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Fencers of Fame and Fiction - 1
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, B.F.A.

***Please excuse any errors as this page is still under construction.

"as Armor passed out of use [in warfare], the carrying of swords passed out of use, the carrying of swords by men going about their business [then] became more common" (Read, 98).

"Fencing Taught in fashionable schools according to continental methods - became popular in England in Elizabethean times" (Arlott, 20).

"A" to "F":

Charlesmagne's sword was named Flamberge. Charlemagne fought in the Saxon Wars (772-799), Lombard War (773-775), Spanish War (778-801), Conquest of Bavaria (787-788), Conquest of the Avars, and the Byzantine Wars (802-812).

Charlemagne was the son of the Frankish king Pepin the Short and Berta. Pope Stephen anointed him king in 754, along with his brother Carloman (d. December 771). On Christmas Day (800 A.D.) Emperor Charles, known as Charlemagne, was crowned by the Pope in Rome. His domination included what today would be France and Germany, the Low countries and northern Italy. Charlemagne's court was at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle). Charlesmagne fell ill and died at Aachen on January 28, 814.

  • Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) was a famous Italian Renaissance goldsmith, who was also commissioned to make decorative swords for kings and nobility. Swords he made were works of art and were worn much like masculine jewelry and for bragging rights.

    Cellini was more an artist than a duelist, but the fates allowed him one famous duel:

    Ser Benedetto Tobbia, a friend of Cellini's, owed money to Cellini's partner for rings and other trinkets. His partner Felice and his friend Benedetto quarreled. Unfortunately this quarrel put Cellini in the middle. Ser Benedetto Tobbia insulted Cellini one day regarding the payment of Tobbia's debt. Cellini picked up some mud and threw it into Benedetto's face. The mud contained a rugged piece of stone and struck Benedetto in the center top of his head, when he stooped down. Benedetto was severly cut and his head bled profusely. Benedetto fell to the ground and apparently passed out from the blow. Most observers thought, at this point, that Benedetto was dead. A rival of Cellini's saw this fray and saw a chance to rid himself of his competitor. Pompeo, his rival in gems and jewelry making, was on his way to see the Pope and when he reached his holiness, he told him that Cellini had murdered Ser Benedetto Tobbia. The Pope was outraged and ordered the Governor to catch Cellini and hang him in the spot where he slain Tobbia.

    Word spread fast and Cellini was forewarned, so he escaped to Palombara, on horseback. In Palombara was the home of one of Benvenuto Cellini's patrons.

    Meanwhile the Pope sent his Chamberlain to inquire about Ser Benedetto's funeral arrangements and to also obtain word of the whereabouts of Cellini. When the Chamberlain reached the home of Ser Benedetto he was at work and seemed unharmed.

    Since things seemed to have worked themselves out and Cellini was no longer under threat of hanging, he returned to his workshop.

    Pompeo, his enemy, came to Cellini while he was with his friends. Cellini was armed with mail, a sword, and a dagger, just in case of a incident. He and his friends mocked Pompeo about his false testimony. Pompeo left for a nearby apothecary shop and he shouted that Cellini was afraid of him and bragged of his own courage. He was brazen enough for people to report back to Cellini. Cellini went to find Pompeo and drew his little dagger and struck Pompeo in the breast and on the face. Neither cut was deep enough to kill him, only to leave scars. Pompeo then turned into Cellini to take his own blows and Cellini's blade cut Pompeo beneath the ear and he fell dead at Cellini's feet.

    Pope Clement heard the story of Pompeo's death. The Pope pardoned Cellini saying that his position as a court goldsmith made him a very valuable commodity. This was a case of self-defense against Pompeo who obviously meant to taint Cellini's good name, do him physical harm, and possibly cause his death (Hutton). The Pope thought that Pompeo "had it coming."


  • Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was born November 30, 1874, the son of Lord Randolph Churchill. Churchill's mother was Jennie Jerome, an American. Churchill learned fencing at Harrow and he graduated from Sandhurst in 1894 and received a commission in the Fourth Hussars. He fought in the Malakand Expedition (1897), Mahdist Wars (1883-1898), Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), World War I (1914-1918), and World War II (1939-1945).

    In July 1953 Churchill suffered a stroke, but continued in office until April 1955. He was succeeded by Anthony Eden. Winston Churchill won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1953. He died January 24, 1965.


  • "El Cid"/Don Roderigo (or Ruy) Diaz de Bivar (1040-1099), "El Campeador ("the Champion") wielded his sword Tizona. Bivar was a Castelian warrior.

    The great popular hero of the chivalrous age of Spain, born at Burgos c. 1040; died at Valencia, 1099. He was given the title of "cid" (lord, chief) by the Moors and that of campeador (champion) by his admiring countrymen.

