Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Honneur Aux Armes: A Livingston's Skill With the Sword

Usually when we talk about swashbuckling sword wielding adventures on this blog we are talking about Henry Beekman Livingston or Richard Montgomery in the Revolutionary War or Captain William Kidd the pirate. But none of them could hold a candle to the greatest swordsman, or should I say swordswoman, the family ever had.


She will cut you
That's right, Janet Cornelia Livingston.

The younger daughter of John Henry and Alice Livingston. Born in 1910, Janet was always a bit different than her sister Honoria. A little more tomboyish.

When the family moved to Italy in 1921 so the girls could receive a European education and finishing, Alice probably envisioned the girls learning the classics, art and languages. 

Eleven year old Janet liked swords. 

Luckily the family indulged her and allowed her to take lessons with a fencing master. A year later she earned her diploma from that instructor.

Janet's fencing diploma



Janet was a really good fencer though. Her instructor happened to be an officer in the French army so he put her through some more rigorous training which she handled with skill and grace.

This is the part where he asks her not to hurt him

Seriously this guy was either brave or stupid to fence without a mask

I mean she is clearly going for his eyes here

She passed with flying colors and earned another certificate.

He's standing in profile so you cant see his new eye patch

One of the most amazing parts about this is clearly Janet's hat, which never moved during all the fencing


This one certified that she had met the fencing qualifications for the French Army Regiment stationed at the Armory of Saint-Raphael


Oddly enough Janet's interests changed and though she probably could have pursued fencing, as it was added to the Olympics as a women's sport just two years later in 1924 she chose not to. She went on to become an accomplished horsewoman, learned to drive and in later years even learned to fly and got her pilots license.

Yet the swords were never far away and the pair used in the above photos, or at least a pair of foils extremely similar to those above are in Clermont's collection today, having been given to the museum by the Livingston family when the house became a historic site. 


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