Timeline for Joseph Swetnam’s life and the use of the rapier in England


1547 – Henry VIII dies.  The monopoly of the London Masters of Defense lapses with his death and is not renewed for over 60 years.

1565 to 1570 – Birth date for Joseph Swetnam, based on his claim to be have been a traveler for ‘this thirty & odde yeeres’ at the time of writing the Araignment.

1576 – Rocco Bonetti opens his fencing “Colledge” in Blackfriars, catering to the wealthy and elite.  He teaches Italianate fencing to many members of the English court, including Sir Walter Raleigh.  Bonetti and other Italian fencing masters in London refuse to join the London Masters of Defense and experience quite a bit of harassment from their English counterparts.

1578 – Isake Kennard fights his master’s prize for the London Masters of Defence with rapier and dagger, among other weapons.  This represents a certain level of acceptance of the rapier by the native English fencing teachers.

1587 – Bonetti dies, and his school is taken over by another Italian, Jeronimo, who continues to teach the elite of London and enrage the traditional English masters.

1590 – Vincentio Saviolo arrives in London and establishes an Italianate rapier school.  He is said to have subsequently taught at Court for 7 to 8 years.  His students include Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.

1590 to 1595 – Swetnam’s daugher Elizabeth born.  She is described in the church register at the time of her marriage as ‘filiae naturali et legitimate Josephi Swetnam’, which implies he was married at the time of the birth.

1593 – Tell-Trothes New Yeares gift published.  This work establishes the use of the pseudonym “Tom Tell-Troth” well before Swetnam’s use of it in The Araignment.

1594 – Prince Henry Frederick born to King James IV of Scotland and Anne of Denmark.

1594 – His True Arte of Defense by Giacomo Di Grassi published in English for the first time.

1595 – His Practice published in English by Vincentio Saviolo, an Italian fencing teacher in London.  It is dedicated to Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex, one of his students and the favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.

1599 – Paradoxes of Defence published by George Silver, lamenting the decline of native English weapons and the spread of the rapier.

1600 – Charles I born.  Swetnam will later dedicate his fencing book to him.

1603 – Death of Queen Elizabeth I.  James IV of Scotland assumes the throne of England as James I.  His son, Prince Henry Frederick, becomes Duke of Cornwall and heir to the throne of England at age 9.

1605 – Prince Henry Frederick enters Madgalen College, Oxford at age 11.

1605 – James I renews the charter of the London Masters of Defense, lapsed since the death of Henry VIII.

~1605 – George Silver writes but does not publish Brief Instructions on my Paradoxes of Defence.

1606 – The Art of Dueling published by Salvator FabrisIt describes a narrow stance and forward leaning, square-shouldered body posture.  Several of its guard positions bear a resemblance to Swetnam’s, particularly his Cross Guard and Forehand Ward.

1611 – Coryate’s Crudities published by Thomas Coryate, dedicated to Prince Henry and containing poems solicited by Henry from various notable writers of the day.  A poem by Ben Jonson in the book makes fun of a Tom Tell-Troth.  Swetnam later uses the name as a pseudonym for the Araignment.

1612 – Death of Prince Henry Frederick at age 19.  His younger brother Prince Charles becomes heir to the throne.

1613 – Swetnam’s daughter Elizabeth marries Rice Merricke in Bristol.

1614 – George Hale publishes The Private Schoole of Defence, dedicated to Prince Charles.  He praises an Italian-influenced style of fencing and criticizes some of the traditions of the English masters while maintaining others.

1615 – The Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women published for the first time by Swetnam under the pseudonym “Thomas Tel-troth”.  Subsequent editions were published under his own name.

1617 – Joseph Swetnam publishes The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Art of Defence.

1617 – A Muzzle for Melastomus published by Rachel Speght, a rebuttal of Swetnam’s Araignment.  Speght calls out Swetnam by name as the author of the Araignment.

1617 – Ester hath hanged Haman published, another rebuttal of the Araignment.

1617 – The Worming of a Mad Dog published, another rebuttal of the Araignment.

1618 or 1619 – Swetnam the Woman-Hater Arraigned by Women first performed on stage by Queene Anne’s Men, a theater troop named after Anne of Denmark, mother to Swetnam’s student Henry Frederick.

1620 – Swetnam the Woman-Hater Arraigned by Women published in folio form.

1621 – Joseph Swetnam dies abroad, probably around October.  He leaves his daughter £21, roughly a year’s wages for a skilled craftsman.

1625 – Charles I becomes King of England.

1626 – Swetnam’s daughter Elizabeth Merricke dies in July, 1626.

1630 – The Privy Council bans certain types of public displays, including the playing of prizes with multiple weapons characteristic of traditional English martial arts.

1639 – Pallas Armata published, an English-language restatement of Italian rapier theory.

1645 – Nicholas Okes, printer of Swetnam’s fencing book, dies.

1649 – Charles I beheaded by Parliament.