Fiction The Highwayman

The Highwayman’s Quarry – Swordplay

Errol Flynn sword fight image
“If this were a real sword fight, we’d both be bloody messes by now.”

(One in an occasional series of posts on the background material for my novel, Daring and Decorum. See the rest of the series here.)

When I decided to include a sword fight in Daring and Decorum: A Highwayman Novel (and how could I not, with Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword as a primary influence?), I faced several problems.

First, how realistic should the fight be? A duel with swords in the 1790s was nothing like what we might imagine from swashbucklers such as Robin Hood or Pirates of the Caribbean. As these two articles by fight choreographer Terry Kroenung point out, they were vicious, bloody affairs, and much deadlier than duels with pistols.

Hollywood has corrupted our concept of the sword duel.  It too often presents us with a pair of evenly-matched, exquisitely-talented, professionally-trained fencers whose icy demeanor never cracks as they thrust and parry with elegant abandon, like a pair of psychic ballet dancers. While that makes for good theatre, it would not have been the norm in late Georgian England.