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 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.

Free Scholar

Twenty-seven scholars were listed as playing the prize for free scholar. The weapons used for these playings included the longsword, the backsword, the staff, the sword & buckler and the two-handed sword. Of these only one individual did not fight with either the longsword or sword & buckler; they fought with the staff and tw o-handed sword. Out of the group, 19 played their prize with the longsword and 20 with the sword & buckler. Many played with both. On the average each entrant fought with two different weapons against approximately 10 people. Only three entrants fough t with three different weapons, none with four or more. The least number of people that an entrant was recorded fighting was three and the most 47.

The Order for Playing the Free Scholars Prize

First that every Scholler at his first entrye to playe a prize shall geve his owne maister (which he is sworne unto) knowledge of his mynde What he doth intend to do as touchinge his prize. And then his maister to let the other anchiant maisters understa nd his schollers pretence concerninge his said prize And upon the agrement and conclusion of the sayd maisters, the sayd scholler shlabe content in anny schole or other place, wheare soever the sayd anchiant maisters shall appoyncte, to play with vj schol lers at the leste at the longe sword and backe sword for a tryall or profe, to se Whether he be hable togoe forwards in his prize, or not, And so if they fyend him hable and sufficient in that behalfe. That then as the sayd anchiant maisters shall agree and conclude to appoyncte and set his days when he shall playe his prize, and when that daye is come the sayde scholler shall at the longe sworde play with so manye schollers as will playe with him that Daye and the next daye which shall be appoyncted, to playe at his other Weapone with so manye schollers as will playe that daye according as the sayd anchiant maisters will permit and suffer him.

 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

 Vivat Regima

The Provost

The provost is the second degree in the Company. Twenty-four prizes were recorded for provost. The weapons used in the playing include the longsword, the backsword, the staff, the sword & buckler, the two-handed sword and the sword & dagger. Most entra nts fought with three different weapons and of these the most oft used was the longsword. Next most frequently used was the backsword and the sword & buckler. One person out of the group fought with a single weapon; the staff. On average each entrant p layed the prize with three others. One individual fought a single person and one fought as many as seven.

The Order for Playing of the Provosts Prize

Inprimis that every free scholler Which is mynded to proceede to anny other degree of the noble scyence of Defence, to be a provoste, shall first desyer his owne maisters goodwill And then his maister and he together shall goe to the four anchiant maister s and informe them of his Provosts prize and that he is willing to play it And yf it chance that the free schollers maister Whome he has sworne unto be deceased, that then the sayde free scholler shall chose for his maister one of one of the acient maiste rs to play his Provosts prize under Which he hath moste mynd unto And shall be sworne to him as he Was to his first maister in all poyncts. And accordinge as the four ancient maisters shall agree togehter and conclude of the matter so he to goe forward w ith his provosts prize, so that he be contended to abyde all manner of orders which the ancient maysters will that he shold kepe, and to make them an obligacion of the same and to sett to his hand and Seall as the Maysters will that he shold do in all poy ncts.

 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

Other Information on the London Masters