By Don William Parris.
This is the second in a series of interviews with peers of the rapier world, throughout the Society. I have spoken with representatives of the Order of the Laurel and the Order of Defense, digging into their experiences and perspectives on the evolution of the fencing world. While there is an admirable company of these respected individuals in our Kingdom of Ӕthelmearc, I have approached several more from our neighbors in the Midrealm, Atlantia, and the East. I hope these interviews offer an interesting look through the eyes of rapier fighters that have risen to the prestigious rank of Peer of the Realm.
Photo by Mistress Tsvia bas Zipporah Levi of Granada
Mistress Illadore de Bedagrayne
Credentials and History: Who are you, what do you do, and who elevated you?
I am Illadore de Bedegrayne, Premiere Member of the Order of Defense of the West Kingdom, elevated on May 1st, A.S. L, by Queen Aesa and King Miles. I am also the 29th White Scarf of Æthelmearc and a cooking Laurel. I have been in the SCA since I was 18 and have loved just about every minute of it. I started fighting rapier in 2001, after watching several of my friends get involved with fencing. I fell in love with it the second that (now Master) Michael Alewright put a sword in my hand at a fencing practice in the BMDL – and knew I was completely hooked after my first melee game of “Paranoia” at my second practice.
What draws you to fencing, inspiring your dedication towards excellence?
So many things. My dad taught me to love sports at a young age (including how to throw an elbow when I was nine) and my mom taught me that “a thing worth doing is worth doing well.” I grew up playing sports and with the understanding that practice makes perfect and is worth doing because of the both of them. What brought me to fencing were my friends; what kept me was the camaraderie of the rapier community as well as the historic nature of our sport. I love the history and the research being done by the rapier community. It is just utterly fascinating that we can trace what we do back to the 15th century (and further back) – and use books and manuals written in that time to help train and hone our skills.
I was also inspired (and continue to be inspired) by so many rapier fighters in both the West Kingdom and Aethelmearc – and the rest of the Knowne World. The list is long and I’m afraid to write it all out as I may miss someone. I also take inspiration from many members of the Chivalry and how dedicated they are to their Art as well.
Serving as a Pennsic Champion. Photo by Lady Saskia van Ouwater
What goals do you set for yourself as a fencer, teacher, peer, and citizen of the kingdom?
My goal has always been the same – become the best fencer in the Universe. I am, obviously, still working on that one.
What challenges have you face as you became the fencer you are and as you become the fencer you wish to be?
While injuries have been one of my main challenges, I would have to say that the rapier community gaining acceptance in the Society has been the biggest challenge we have all had to face. It has been tough. Back in January, when the Board of Directors had first voted against the Order of Defense proposal and then reversed the decision, hearing the backlash against the rapier community on social media truly stung. The outcry really rocked me as I had thought we were past that – fighting is fighting. It should not matter what type of weapon you have in your hand, as it is the journey and the discovery that matters. I am grateful for all of the outpouring of joy for the new Peerage that has happened since then; however, I still think some bridge building is going to be needed to mend some of those rifts.
On the day of her elevation to the Order of Defence. Photo by Sandra Linehan
How did you feel when you were asked to be a Master of Defense? What did you think being a Master would mean?
This will be a surprise to no one who knows me – but – I was back in Court (actually, off to the side as Queen Aesa and King Miles were holding court on the field), blathering on about fencing with other fighters when I was called into Court, rather than paying attention. So, I was quite shocked when I was called and saw now-Master Joseph Blayde kneeling in front of Their Majesties.
As to what being a Master of Defense means – I think it means being a leader for the rapier community at the Society level. I feel my experiences as a White Scarf have given me a great foundation for this “new job” as well as my experience as a Laurel. As a Peer (and as a White Scarf), I know that it is no longer “all about me.” I have been given a job to do – to make the rapier community and the Society a better place, to help train newcomers, to be an inspiration, to make a path for those who come behind me. It is going to be a tough job and I am sure that I will not always be perfect at it. I will; however, get back up more times than I fall down. I also know that I cannot do this alone, either, and I will need help from all of you on this new path. Yes. All of you. 🙂
The Order of Defence is new, allowing for new traditions to be formed. How was working with vigilants from around the Society to give birth to the new order?
Difficult. There are many strong voices and many strong opinions. The one thing that brings us together, however, is the idea that we are trying to do what is best for the Society and the rapier community. In that I think we all agree, we are trying to do what is best. How we get there, however, is the challenge.
My personal hope for starting a tradition – white garters. They are easy to spot on the field and most of us wear boots of some sort. Plus, I’m a knitter so it’s easy for me to produce those. 🙂
What advice would you give newer fencers aspiring to improve themselves as fencers and citizens of the Society?
There are some tried and true methods for becoming a better rapier fighter – practice all the time, travel and fight more people, read books, thinking about fighting – every day. The one other suggestion I have is to keep a fighting journal. It helps to go back and see how far you have come – and putting ones thoughts to paper often helps organize those thoughts and gain insight. As to how to improve as a citizen of the Society – understand that both Service and Art are the backbones of our Society as well as fighting – so go get involved! Help out at events, become a marshal, run practices, be an officer, be the Iron Key keeper, etc. And make Art! Do research, make hats, sew a tunic, learn embroidery, build catapults, etc. The SCA is an amazing group – go out and explore.
How do you expect working with the Orders of High Merit, such as the White Scarf, to evolve as the Order of Defence grows into greater responsibility for the community?
First off, the White Scarf has always held a special place in my heart. Until a few months ago, the White Scarf was the highest award one could receive for rapier combat in both the West and in Æthelmearc. In the West, Duke Uther Schiemann der Hunt, as King, opened the Western White Scarf Order with the intent of helping the West get ready for a rapier peerage. With that understanding in mind, I see the White Scarves of both the West Kingdom and of Æthelmearc as my fellows, my compatriots, and as my brothers and sisters. I expect to work closely with them in the future – closed or open orders – they were given a job to do for the rapier community when they were made White Scarves, just as I was. I will also admit that I do not see the Masters of Defense as the “best of the best of the best White Scarves” either. I feel that the skill level of a White Scarf should be the equivalent of a Master of Defense and vice versa.