Sunday, October 11, 2015

Guns guns guns and knives!

I am supposed to be editing, but currently have four teenage boys and a seven year-old girl having a Nerf war in my hallway/living room/into the bedrooms. Two brothers are arguing about who died.

We used to be a gun-free zone. Really. My boys would use finger guns, of course, and make guns out of Legos and such. It was only two or three Christmases ago that I got the tiny Jolt Nerf guns for the kids. Of course, it was all downhill from there. But seriously, Nerf is my limit. Oh, and foam swords.

17th century muskets, Musée des Invalides, Paris. Bonus ghostly reflection of me taking the photo.
But back in the Seventeenth Century, fancy noblemen carried a sword all the time.
 Well, maybe not all of them, all the time. There was a trend of parading around with a staff, too.
But men were pretty much always armed. They learned how to fence from a young age. They still had duels over honor. They were ready to defend themselves and their families against armed bandits.

Even your average peasant had a knife hidden away, if just to cut up his lunch.

Younger sons of nobility were generally required to get a job and the only jobs available were army officer (with a view to winning prizes and/or being promoted to the Musketeers) or priest (with a view to advancing your family's prominence within the nobility and in heaven).
This is a British officer from 1682. Obviously, this guy is rocking the hair, the hat, the sword, the staff, the lace, the ribbons, the fancy socks, and even the red heels on his high-heeled shoes. It's hard to find pictures, but I have to assume that in the field, shooting at each other, he might dress down  and put on a layer of armor. Maybe boots for better horse-riding. You wouldn't want to get stains on your silk breeches, after all.

Jean-Louis de Cantière, the hero of the book I'm editing now, The Honorable Officer (out in the next few months), is the second son of a noble family. He got his first commission because his dad bought it, of course, but he's good at strategy and he cares about his soldiers, even when he has to use them as pawns.

But Jean-Louis got his start in military training not only at home, but along with his brothers (and future brother-in-law, Dominique, the character who has to track down and win back his Indispensable Wife) in the Comte de Bures' château-fort.

In my fictional universe, the former Comte de Bures, Dominique's father, founded a sort of training camp for young men who hoped to be guards or soldiers. They trained with guns, cannons, all types of swords and daggers, horse riding with medieval jousting thrown in, bows and crossbows, anything else that can be shot or swung to do damage, and military strategy.

Though I don't go into details in the books, in my mind, he didn't train boys until his own son, Dominique, got old enough to swing a sword, at which point he invited his best friend, the Baron de la Brosse, to send his sons, too. The boys are tutored in Latin, Greek, rhetoric, arithmetic, and whatever else noble boys needed to know. Crop rotation, maybe? Court etiquette?

There's a touch of the medieval tradition of sending your sons as pages to other nobles. Of course, back then, the boy could also be used as a hostage in case of trouble.

But they didn't necessarily arm the girls. They are sweet, fragile flowers. I'm sure many women had at least a secret competence in defending themselves. Aurore, the Indispensable Wife herself, wanted to learn how to use a sword when she was a girl. Since her husband left her alone in the château-fort so much, she talked someone into teaching her how to shoot a crossbow.

After the events of Chapter One, in which all is lost, Michel (good friend, loyal retainer, almost like a brother to her) teaches her to use a dagger to defend herself. She will never be unarmed again. It's not very fancy for a Comtesse in King Louis XIV's court, but they don't need to know where she has a weapon under her skirts, right?

So anyway, my own daughter is a bit of a master (mistress?) with the ol' Nerf gun, too. PEW! PEW!

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