Stormblade Rapier (Musketeer Style)
Who were these musketeers everyone talks about so much and why didn't they carry any muskets?
Well, truth be told, musketeers DID carry muskets, but they were intended more as an elite honor guard for the king and other high ranking members of French civilization. Because of this, they tended to disdain firearms unless absolutely necessary, as a matter of pride.
These men were hand picked for their skill with sword, musket and horse. But musketeers were also required to be gentlemen, to be educated and to be able to perform well socially. Although the musketeer units were created in 1600 under Henry IV, their hayday.. heyday ... heydey.. .ah forget it... their peak was under Louis the XIII and Louis the XIV (until Louis XIV ran the country AND the musketeers into the ground). The musketeers originally all rode grey horses and were as skilled in riding as they were in swordplay.
But enough about the musketeers. You want to hear about D'Artagnan, and Athos and Porthos, and that Aramis guy, don't you? Well, beleive it or not, they all truly existed. As did Cardinal Richelieu, the villain in Alexander Dumas' book, and the Duchesse de Winter was also based on a real person. D'Artagnan was supposedly quite the adventuresome musketeer. His prowess with sword and musket and his bravery eventually led to his appointment as Grand Musketeer, one of the most prestigious military honors in France (no real relation to the Grand MOUSEketeer, who really has no discernable skill with sword OR musket). No doubt his stories captured the imagination of Dumas much later in history.
Rapiers, Cut-and-Thrust Swords, and Small-Swords
This group of swords is one of the most confused of all the different classes. Most of these swords are usually classified into one ambiguous lump under the term rapiers but in actuality, they were very distinct groups of rapiers.
The rapiers and small-swords were swords carried mostly by civilians, and were used almost exclusively in duels or for self-defense. Cut-and-thrust swords were a more military sword, used to combat slower, heavier knightly swords.
Although the term rapier has become synonymous with any narrow-bladed sword (particularly those with fancy hilts), the term rapier actually applied to only a select few types of swords. Rapiers were narrow (usually one and a quarter inches wide), quite long, fairly heavy, and usually had only a slight edge on them. The extremely long length of the rapiers made them a bit heavy and cumbersome, not at all the Errol Flynn or Zorro-type small-swords that most people think of.
Although early rapiers did have sharp edges, the sword was meant almost exclusively as a thrusting rapier. It is theorized that the sharp edges on early rapiers were used to discourage opponents from grabbing the rapier with their off hand, although there is some evidence that the edges also allowed the sword to slide into a body more easily. And that's really what it's all about isn't it? That said, there is also evidence that early rapier wielders did use the edges to slash, but the type of rapiers they used were probably closer to their side-sword cousins than to the rapier in its prime.
A rapier was used almost entirely for offense when it was first introduced (in the 15th century). If a rapierist was going to parry, he or she would use a parrying dagger in the left hand, or perhaps a small buckler shield. As the rapiers became smaller and more agile, parrying with the blade was introduced. This meant much more contact with opponent's blades, and, as anyone who did any amount of broomstick fencing when they were kids knows, quite a few hand wounds. Because of this, elaborate crosses (metal guards perpendicular to the blade) and rings were developed to help protect the hand. These protections evolved and became more elaborate, culminating with spiraling crosses and beautiful swept hilts. Later, swordsmen went to a more practical, if less aesthetic, cup hilt. This was a small, curved metal disk at the top of the hilt, just above the cross.
The term rapier has been used to describe all of the swords in this category at one time or another, and is fast becoming a catch-all to light swords in general. The term is believed to have come from the Spanish/Italian word ropera meaning clothes, being a sword that is worn with clothes, or a dress sword.
Small-swords and Dueling Swords These are the swords that many people generally think of when they hear the word rapier. Fairly short, light, and having only a rudimentary edge or no edge at all. These and the dueling swords are the rapiers closest to our modern day fencing foils and epees. Hollywood loves the small-swords; Errol Flynn, Zorro, and the Three Musketeers have all been depicted with some form of small-swords. The light-weight small-swords allowed much faster swordplay, what is known as double-time fencing; quick attacks and counter-attacks and fast paced movement. With this type of rapier, a combatant didnt need a parrying dagger or buckler. Parries were executed with the forte of the blade (The portion of the blade nearest the hilt), and ripostes (counter-attacks launched after a parry) were blazingly fast. Small-swords were the basis for later Court swords, which were mostly ornamental swords worn by the for fashion instead of combat. Although small-swords were used for dueling, they should not be confused with dueling swords, which were used almost exclusively for duels. Dueling swords had absolutely no edge; they were used only for thrusts against an opponent. Dueling swords were often cylindrical, although there were also versions with rectangular cross sections. These swords were the direct descendants of modern fencing foils and epees. Both small-swords and dueling swords were the penultimate dueling rapiers they could be carried easily at all times and were graceful enough to be used by the upper classes. In fact, the use of the small-sword was considered an important part of a gentlemans education.
See Strongblade's Stormblade Rapier (Musketeer Style)