Ever heard of London Masters of Defense?
Me either and I wouldn’t have known either till I came upon a website while doing some research on names that were popular in the Elizabethan era.
What and who were the London Masters of Defense or Masters of Defense of London. I had to Google the name to see what it really was about and what I found was that it uses either name, it was a company that was recognized as teachers who taught a line of fencing in England, that was mostly centered around London, hence London Masters of Defense or Masters of Defense of London.
There really isn’t much information on when or where The Defense first started. King Henry VIII gave the guild to a charter in 1540 granting the company permission to teach all gentlemen how to use all weapons of war. The first concept of the guild was not unique, during that time there were schools who taught painting, singing and dancing and equestrian. Second, the charter had to be renewed by each new monarch, like most court documents.
The guild was divided into memberships of three ranks: Free Scholar, Provost and Master and at the top of the membership was the Four Ancient Masters, who ran the business, blow them were other Masters.
The Four Ancient Masters job changed as time went on and they didn’t leave any written documents to show how the group changed. Each Master had students from lower ranks who swore an oath of loyalty to their Master.
In order to move to another rank, students or what they were called scholars, would study weapons for a certain amount of time and then with permission from the Masters, the student would then ‘play the prize’ in order to advance to the next level.
The next level for the prize was Provost, which allowed Provost to open a school in their master’s name, and then they would have to pay a small fee for each student.
The last level was Master, the prize involved more and weapons vary, and this is where the term ‘prize fight’ came from.
The first business of the guild was to make money in three areas; first was charging money for lessons for all forms of combat, either for normal business or penalties and charging for attendance to public functions, which was the prize money. Some charter schools were having students pay half of the tuition (getting a story idea here) up front and the other half at another time, charging 30 or 40 shillings for the fee, plus the student had to bring their own weapons or make arrangements ahead of time before his placement.
Second was that income for the guilds were charged to members and schools. A student had to pay 12 pence upon taking an oath to a master and 4 pence for entrance, when a student wins the prize he also has to pay a fee in order to advance to the next level.
Addition to the regular fees, the Company can charge for it’s day to day business, also they could charge other penalty fees to each member who failed to carry out the guild affairs in a proper manner. The penalty could be a fee of 5s. per Provost, who could be charge each prize candidates who don’t proper notify other members of the Company about up coming fights. A penalty of 6s, 8d was then charged to the Provost who didn’t show up to matches without a good excuse.
Even the public was charged by the Company to attend the match, and the public was then encourage to throw money if they liked the matched between students. To me this is beginning to sound very expensive, the student had to pay for posting notices about the match, and sometimes had to pay half of the travel expenses. The good thing was that the student also received money that was made during the match.
The matches or what they called prizes
There is no information on how to play the prizes but one thing is that theses matches were held out in public, such as markets, inns and theaters and became quite popular form of entertainment that drew out paying people. The prizes were banned during the plague or infections that could be spread among the crowds.
Since this is going to be a very long blog,and I dont' want to bore you to death with nonsense info. I thought I would make this a two parter. Until then. Au revoir!