This manuscript is a collection of papers that details some of the workings of the Masters of Defense of London between 1540 and 1590. The pages contain accounts of the playing of prizes for the different levels of the Company as well as the letters and oaths for the different levels.
The Company was composed of scholars, free scholars, provosts
and masters. The masters ran the schools of fence with the provosts assisting
in the instruction. In order to advance in the company it was required
that a person "play their prize." The entrant would fight a number of other
individuals with a select set of weapons. Based on their fighting skill
they may or may not be advanced to the next degree.
And so to stand and agree unto all manner of orders constitutions and agrements Which the sayd ffour anchiant maisters will that he should observe and keepe And farther to pay all. all orders and duetyes which belongith to soche a scholler.
More Overthe sayd scholler after he hathe playd his schollers prize and is admitted a freescholler by the maisters shall not at anny tyme Within the space of seven yeares after his sayd admittance attempte or endevor to speake unto anny maister or maister s concerninge anny other prize until the sayde seven yeares shall be fully expyred And then if he be mynded to play his Provost prize to do as hearafter followith
In so doinge the four ancyent maisters to appoyncte his daye, and When he shall playe his Provosts prize. And he to playe at the two hand sword, the backe sword, and staff with all manner of Provosts which do come into that place to play with him And all so the sayd free scholler shall at his owne proper Costs go and geve Warning to all Provosts which ar within three skore myles of the place wheare he is appoynctd to play his Provosts prize. That they may every Provost which is within thre skore myles th at hath no Warninge to come to his prizes the sayd free scholler shall pay to the ancient maisters fyve shillings of lawfull mony of England And yf theire be no Provost to play With him and for to geveth iiij Weickes warning at the leaste before the Day b ecome which the maisters have sett him And as many Provostsas do dwell farhter then Twentye myles That then the free scholler shall paye the one halfe of thear Charges Thus doinge When the appoyncted day is come to proceede in his sayd prize And to make h is Provosts Lettre, payinge to the four ancient maisters for sealling thearof after the rate which is set amongst them with all manner of other duetyes belonginge to them
And more over he to be bownd to the iiij ancient maisters not to kepe anny scholle within the space of seven myles of anny Maister, Without speciall leave of the sayd four ancient MaistersAnd allso to be bound in his sayd obligacion not to teach anny scho ller this Noble scyence of Defence excepte he doth sweare him unto his owne Maister, Whom he was sworne himselfe And farther he bownd to pay unto his sayd Maister for every scholler which he shall teache, ij And so in lik wyes to the most ancient Mayster of the four to pay ij And to yeald up his true accoumpt once in every quarter of a yeare.
And allso yf he dwell within the space of three skore Myles wheare anny Provosts prize is or shall be playde havinge Warning or knowledge thearof Then to come and play at the same prize Without anny Lett uppon payne of payinge vjs viijd Unto the fower anc ient Maisters except he be sicke in body, or other wyes busied in the Queens affayers.
And finallye he to be bound in his obligacion aforesayd unto the four ancient maisters, to kepe and performe all that is abovesayd Allso he shall not loke to play his Maisters prize within vij yeares after his provosts prize, nor to usurp or grudge agayns t anny maister of ye same science Thus doing he is to have his Provosts Lettre sealled by the iiij ancient maisters And then to geve him his provosts shipp & all things belonginge thear unto.
Virgo manet nostri gloria sola soli