Royal Rapier

A type of Cool Sword, the rapier is often associated with those of high class, or at least some suave character.

To a certain extent this association is Truth in Television. During the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, rapiers were strongly associated with the style trends, behaviors, and values of the court and high society. They were worn with one's best clothing as a statement that one was both in touch with the latest fashion and prepared to defend their life and personal honor at all times. The fencing style taught for the rapier was also highly elegant and difficult to master, so that anyone wearing one was invoking Possession Implies Mastery and showing off their level of education and practice. In the hands of a capable person it was a lethal weapon for unarmored dueling and civilian self-defense. On the other hand, someone wearing a rapier could have just as easily have bought it as a status symbol or attempt at social climbing without actually possessing the combat skills or good upbringing that were assumed to go with it.

Because of the newness of the rapier, its questionable military usefulness, and what were perceived as its negative social effects, there was also always a tension between its association with respectability and the aspects that were decried by traditionalists and Moral Guardians. These critiques, exemplified in Elizabethan England by George Silver and Sir John Smythe, argued that the rapier was causing young gentlemen to kill each other in senseless duels but was useless for serving one's country in warfare because of its excessive length and weakness against armor. These critics usually offered sword and buckler as a more sensible alternative—in Silver's case because he was a traditional fencing master trying to protect his livelihood from Italian competition. Some monarchs with more old-fashioned tastes tried to regulate rapiers and encourage the use of more broad-bladed swords, but there were also many rulers—even those known to be experienced warriors—who were eager to be seen wearing rapiers and have their portraits painted with them. These individuals did not see the necessary contradiction between following civilian fashion and knowing how to use the weapons of war. In any case, rapiers and rapier-like swords did see some military use even though shorter and more robust blades were considered more practical, and many battle swords with such stouter blades were still fitted with rapier-style complex hilts.

This trope can be considered flexible, and exceptions can be made for just about any full-length single-handed Western sword that has a fancy hilt or overall refined appearance compared to other swords appearing in the same work. Even during the height of its use the term "rapier" was vaguely defined in the languages that used it, and most Romance language speakers simply used their generic word for "sword". There are many present day experts who disagree with each other about what kinds of swords should be classified as rapiers, and creators of fiction are often ignorant of such distinctions. The important thing is that an elegant sword is being used to say something about the personality of its owner.

If your characters are living in The Cavalier Years, and especially musketeers are involved, you can definitely expect them to use rapiers. In Japanese media, you can expect the Ojou to use one.

Also included is the espada ropera.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Chojiro Sasakibe's zanpakuto has the appearance of a rapier in shikai form.
  • The Needles from Tower of God. Due to the tendency of the air surrogate Shinsoo to be more viscous, swords quickly lose their effectiveness. Hence weapons more focused on stabbing are more commonly found.
  • Jean Pierre Polnareff's Silver Chariot is an armored swordfighter who uses a rapier.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, M'Quve's YMS-15 Gyan uses a beam saber in very rapier-like fashion. Given his aristocratic tendencies and cultured behavior, this makes a lot of sense.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Rose Gundam uses a beam rapier.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena revolves around live steel fencing tournaments Only one character uses a rapier, however; the Sword of Dios is a sidesword.
  • Griffith in Berserk wields a dashing cavalry sabre, in contrast with Guts' BFS. Griffith is of common birth, but is noted several times as embodying nobility better than the actual nobles.
    • Serpico wields a saber during the Conviction arc, and later receives from the witch Flora a sword made of feathers infused with wind elementals that let him throw winds around. However, during his visit to Vritannis with Farnese when they had both left behind Flora's gifts, he uses an actual rapier to fight Guts in the hall of pillars. Serpico was born a street urchin, but is the illegitimate son of a nobleman and was given a position (and presumably an education) in his household at a young age, and so acts with the culture and sophistication of a young gentleman.
  • While it's technically a Sword Cane, a lot of Brook's fighting style is fencing with a thin blade mixed with quick-draws. An aversion; he is not high-class or suave— in fact his social skills have deteriorated from long isolation— but fits the "entertainer" mold mentioned in the description.
  • A rapier is a part of Sayaka's Magical Girl gear in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, as a manifestation of her desire to be a Knight in Shining Armor protecting the innocent. As her despair grows, she becomes The Berserker instead, and instead of Flynning, swings her sword with wild abandon without any regard for her own safety, let alone any semblance of style. When she fully transforms into a witch, her sword becomes more of a Sinister Scimitar.
  • In Log Horizon, Nyanta, gentleman cat and resident Supreme Chef wields dual rapiers and even asserts that "a rapier is a gentleman's weapon".
  • Elizabeth Midford from Black Butler is an expert fencer, and uses a rapier to kill zombies (on a sinking Titanic expy, no less). For bonus points, there is Dual Wielding going on.
  • Perrine from Strike Witches, who is a Gallian (French) noble, sometimes carries a rapier in the series' promotional art. In season 2, it turns out that the rapier is the last family heirloom she has which she hasn't sold away. She also uses a different rapier in the same episode her rapier is brought up to defeat a golem.
  • The Caerula Adamas of Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! are the high-class members of the cast in civilian form and they each have a rapier as magical boys.
  • Sword Art Online rapiers are Asuna's weapon of choice. Aside from coming from a well-to-do family, Asuna is also known for being fast and precise, making rapiers perfect for her.

