A Brief History of the Academie d'Espee
The martial art of rapier and the Academie d’Espee have a long history in Atlantia that has been obscured by the mists of time. While I wasn’t present for the very beggining of all this, I was around from near the very beginning. I’ve gathered my thoughts and rememberances of how everything started, added in notes from other research and put it all in one place. I hope you find this history enlightening.
The very beginnings…
The Academie structure was originally devised in ‘91 or ‘92 as rapier was coming (back) into acceptance in Atlantia. The intent was to give a framework or structure to the teaching of rapier in the Kingdom of Atlantia. One of the key concerns was to make sure that participants of this new martial art stayed strongly integrated with the Kingdom. This attitude was later described as “being an Atlantian that happens to fight rapier, not a rapier fighter that happens to live in Atlantia”. The obvious historic example of the London Masters of Defense (LMoD) was borrowed from in creating the “ranks” within the Academie. These ranks were designed to accommodate hoped for Kingdom awards that did not exist at the time. Initially only the first rank, that of Scholar, was actually used.
A source of confusion
The phenomenon of wearing a blue scarf to show support for rapier in Atlantia and the Academie structure both sprang up about the same time. For some they became synonymous but for others (especially in southern Atlantia) the scarf was still seen as a separate thing from Academie participation. There really wasn’t a firm title associated with the wearing of the blue scarf as it was worn by authorized rapier fightes, those still learning and some gentles that never planned to fight rapier but supported those of us that did. This state continued for the first couple of years as both rapier and the concept of the Academie spread throughout the Kingdom.
Atlantia’s first rapier award
During 1992, as rapier was growing in Atlantia, negotiations took place with the then Crowns Stefan I and Twila I. There was an upcoming event known as Sea Wars that was a war between Atlantia and Trimaris, held in Meridies (Savannah, GA) in the fall of 1992. It was agreed to have a rapier melee for one of the war points. This was the opportunity for the growing force of Atlantian rapier fighters to show their worth. After handily defeating their foes and winning the melee, Stefan and Twila sought to recognize this by creating a new order recognizing prowess in rapier. This was the original award called Order of l’Academie d’Espee. The first four members of this new order were inducted on 20 Feb, 1993 at an event in the Barony of Storvik. Due to a mix up in publishing the details of the award, it didn’t officially enter Kingdom Law until the reign of Cuan I and Arianwen I two months later when Queen Arianwen, at a Spring University event in the Barony of Caer Mear, reissued the now official award to the original four members in a royal court. This is why the Order of Precedence lists 3 April, 1993 as the award date for the first four members.
Origins of the Provost
The trappings of the yellow scarf and title of “Provost” were used by the members of this new order (this being the next evolutionary step in the structure planned years before). At this point, the blue scarf became used only for authorized rapier fighters and not for non-fighters that supported the concept. Those wearing a blue scarf were called “Free Scholars”. The title “Scholar” was sporadically used for those learning rapier that had not yet authorized. Sometime in 1994 or 1995, the idea of holding a prize fight to recognize and celebrate these Free Scholars was introduced (again following the model of the LMoD). The oaths of the Academie also took shape around this time. Like the titles, the original version of the oaths were heavily borrowed from the LMoD. The oaths were rewritten in a shorter form in March of 2009 resulting in the “new” versions you can now see on the Oaths page.
Becoming White Scarves
Approximately 3 years later, when Cuan II and Brigit I were stepping down and Galmr II and Katharina II were stepping up, Atlantia signed the Treaty of the White Scarf. At that time, the original Academie order was closed and all existing members were grandfathered into the new Order of the White Scarf with a matching change in scarf color. There were 14 Provosts in the Order that were “bleached”. They were gifted with hand painted cotton “combat” scarves, made by Queen Brigit and with sewn silk “dress” scarves made by Princess Katerina. Many of these scarves are still worn today.
Settling into the new structure
The cleverness of the original planners was seen when we then took the now available yellow scarf (that was worn by Provosts) and title of Free Scholar (formerly used by those wearign blue scarves) and used them for a new mid-level guild position (similar to cadets in other Kingdoms but with our own Atlantia twists like needing 3 sponsors rather than being a one-on-one personal relationship). I believe Mistress Isobel was the first FS to be made and it was on that same day that the White Scarf order was created. So the title of “Provost” remained with the White Scarf and the The title “Scholar” now became firmly associated with the blue scarf and is useable by any authorized rapier fighter that wishes to participate in the Academie structure. This put us into the Academie d’Espee structure seen today.
Why blue and yellow?
The blue and yellow colors of the scarves were pulled from the colors in Atlantia’s arms. White was left out at first because of the WS treat being a long term, hoped for goal. Green was also an option but didn’t get used. During the 12th Night in Black Diamond (Jan ‘96), Cuan II and Brigit I were on the throne and discussing the signing of the WS treaty. A strong concern was that we maintain our strong focus on Atlantia. To that end, we were looking at variations on the plain white scarf to use for our soon to be order. Isobel came up with a number of design suggestions. In a boisterous closed door meeting in the hotel with Cuan (that may have involved single-malt), we settled on using the blue pale and unicornate seahorse on our white scarf. We were the first kingdom to distinguish by law (as opposed to earlier signatories that sometimes would add personal arms or Kingdom colored trim but only by not always followed custom). This fateful event was the infamous 12th Night that became 13th Night, 14th Night and even 15th Night for some where we got snowed in and the interstates were closed for days.