Escalade Part Three: The Militia on Manoeuvres

Continued from Part Two

In Geneva, Switzerland; 9th/10th December 2017

As there were going to be some re-enactments for the Escalade just outside Geneva Cathedral, we made sure we were in the Square in time.  First we were treated to a sword fight.  The man on the right was also explaining what they were doing, which was interesting, in that he was demonstrating the way that every move had a lethal counter-move which made the fights rather short.  As he said, the swashbuckling you see in films is not actually very energy-efficient, but we were given a little show of just that sort of fighting for fun.

Explaining how to fight in Geneva, Switzerland

Explaining how to fight in Geneva, Switzerland

Let the swashbuckling commence!  In Geneva, Switzerland

Let the swashbuckling commence!  In Geneva, Switzerland

The quick movement of the swordsmen in Geneva, Switzerland

The quick movement of the swordsmen in Geneva, Switzerland

Dang, I wish I could fence.

While we were waiting for the next part of the proceedings, two separate bands went past from different directions.  Because the town is so quiet, you could hear them coming, but it wasn’t immediately clear from where.

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Children learning the difference between wooden and pseudo-real swords in Geneva, Switzerland

Here comes the band in Geneva, Switzerland

Here comes the band in Geneva, Switzerland

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Here comes another band in Geneva, Switzerland

In the meantime, chaps from 1602 were just milling about – you know, just hanging with the 1602 crew.

A picturesque quartet in Geneva, Switzerland

A picturesque quartet in Geneva, Switzerland

But then who should arrive?  Drummers!  And not just any drummers – Swiss drummers.  If any of you have seen the Top Secret Drum Corps, it was a bit like a scaled down version of that.  That perked everyone up.

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Drummers on the steps of the Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland

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Drummers in synch in Geneva, Switzerland

But not as much as the group who came next: the arquebusiers.  This was fascinating.

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Arquebusiers in Geneva, Switzerland.  Note how he has a cigarette-like thing in his hand – that’s for lighting the fuse on the gun.  In his right hand he’s holding the fork rest.

Though arquebus was a loose term used to describe different types of guns, including muskets, by the late 16th century it was pretty well established that the guns had different names according to their size.  In France, muskets were differentiated from arquebuses by their size but also by whether they required a fork rest or not.

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The boss is proud of his men in Geneva, Switzerland

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Looking like a painting in Geneva, Switzerland

The process to load and fire the arquebus was quite long and drawn out – in ideal situations, it would take at least 20 seconds to reload and fire.  The images below show some of the main stages of the process, from getting the taper lit, to the firing.

The arquebusiers have their tapers lit in Geneva, Switzerland

The arquebusiers have their tapers lit in Geneva, Switzerland

Waiting arquebusiers, Geneva, Switzerland

Waiting arquebusiers, Geneva, Switzerland

Waiting arquebusiers, Geneva, Switzerland

Waiting arquebusiers, Geneva, Switzerland

Filling the arquebus with gunpowder, Geneva, Switzerland

Filling the arquebus with gunpowder, Geneva, Switzerland

 

Almost ready.... Geneva, Switzerland

Setting the latch in Geneva, Switzerland

Getting the fork rest ready, Geneva, Switzerland

Getting the fork rest ready, Geneva, Switzerland

Almost ready to fire...Geneva, Switzerland

Almost ready to fire…Geneva, Switzerland

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Bang!

Yes that final picture is of when they fired.  It was loud.  I jumped.  The picture represents what happened in my head.

The process was repeated by each line of men about three times.  The arquebus was popular with armies because they could use this efficient system of having one line firing, with the others firing while you reloaded, thus keeping up a sustained barrage.

It was fascinating watching them and the noise was incredible.

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Watching the arquebusiers, in Geneva, Switzerland

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In the firing-line in Geneva, Switzerland

I know there are a lot a photographs of these guys, but it was so cool, I just want to share the experience.

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Getting the fuse going in Geneva, Switzerland

Fire!  Geneva, Switzerland

Fire!  Geneva, Switzerland

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Fire! Geneva, Switzerland

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You can see some red cinders over the head of the man in green in Geneva, Switzerland

Some more red cinders flying in Geneva, Switzerland

Some more red cinders flying in Geneva, Switzerland

I wish I was an arquebusier.

Once the demonstration was over, I thought it was nice that they were happy to have children come over and look at the arquebuses close up.  The next generation of arquebusiers in the making?

