En Garde!

   Posted by: rring   in Uncategorized

A tract forbidding dueling in early 17th century England

A publication of His Majestie’s Edict, and severe censure against private combats and combatants.  (London, 1613).  This tract of over 100 pages was issued with a proclamation forbidding duels, explaining the measures King James I of England (1566-1625) was prepared to take in suppressing them.  It was likely written by Henry Howard (1540-1614), Earl of Northampton, even though it appears under the royal arms, and King James put his name to it in later collections.  According to the 1911 Dictionary of National Biography, “Northampton took an active part in political business, and exhibited in all his actions a stupendous want of principle” (how those old Brit academics could turn a phrase!).  During Elizabeth’s reign Howard barely escaped treason and conspiracy charges several times, having been suspected of colluding with Mary in Scotland, or with his brother Thomas Howard (fourth Duke of Norfolk, who attempted to wed Queen Mary, and was eventually executed).  Both brothers were tutored early on by John Foxe, the martyrologist (the Watkinson also has Foxe’s works in editions dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries).

According to V. G. Kiernan’s The Duel in European History, “In James I’s reign there was a marked vogue of martial manners and pursuits, and with them the duel: the word appears to have first found its way into print, in place of ‘duello,’ in 1611 (for long it was often spelled ‘dual,’ as an affair of two men) . . . after 1604 when the war with Spain petered out, England entered on a long period of inglorious peace broken by a few ingorious attempts at war; a hot-blooded generation grew up on the stories of its gallant forefathers’ exploits, and may well have pined, like young Frenchmen after 1815 or young Germans after 1870, for chances to show its own mettle.”

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