The Order of The Black Rose is the Renaissance Guild division of Skirmishers, the California-based theatrical combat performance group. The Black Rose specializes in choreographed fight performance in the Renaissance style.
The fight routines represent classic duels and street fights of the periods. This is the realm of deadly personal combat, not the entertainment of tournament bouts. Because of the apparent spontaneity of the types of fights, leather gloves and wit are all the armor the fighter has.
Though many hours are spent in choreography and rehearsal, without benefit of armor or padded weapons, the fights portray the danger, fear, and flash of lethal combat. Each routine is designed to give the audience a sense of danger and plausibility, but safety is stressed in all areas, from weapons to personal fitness. Because of the possibility of injury, these performances are carefully choreographed. None of the fights are truly spontaneous or unrehearsed.
For more information on the activities of The Black Rose, read The Bay Area Blackfriar's Journal, containing a variety of fictional and non-fictional articles, a schedule of performances, and current events involving the renaissance guild.
The Order of the Black Rose Renaissance Guild demonstrates the style of the Tudor and Elizabethan Eras. The Black Rose Renaissance Guild was founded in 1989 by Gareth Thomas and Robert Hembree, "two duelists for the court of Henry VIII" at Hanford's Renaissance of Kings Faire.
Over the next few years, the Rose filled an important niche for blade demonstrations at the independent Renaissance faires.
By 1991 their ranks had grown and the group was doing private banquets, fund raisers and demonstrations for schools. They began expanding their repertoire to include broadsword and quarterstaff as well as rapier and dagger.
By 1994 they had gone from "wandering performers" to their own training school-styled encampment, beginning to concentrate on historic portrayals of training technique and application.
In 1995 several members expanded into other periods by creating Skirmishers, a performance company that took blade combat into the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, even delving into gunfighting demonstrations of the American West.
In 1996, while the Black Rose continues to entertain crowds at the Renaissance Faires, Skirmishers has begun to introduce the art of rapier and dagger sparring in a sport setting. With the modern protection and modified weaponry, Skirmishers uses the techniques of four centuries of personal combat to create a completely unique style of dueling as an alternative to the sport of modern fencing.
The Order of the Black Rose was an unlikely fellowship of people from a variety of backgrounds, brought rather abruptly together in the summer of 1525.
When a plot against the Princess Mary was uncovered, the sheriff of Glamorgan, Wales went in pursuit of the villains. By the climax of the chase, which led from Wales to France and back to England, a number of friends, both old and new had joined in.
In the final, undocumented confrontation, the would-be kidnappers were defeated and the sheriff and his band were called before the king.
Having seen their use of the new weapon called the "rapier", the king requested that they stay on to instruct all the nobles of the realm, issuing Letters Patent to do so.
Their name was bestowed upon them by the Princess herself when, finding they were of no particular Order, created one. She requested of her father, Henry VIII that they be named after the single black rose she'd seen bloom in the gardens outside Blackfriars' Monastery. This flower, so blood red as to be black, also had thorns so sharp no one dared pick it. Thus was the Order of the Black Rose born.
The Order went on to train not only the nobility, but the common man as well, recognizing no class distinction within the ranks of the school. As the sheriff so aptly put it, "Men were not created equally, but the rapier knows not the difference."
The king was ill-favoured with the schools attitude and began to ban such schools as he had first allowed, fearing the good men of England would soon kill each other off (as they had begun to by the reign of Elizabeth).
Their charter revoked, the Order continued to instruct on the move, anywhere there was a man... or woman, willing to learn.
The Order survived as a secret school up until the reign of Charles the First, when they vanished unexplainedly from the record.
For more information on the activities of The Order of the Black Rose read the Bay Area Blackfriars' Journal.
Last updated March 26, 1998. For questions on this site contact Cecily McMahan, Media & Marketing Director for Skirmishers.