Explaining the arquebus to the next generation in Geneva, Switzerland

Explaining the arquebus to the next generation in Geneva, Switzerland

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Arquebusiers chillin’ in Geneva, Switzerland

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A very modern arqubusier in Geneva, Switzerland

We admired the nerves of arquebusiers, both old and new, because those are little bottles of gunpowder around their chests.  Apparently in the battles of the past, there was a high casualty rate from people blowing up themselves, and their friends.  Had I known that when I was watching them, I may not have positioned myself so close to them.

But who should appear next?  The pikemen!

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The pikemen are coming in Geneva, Switzerland

The arqubusiers inspect the pikemen in Geneva, Switzerland

The arqubusiers inspect the pikemen in Geneva, Switzerland

Aeroplane over the pikemen in Geneva, Switzerland

Aeroplane over the pikemen in Geneva, Switzerland

I should just like to state that they are a lot more intimidating in person than it looks in pictures.  I speak from the experience of one of those who found themselves in the front line of their attack.

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Pikes to the front of me…

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Pikes to the right of me…

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Pikes to the left of me…

Actually, that’s wrong – they aren’t actually attacking – their role here is to protect the arquebusiers.  As you can see, the pikemen are holding their position while the arquebuses are fired.

I wish I was a pikeman.

The arqubusiers then left, and we got to see the manoeuvres of the pikemen in a different context.  But they are still unbelievably intimidating.

Pikes that are taller than buildings in Geneva, Switzerland

Pikes that are taller than buildings in Geneva, Switzerland

Holding the flag very close to my nose, in Geneva, Switzerland

Holding the flag very close to my nose, in Geneva, Switzerland

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Pikemen showing off some moves in Geneva, Switzerland

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Some more scary moves from the pikemen in Geneva, Switzerland

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Pikemen looking smart in Geneva, Switzerland

17th century swagger in Geneva, Switzerland

17th century swagger in Geneva, Switzerland

In formation they looked like a weirdly scary hedgehog, but it was so interesting seeing them, because you really could appreciate how difficult it is to handle the pike.  After all, it’s like an exceptionally long and wobbly javelin, that clearly requires strength and skill to be used effectively.

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Pikemen looking dignified in Geneva, Switzerland

Scary pikemen #1 in Geneva, Switzerland

Scary pikemen #1 in Geneva, Switzerland

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Scary pikemen #2 in Geneva, Switzerland

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Scary pikemen #3 in Geneva, Switzerland

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Ready to march off in Geneva, Switzerland

Respect to the pikemen.

And they had the coolest helmets.

We then were treated to a short burst of brass on the steps of the Cathedral followed by…

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A little music in Geneva, Switzerland

A review of the troops!  The different elements of the militia assembled and looked majestic together.

Reviewing the troops in Geneva, Switzerland

Reviewing the troops in Geneva, Switzerland

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Something is amusing the troops in Geneva, Switzerland

Nice formations in Geneva, Switzerland

Nice formations in Geneva, Switzerland

Strutting before the crowds in Geneva, Switzerland

Strutting before the crowds in Geneva, Switzerland

The chap on the left is the one who reads the declarations during the evening parade for the Escalade in Geneva, Switzerland

The chap on the left is the one who reads the declarations during the evening parade for the Escalade in Geneva, Switzerland

Bearing in mind that it was extremely cold, and the fact that we were standing around for well over an hour, it was totally worth it.  The way that each of the men took his role seriously, looked authentic, looked dedicated, was quite moving.  After all, this isn’t just a chance to dress up, like in cosplay, and enjoy being able to act differently for a day.  These men (and some women) respect the role they are playing as representatives of modern Geneva, as well as representatives of the courage of their ancestors of 1602.  The dignity of these modern Genevans is a credit to the citizens of four hundred years ago.

Since it was so cold, but we were reluctant to leave, we went into the Cathedral where the trumpeters were playing baroque music.  We sat down to a lovely concert that consisted of a lot of Handel, though I don’t know if at the start they’d had more music contemporary with 1602.  It’s hard for brass instruments to sound consistently harmonious, but the band was good, and it was wonderful to hear them.

Music in the Cathedral, Geneva, Switzerland

Music in the Cathedral, Geneva, Switzerland

Musicians in the Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland

Musicians in the Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland

When the concert finished, we decided it was time to go home.  Well – I had to get a vin chaud first, and honestly it was the best I’ve had this season.  It didn’t have an overly prominent spice dominating it – it was just a harmoniously blended drink.

A bit like Geneva during the Escalade – a lovely balance of old and new, young and old, warm and life-affirming.

Vin chaud in Geneva, Switzerland

Vin chaud in Geneva, Switzerland

Some music in the square in Geneva, Switzerland

Some music in the square in Geneva, Switzerland

For the final part of the Escalade, click here.

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