    There is much tradition and legend regarding this man. He was a brave knight who existed in history. He is one of the duo personalities of both history and literature. History tells us he was an adventurer who battled against Christians and Moors.

  • James Crichton (1560-1583)was a noble-born Scottish scholar, adventurer, and celebrated duelist.

  • "Cyrano de Bergerac" was based on Savinien de Cyrano, Sieur de Bergerac (1619-1655) a Parisian writer and playwright. De Bergerac was born in Paris France. He was said to have fought more than a thousand duels, most on account of his monstrously large nose. He was the subject of Edmund Rostand's play Cyrano de Bererac (1897). Rostand was a French poet and dramatist. Rostand was born in Marseilles, France.

  • Johnny Depp did swordplay in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean as Jack Sparrow, the fictious pirate.

  • Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher and mathematician.

  • Neil Diamond, singer. Won a fencing scholarship to college where he studied pre-med. He quit college right before earning his degree and put his time and money into his music career.

  • Peter Diamond was an accomplished fencing master and stuntman. He mastered the swordwork in th Star Wars Trilogy. He also advised on The Princess Bride, The Man in the Iron Mask with Richard Chamberlain, The Three Musketeers with Michael York, Richard Chamberlain, and Faye Dunaway, Ivanhoe with Roger Moore, and Treasure Island for Disney.

  • Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an English novelist.

  • Alexandre Dumas Davey de la Pailleterie (1802-1870) was a French novelist and playright. He wrote The Count of Monte Christo in 1844; The Three Musketeers in 1844; and Queen Margot in 1845. His novels all involve swordplay, action, and intrigue. His "Three Musketeers" were: Athos, Portos, and Aramis. The fourth musketeer was D'Artangon. Alexandre was the son of Alexandre Dumas (1824-1895) a French dramatist and novelist.

  • Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was a German woodcutter and painter. He was born in Nuremburg, the son of a goldsmith from Hungary. Durer was employed by Maximilian I and did a few portraits of him and his family, as well as a prayer book. His work was extensive.

  • Alexandre Gustav Eiffel (1832-1923) was the French engineer that built the famous Eiffel Tower. Eiffel fenced until he was 74 years of age.

  • Douglas Fairbanks Sr. (1883-1939) was an American actor as was his son, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (b. 1909) did their own fencing stunts.

  • Errol Flynn (1909-1959) was an Australian born actor. He was born in Hobart, Tasmania. His most famous roles were:

    Captain Blood in 1935, a swashbuckler
    The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938. Flynn used both a bow and arrow and his sword.
    The Sea Hawk in 1940.

  • James Figg was born at Thames, Oxfordshire, England. He was called the "Atlas of the Sword," since he was best known as a cudgel and sword fighter. Figg fought 300 duels on stage. He was also a prize fighter, and his first boxing exhibiton was at the Southwark Fair in London, England. His Academy of Boxing calling cards (printed by William Hoharth his painter friend) were passed out at this fair and he made boxing fashionable in England. John Broughton, one of Figg's students then became champion of England. Their portrait is above. Figg was a champion and teacher of boxing, the broadsword, and cudgel. Figg retired from boxing in 1734. Another one of his pupils was George Taylor.

  • Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is on PART TWO of Famous Fencers.


    Duels and Dueling on the Web ... Dueling ... Fencing Masters of the 16th Century
    Adrian Paul ... La Maupion ... Pushkin's Duels ... Andrew Jackson's Duels.


    Arlott, John and Arthur Daley. Pageantry of Sport. New York: Hawthorne Books, Inc., 1968.P> Axelrod, Alan and Charles Phillips. The Macmillan Dictionary of Military Biography. New York: Macmillian, 1998.

    Cohen, Richard. By the Sword. New York: Random House, 2002.

    Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Miliatary Biography. Edison, N.J.: Castle Books, 1995.

    Emery, H.G. and K. G. Brewster. The New Century Dictionary of the English Language. Vol. 2 in "Biographical Names." New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1953.

    Fliegal, Stephen N. Arms and Armor: The Cleveland Museum of Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1998.

    Franklin, Fay. History's Timeline. New York: Crescent Books, 1981.

    Gottlieb, Agnes and Harry with Barbara and Brent Bowers. 1,000 Years, 1,000 People.

    Hutton, Alfred. The Sword and the Centuries. Wren's Park, 2003.

    Read, Williams. Weapons Through the Ages. London: Perrage Books, 1984.

    Tarassuak, Leonid & Claude Blair. The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. New York: Bonanza Books, 1979.

    Yenne, Bill. The Legend of Zorro. Greenwich, CT: Mallard Press, 1991.



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    This page is updated and designed by Maggie (BFA) and Matt Sypniewski(BA/MA)
    Last updated on June 2, 2011.