be better). He also might have a sgian achles, or armpit knife, hidden under his shirt.

Your Frenchman is much in the same boat - if it's the early 16th century, and he's a man of little means, he might have an old side-sword or a later version with twin ringed guard, and a basic dagger as a back-up. If it's later in the centiry, say the second half, and maybe he's got more wealth, then he'd want to stylishly sport the latest in civilian rapiers, with longer, thinner thrusting blade, and a nice matching parrying dagger to go with. He'd dress in French fashion, too, but that I'll leave to your investigation and taste. In all, I'd try to stay away from extra-large battle swords for your characters, unless they're actually ON the battlefield. No one actually carried these monsters around very often, plus they had to have been super expensive!

Do a bit of digging on what's historically plausible dress and accoutrement-wise, and try to avoid the "Hollywood" interpretation of what historical figures armed themselves with. I hope this gives you some ammunition to proceed!

Best Regards,

Christopher Gregg

'S Rioghal Mo Dhream!
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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2009 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm afraid I'm going to disagree with a little of Christopher's commentary there, and emphasise a few other bits.

the knife at that point, would not be under any circumstances be the dirk at all - in early 16th C, its almost inevitably going to be the Ballock Knife, and in the later half of the century would be termed a Dudgeon Dagger. - boxwood (called dudgeon in scots dialect, hence the name) being used for the grip, earlier ones being round, and the later ones facetted with 6 or 8 sides (8 most common), and tooled leather sheath. blade at that stage likely transitioning between a flat, and a hollow-ground diamond section as time progresses.
Ballocks and Dudgeons were effectively the same thing in some ways with a organic evolution between them, so if you're in the middle of the century, you're sort of neither one or the other, in a way. the balls of the ballock knife slowly got smaller over the decades, before transitioning into a crescent-shaped bulge at the base.
if you want pictures of a few from the national museum of scotland, and a few I've done, send a message in my direction.

swords, etc, it's relly all going to be dependant on what social class the characters are (both scots and french), as to what type they're using, as well as the context of where they are. That, in particular will be relevant for the scot, given there was a distinct stratification of the highlanders, who were (mostly) exclusively gaelic speaking crofters living a fairly isolated life, and the more urbane southern scots, where the language is more english (with a bit of doric on the east coast), and there's significantly more cosmopolitan society, with a lot more trade, both south into england, and over the channel to german states, burgundy, and france. arms and armour were being imported in from germany (Solingen and Passau, I recall), blades often unhilted, and then given fashionable hilts by local cutlers. in the last third of the century there's likely to have been a bit of influence of rapier schooling coming into edinburgh for the upper element of society too.

--

But please, dont portray us all as be-tartaned kilt/plaid-wearing "och aye the noo" highlanders... that image is a bit like saying that all californians are sun-blonded sporting types who talk in 'totally bogus' surf-speak, or that all spaniards were searching for six-fingered men who killed their fathers...

oh, and B****heart is not a historical reference under any circumstances... or we will hunt you down and mercilessly play bagpipes at you. the sound of a thousand wailing cats is a fate worse than death. Happy

JGE. (who grew up in the highlands, and therefore may be a tad sceptical of portrayals...)
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Christopher Gregg




Location: Louisville, KY
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2009 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JG Elmslie wrote:
I'm afraid I'm going to disagree with a little of Christopher's commentary there, and emphasise a few other bits.

the knife at that point, would not be under any circumstances be the dirk at all - in early 16th C, its almost inevitably going to be the Ballock Knife, and in the later half of the century would be termed a Dudgeon Dagger. - boxwood (called dudgeon in scots dialect, hence the name) being used for the grip, earlier ones being round, and the later ones facetted with 6 or 8 sides (8 most common), and tooled leather sheath. blade at that stage likely transitioning between a flat, and a hollow-ground diamond section as time progresses.
Ballocks and Dudgeons were effectively the same thing in some ways with a organic evolution between them, so if you're in the middle of the century, you're sort of neither one or the other, in a way. the balls of the ballock knife slowly got smaller over the decades, before transitioning into a crescent-shaped bulge at the base.
if you want pictures of a few from the national museum of scotland, and a few I've done, send a message in my direction.


JG, thanks for the clarification, but I believe I did touch on the whole dirks, dudgeons and ballocks theme:

"and a dirk (but depending on which part of the 16th century, perhaps a ballock knife).", AND "If your Scot is in the LATE 16th century, say Elizabethan times (1575-1600ish), then you could arm him with an early basket hilted claymore (perhaps a ribbon-hilt) and a very early dirk (but a dudgeon dagger with octagonal hilt might be better). He also might have a sgian achles, or armpit knife, hidden under his shirt.

Aimee, yes there is a distinction between a ballock knife, a dudgeon dagger, and the recognized Highland dirk, but the term "dirk" (or dork, durches) is recorded as early as the late 16th century, although it is not exactly know which knife aforementioned the author is talking about (re: Foreman, The Scottish Dirk). Just to be safe, give your Scot a ballock dagger and have fun with all the phallic references! Big Grin

Also, in regards to your ladies and daggers question, most everyone I have spoken to concerning 16th century ladies (by this I assume you mean women of high birth and manners), would NEVER carry a dagger. A dagger is a weapon of war and self defense, and ladies of this period were supposed to be protected by their men, who would be appropriately armed. Middle class women and commoners carried utility knives suitable for their station, such as for eating, working, etc., but a dagger is simply for punching holes into other people. But I must admit, my wife always wears a small dagger when she dresses for the Renaissance Faire, so... use a bit of creative license! Hope all this helps.

