Name some famous European swordsmen, please.

I’ve been reading a bit of Japanese history, here and there, and there are at least a few men who are famous for their skill with a sword. When I thought about European history, though, I realised that I couldn’t think of a single person whose martial prowess was legendary. The “old West’s” gun-slingers were, but they’re much later in history.

So, were there any Europeans who were renowned for their ability to use a sword? Or any other non-gun weapon, for that matter?

Darnit. I was certain that I was in GQ. I’m looking for real men, not fictional characters. Sorry.

Sir Richard Francis Burton, British explorer and renaissance man was an expert with the blade and wrote a couple of books on the subject (Bayonet Exercises, and Book of the Sword). He is also the most fascinating man who ever lived, and a towering genius of the ninteenth century.

Pardon my idol worship, but read a good biography of him and see if you don’t agree.
He may not fit what you are looking for as he didn’t go around looking for duels, but he was reputed to be the best of his day.

Casanova? :smiley:

Cyrano De Bergerac. Not only a poet and playwright, but once, famously and possibly apochryphally, held off a mob of about 100 at a bridge. He was, however, an accomplished duellist.

I’m told a guy called Jean-Louis was a pretty famous and excellent fencer. He was born in Haiti, but he immigrated to France. His time was the early 1800s, I believe.

~ Isaac

This is exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for. Thanks, and keep 'em coming!

One of the most famous was actually a swordswoman, Julie d’Aubigny (1670-1707), better known as La Maupin. In addition to being a swordmaster and deadly duelist, she was an Opera star and crossdresser who had numerous affairs with both men and women. She’s long overdue for a movie or a syndicated Xena like series.

Actually Europe has a rather rich history of swordmanship, which has recieved a great deal of attention and study recently. If you check out the number of Western Martial arts manuals in the last five years has been amazing. Besides such thing as Talhoffer and Tower document I33, there are several of the old masters who have recieved English traslations lately. (excuse my spelling, I don’t have time to look all of these up)

Silver (already in English)
Also bear in mind that many European historical figures such as William Marshal and Richard the Lion Hearted were also know for their prowess with a sword as well as their command and political accomplishments. The way many history text books are writen, this simply does not recieve much attention.

I’ll echo Sweetums on his addition of the medieval and renaissance masters, though sadly, we don’t know much about many of them other than the fact they were respected masters.

I’ll also throw in a couple in the German tradition:

Johannes Liechtenauer, a swabian master, currently considered the father of German longsword and medieval martial arts tradition (though certainly the martial arts did not begin with him).

Master Sigmund Ringeck, without whom’s help, figuring out what old Liechtie was telling us would have been much more difficult.

You know, a book about the lives and times of all the known fencing masters is just waiting to be written.

Slight hijack, but an annoyance I have is the popular sentiment that while the Japanese viewed swordplay as a spiritual discipline (which is true) the Europeans before the 18th century just basically hacked and slashed (which is not true- even in the medieval era there were master sword wielders and master sword makers).

The Chevalier d’Eon was quite a champion fencer, and made a decent living fighting in tournaments until he was quite elderly. He was also a spy for the king of France, rubbed elbows with Benjamin Franklin, Casanova and Beaumarchais and caused a sensation by revealing that he was in truth a she!

The Chevalier d’Eon lived 40 years as a woman, and bets were placed on the London Stock Exchange as to his/her true gender. It wasn’t until D’Eon’s death in 1810, and an autopsy, that it was revealed that she had been a he all along!

That’s the view I was hoping to prove wrong by asking this question. Thanks for pointing it out.

A note: Any of those names sound familiar? They do? That’s because they were cited in the duel between the Man in Black and Inigo Montoya in the Princess Bride. The maneuvers may have been imaginary, but the men were real.

Lovely book on the topic. By The Sword, by Richard Cohen. Good history of european swordmanship for the novice

It’s a little distressing that there are apparently a number of glaring errors in the first few chapters of the (non-fiction) book.

That’s what I thought, exactly. Holy carp, all that “but I find Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, don’t you?” actually meant something!

Between this and the biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton, this thread is full of good book recommendations.

Yep. Thibault was a practioner of the Spainish Circle style of fencing. Capo Ferro mostly linear. So yes, one is indeed a good style to use against the other...

 ...unless your opponent has studied his Agrippa.
I still have no idea what Boneti's defense is.

You’ve obviously never fought on rocky terrain then. It’s quite useful.

Great topic! There was also d’Artagnan – the real man, on whom Dumas based his character.