In the English Civil War Society of the 1990s it was common for those of the female persuasion to take rôles as male musketeers.
After all, who wants to accompany their male partner, or travel on their own, several hundred miles to spend the weekend cooking or sewing while the blokes have all the real fun?
Our “regiment” had no problem with this. In my view, most of us were too old, too healthy and too fat. Where was the problem in being too female, provided that you made an effort not to be too feminine?
But, as a junior officer, there was one problem with commanding a company that could be, on some days, up to 70% female*. It has been documented that female mammals as a group in close company tend to synchronise their menstrual cycles as a semi-defensive mechanism against male attentions.
So, at some events, stentorian commands, such as “SHOULDER YOUR MUSKETS” had to be accompanied by submissive eye contact, indicating “Please?”. Thank God that the ladies never had bayonets! I hope and believe that I was able to quite accurately read the general mood for the general well-being of all.
* When I was a corporal with 6 or 7 musketeers under command, I found that I frequently seemed to gather the same half-dozen ladies in my file. They called themselves “Paul’s Bang Gang”
First – a counterblast
All the pre-publicity for the series “Weekend Warriors” on the British TV channel “Yesterday” indicated that it would be looking at the history of various periods as portrayed by reenactors. As the transmission neared the publicity became more focused on personalities.
In the end the first episode was somewhat disjointed, hopping from history to preparation to personalities at random.
While it did not – unlike some TV programmes – portray the reenactors as sad nutters rather than people with a hobby and a serious interest in what they portray to the public, I don’t think the overall result was as good as it could have been.
I was surprised to learn that the Fairfax Battalia (Devereux’, Fox’s, Overton’s and Walton’s Regiments) apparently now apparently appoint their officers by hereditary succession rather than democracy or ability (with no insult intended to those portrayed – you may be the best for the job, but it was not shown that way). This seems to go directly against the motto on the T-shirt sported by the Roundhead Association Lord General “Jus Divininus Culus Meus”, the latin that I was asked by his predecessor to provide for a personal standard. (Divine Right My Arse).
I look forward to the next episode: Wellington’s forces in Spain. This is a period in which I am also involved in as a reenactor but normally on the other side.
I was at the Marlborough event. During Sunday morning I watched seemingly endless attacks by the Marquess of Winchester’s Regiment against a cadre of the Fairfax Battalia, mainly semi-retired Devereux’ as far as I could see.
Winchester’s were also hosting and organising the event, so all credit to them for devoting the time to take on the extra work.
After the battle display on Sunday I was present for the filming of the cavalry action in my rôle as cavalry ground support in case of problems with the horses. Having been involved in several TV filming sessions as a reenactor it was interesting to be with the team behind the camera for a change.
The filming was taking place after the public event finished. The hired horses were due back at the horse lines the other side of town within 30 minutes. Some of the interaction is reported here:
Director: “Did you not get my message that the horses were required at one o’clock?
Cavalry Commander: “Yes. Did you not get my message that it was not possible? The horses were hired for two battle displays. We can’t overwork them and the timing was impossible.”
Director: “When the musketeers fire, I want you to wheel about and retire.”
Filming starts, three musketeers fire, six cavalry wheel about and retire.
Director: “Where are they going? – they’ve moved out of shot!”
Me: “They have wheeled about as ordered. That’s how it’s done.”
Director: I have people moving caravans in the background – can you ask them to stop?”
Me: “Some of these people have to get to the other end of the country and have work in the morning. No.”
The whole set up is moved to the right 20 paces.
Director: “Is that better? Is there anyone packing up in shot?
Cameraman; “No, but all I can see in the background is F***ing blue toilets!”
The whole set up is moved to the left 10 paces.
It is decided that the cavalry will turn individually on the spot and retire.
The cavalry commander has advised that the return of the horses is now overdue and there is one more chance before they leave.
Director: “Why are the horses so far apart – can they close up?
Me: If they close up they can’t turn as you want. If they turn on the spot they need at least a half-horse length each. And if you don’t film it now you will have no horses at all.”
At last the shot is taken, and as far as I can see, cut from the final transmission.