Cheers,

Christopher Gregg

'S Rioghal Mo Dhream!
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JG Elmslie
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2009 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm going to remain wary on saying a dirk in the 16th C, as the word has a very definate meaning in people's heads, and that's a weapon that really came into use in the 17th, rather than 16th c.
as much a matter of average perception, as it is one of actual history... people will likely imagine the much later ones, or worse, little tartan tat peices stuck in socks....

emphasising the dudgeon or ballock, I suspect is more effective in avoiding that preconceived image of the dirk painted on shortbread tins the world over. Happy
(yes, that is sarcasm about our tourism industry, I hasten to add Happy )
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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2009 8:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Aimee! Welcome! You have come to the right place to get questions like yours answered. However, you will probably get better answers if you narrow down your time frame a bit. 16th century encompasses a lot of cultural changes in western europe and arms and armour reflected that over the course of that century. Also as you can already see from the response so far, you have unwarily walked into the age old argument of how does one define "Scottish". Thar be dragins thar lass. Big Grin good luck with the writing! tr
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2009 3:40 pm    Post subject: rapier & sword -rapiers         Reply with quote

Hello Aimee,
I will leave the Scots to their devices, often the best policy...
I will put my two cents in on the Frenchman's choice of weapon. Back in 1982 Leslie Southwick came out with a beautiful book called The Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons which shows a series of swept hilt rapiers described as either Italian, North European, Spanish or Saxon. France being in the middle of all these regions, and in very intimate contact at all times, I think it is safe to conclude that there was no significant difference.
Great debates have raged on whether a stouter blade disqualifies a weapon from being described as a rapier, hence the term ''sword-rapier'' that Southwick will sometimes use, though others would insist that this should be called a ''cut and thrust'' sword, although such vocabulary seems to arise only in english.
The main difference seems to be with regards to the intended use. A rapier made for the military market would tend to be heavier than one made for civilians in mind. Your character's social provenance would help to determine the choice of weapon he favors. In terms of daggers, main gauche , a dager with exagerated quillons was popular, but the the swiss had the holbein style dagger with practically no quillons at all, and the french swiss certainly interacted with their brethren in France, so the opportunities are quite varied, depending on your story line.
I would suggest you check out the Arms & Armor site in the Favorites section to get a sense of what was around in the later half of the sixteenth.
Happy hunting.
JC

Bon coeur et bon bras
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Adam O'Byrne





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PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2009 3:57 pm    Post subject: Re: French and Scottish Swords of the 16th century         Reply with quote

I have some questions for you Aimee, I'd love to hear more about your novel and I hope the best for you in your writing =)

I imagine by
Aimee Moore wrote:
Also, if my ladies need daggers, suggestions?
you mean that your two main characters would be female?

If so in your novel, what would be the general attitude towards women with weapons?

Would it be wise for them to hide their larger weaponry or would they be able to wear them openly?

Would these weapons be purchased new or would they be older weapons handed down to them, found, or bought second/third hand?

Do you want to have your characters use these weapons?

If I may make a point about swords, trying not to make parry many puns so I will cut right to it.. Wink
*Ahem

There is nothing wrong with having swords and daggers, but sometimes a big stick is just as effective Wink
I'm not an expert on the 16th century, but there are a few advantages to a staff instead of a sword.

Staffs - I imagine - are cheaper to make then swords
A walking staff would most likely raise less eyebrows then a claymore
An expert staff fighter might be able to use surprise to her advantage. - a good hit with a staff can kill just as surely as a blade.

Now, If you want to have your characters use swords and daggers that's great, but I'm only trying to illustrate that they are not the only option. You may be able to go the staff less traveled by if you wish. =)

Have a good one - Adam
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Aug, 2009 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Speaking as a fellow aspiring writer, I don't have much to ad on the historical side, but I would like to offer my personal caveat: Research is awesome and important, but you don't need to use every historical detail you dig up. Be wary of unnecessary exposition.

For example, if your characters are carrying a rapier and a claymore respectively, you might want to mention that, but the characters themselves can still just refer to them as "swords", and the daggers are probably just going to be "daggers." People didn't necessarily use the technical terms all the time.

You should absolutely not go into a long-winded lecture about the cultural significance of the Scottish claymore or the evolution of the rapier and draw comparisons to the two and how they are used and so on. At least not unless it turns out to be important to the story. (If say, the Scotsman ends up fighting a guy with a rapier, it might be appropriate to point out the advantages and disadvantages of their respective weapon.) In general, one should stay on a need-to-know-basis about this sort of thing.

Also - and I'm probably setting myself up for some merciless punitive bagpiping and vicious French insults now, but - most of your readers probably aren't going to notice or care if you get a few historical details wrong. You are, after all, writing fiction and not a history book. Wink

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Aug, 2009 8:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:

Also - and I'm probably setting myself up for some merciless punitive bagpiping and vicious French insults now, but - most of your readers probably aren't going to notice or care if you get a few historical details wrong. You are, after all, writing fiction and not a history book. Wink


Yes the most important things are the character development and having an interesting plot line(s) and being a slave to the research and historical accuracy is " optional " and shouldn't be overdone, but the research and the real historical/weapons backstory may help you by giving you ideas to exploits you wouldn't have thought of without the research.

The other route is to do what is usually done and ignore anything real about history and base everything on " popular " misconceptions as is done with most movies i.e. default to research being just copying the errors or " film clichés ".

The mid ground is to use the real History at the service of your story and not worry about small details but get the broad strokes right. Wink Big Grin

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Aug, 2009 12:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

See this article for daggers:

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_spot_bd.html

Also, your Scot can have a simple basket-hilt sword as early as the second quarter of the 16th century.

The photo galleries at this site will give you a good taste of the arms and armour of Scotland in the period of your interest:

http://www.theborderers.info/Photos.html

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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