Tag Archives: Spanish studies

War footing II: A Scottish mercenary in the Spanish army

That’s Juan’s primary persona, based very loosely on a very tiny reference in Douglas Preston’s Cities of Gold* to a John Black/Juan Blaque in the Coronado expedition, of which very little is known except that he was Scottish by birth. Our Juan is a generation later, born sometime in the late 1530s. He traveled to France for military service in the early 1550s, toward the end of the regency of Mary, Queen of Scots; and abandoned France for Spain in the chaotic aftermath of the death of Henry II. In the Spanish service, he traveled to the New World, and was honored for his service there with small cash and land grants both in Mexico and on the Continent, a common practice in the land-rich, upwardly mobile military of Philip II.  He retired to a life of minor gentility outside of Segovia around 1580, and that’s where we find him today.

My focus on garb up to this point has been on mid-1580s Spanish, but after watching me play with how far I can stretch my persona in directions of time and culture, he’s inspired to toy around with some of the same experimentations. I made a very basic Western Viking kit last year for one of the Battlemoor parties, and he likes it so much for casual camping garb that he’s asked me to make more. Also, hopefully he’ll be fighting this year, so the big push will be making sure there’s enough fighting garb.

updated 8/10

His garb is generally in pretty good shape, but there’s always stuff that needs done. To wit:

Viking: two days worth.

  • One good outfit done and ready to wear.
  • Definitely make one more tunic (fabric in hand), embroidery similar in scope and scale to the royal Estrella War Court tunic, which took about ten days. Some or all of that embroidery may happen after Battlemoor. Finished – bumped up on the priority list to finish in time for the investiture of our friends, Broddi hornabrjótr and Máel Mide ingen Domnaill, as Baron and Baroness of Dragonsspine.
  • Another pair of trews ONLY if I find fabric I really like and have timeHahaha not happening.
  • Leg wraps – probably purchased rather than woven; there are reasonably priced ones, in pretty twills that I don’t have the equipment to make at this time, on Etsy. On a closer look, the affordable ones on Etsy are just strips of wool twill serged, and the handwoven ones are out of my price range at this time. I have twill. So I’m just going to make them.
  • Low boots or turnshoes: he plans to make, I may help out. We found out – on the rush job for Dragonsspine Investiture, see above – that a pair of non-SCA boots he thought didn’t fit, do, after all, and look great with the Viking. So the turnshoes are on back burner for now.
  • Torc and cloak pin: we will work together on them. Not started, but I’d like to try.
  • Hat: I’m very familiar with what hats looked like in eastern Norse territories, but need to do some research on what would have been appropriate for the Isles. Patterned, starting this week

Spanish: two days worth, plus court/party garb.

  • Ready to wear: Two good outfits of daywear: black linen doublet and trunkhose; blue brocade doublet and brown wool trunkhose, one plain lightweight linen shirt that can be washed midweek.
  • Ready to wear: Brown and gold silk doublet and gold trunkhose and lightweight, heavily blackworked shirt: Saturday Grand Court and party.
  • Great boots rev. 2 – the rev. 1 boots are wearable, but not super comfortable for multiple days of camping. I have one more tweak of the pattern to do and then I may *crosses fingers* cut leather on these TODAY. Construction done, just need to finish the soles – hoping to have these ready for a trial run at Crown Tournament next weekend.
  • Need one more good outfit for Friday court and party: I have a blue velvet doublet in progress, cut out and waiting on lining fabric. I would like to make a matching pair of paned slops, but that requires going back to Denver Fabric and seeing if I can match fabrics. Blue doublet is well underway but has a lot of work still to do. I’m going to try to get the next phase of machine sewing done this week and take the handsewing to Crown.
  • I have some really stunning fabric for a short cloak, and would like to get it done for Battlemoor courts, but it’s not a top priority. Unfortunately not enough fabric, so the cloak is not happening.
  • New hat: purchased and in transit from the vendor now.
  • Hose: proper underpinnings! The bare knee between the top of the boots and the hem of the trunkhose is awkward. Also, with hose, he can wear turnshoes with the Spanish as well. Not happening before Battlemoor. A project for this fall/winter. The new boots are softer and much taller, which resolves that problem.

Fighting garb:

  • Ready to wear: Two heavy, plain linen late-period shirts.
  • Purchased straight-leg elastic-waist pants. Until I get some idea of wear and tear patterns, I’m not investing my valuable time in handmade fighting garb. Shopping for these next weekend.

*Yes, Douglas Preston the novelist; no, this is not a novel. It’s half history of the Coronado expedition, half memoir of Preston’s attempt to reconstruct the route of the expedition, on horseback, from the Mexic0-Arizona border to the farthest extent of the journey in Kansas. It’s fascinating and meticulously researched and pure delicious experimental archaeology geekery, and I can’t recommend it enough.


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Corazon III: Research notes

I finished the first of my stack of research notes for Corazon III over the weekend: John Super’s exceptional little book, Food, Conquest, and Colonization in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America. It’s only 88 pages before notes, and it’s not a cook’s book – it’s far more economics-oriented. But it’s very revealing, and particularly in:

  • The Old World foods that the Spanish were most invested in bringing to the colonies, the spread of Old World foods through markets and agricultural records;
  • The New World foods that the Spanish adopted most readily, and the class and race issues around the adoption of certain foods;
  • The economics of agriculture in the colonies from 1600-1800, and how climate and landform affected the differences between what was grown in different areas (and what was grown in the colonies vs. Europe).

It’s very helpful in making educated guesses about what the fusion landscape would have been in the late 16th century, vs, say, the mid-18th century – what foods had already become what would later be the distinctively Mexican/Central American/South American cuisines, and what did not become integrated until much later. What “plausibly period” looks like in this context.

Next up: re-reading Sophie Coe’s excellent America’s First Cuisines and Charles Mann’s 1493. Both of these are background reads – Coe has some post-colonial material but basically her treatment is of pre-contact Native American foods, and I can’t remember how much Mann touches on food at all but he does talk a great deal about daily life.

First impressions:

Peanut marzipan! Goat and venison in the tasting course! SO MUCH MEAT. Fresh fruit is a GO – I worried about this; I know that fresh fruit wasn’t a thing in much of period in Europe, but no, multiple sources are clear that the arriving Europeans were dazzled and entranced by tropical fruit.  Yeasted wheat bread, not tortillas. Time to go back and re-read Diaz del Castillo.

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