     Film - Live Action 
  • The Princess Bride: both Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black wield them. Inigo Montoya is the simple son of a swordsmith, albeit a relatively cultured and well-spoken one. The Man in Black, on the other hand, is a dashing pirate.
  • Inverted in The Crow: Top Dollar is a common thug, but selects an ornate rapier as his weapon of choice. Interesting trivia: his rapier is the Six-Fingered Sword from The Princess Bride
  • In most adaptations, the weapon of choice of Zorro is a Spanish rapier. Zorro's Secret Identity is Don Diego de la Vega, back when the title "Don" was still reserved for the nobility as opposed to crime bosses.
  • In By The Sword, Villard's father's rapier is displayed in a glass case in his fencing school. He later uses it in his duel against Suba during the climax of the movie.

    Gamebook 
  • In the Fighting Fantasy book Magehunter, if you decide to rush Mencius as he casts his spell, you will find yourself wearing regal red clothes and armed with a fancy rapier when you recover. spoiler 

    Literature 
  • Played straight in The Color of Magic, the first Discworld novel where it is used to reinforce Rincewind's perpetual incompetence. Rincewind is challenged to a sword fight; his opponent wields a rapier, while Rincewind is stuck with a short sword that looks more like a shovel.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, the rapier is the Weapon of Choice for Prince Arutha. At the end of the first series, it gets infused with a magic-repelling artifact, which lets it harm demons and other supernatural foes. Arutha's popularity causes rapiers to become much more widely used in the Kingdom during and after his reign.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Braavos has an indigenous fencing style called water dancing that uses rapiers. True to the weapon's real life history, the city-state is filled with street-fighting bravos. Westeros favors knightly longswords, but Jon Snow has a slender sword made for Little Miss Badass Arya Stark that resembles a rapier. She receives lessons in the water dancing style. Her swordmaster, Syrio Forel, really is as cultured as his Weapon of Choice implies (it's unknown if he's of noble blood, however), but the other bravos seen are little more than street thugs in fancy clothing.
  • In the sequel to The Elenium, Emperor Sarabian begins to use a rapier after the arrival of Queen Ehlana and the Church Knights. It's a sign that he's beginning to take control of his own country.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe had a Laser Blade version of a rapier, called a lightfoil. It was invented by a Sith sect called the Mecrosa Order and adopted by the nobility of the Tapani sector; the latter modified it to be slightly weaker than a more usual lightsaber, but much easier to use for a Muggle.
  • Subverted by Zorro, of all people: he uses a Spanish cavalry sabre. Justified as he would fight both unarmoured and armoured opponents (a rapier of his time couldn't handle the latter) and both on foot and on horse (a rapier was just not made to fight on horse, while a sabre, while made mainly for mounted fighters, could work in both situations).
  • Subverted by Richard Sharpe; an infantry officer of his rank is normally expected to carry a small and lightweight sabre that's effectively a slightly curved rapier. Being the sort of fellow he is, Sharpe instead totes a whacking great heavy cavalry blade which many lesser men would struggle to wield while dismounted. And before he acquired said sword, when he found himself drafted into a Boarding Party while travelling home from India on a Royal Navy warship in Sharpe's Trafalgar, he developed a certain fondness for the cutlass.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Firefly episode "Shindig," the local nobility like using these in duels. High-Class Call Girl Inara shows a little proficiency too. And Working-Class Hero Mal shows little. He thinks that Flynning with his means he's winning the fight, not knowing his opponent is just toying with him.
  • In one episode of Blackadder I, Prince Edmund challenges Lord Dougal MacAngus to a duel. Edmund uses a rapier, but MacAngus effortlessly snaps it in half with his longsword.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 the rapier has the distinction of being one of the most effective weapons to which the Weapon Finesse feat can be applied, making it a perennial favorite of the sort to favor speed over brute force.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy has Sigvald the Magnificent, whose trademark weapon is rapier. He may look like a flimsy pretty boy, but he can slice you to ribbons with it, plus he's the mortal champion of Slaanesh.
  • Shadowrun features rapiers as available weapons, notably for Street Samurai who were more inspired by Errol Flynn than by samurai movies. 5th edition's Horizon-Flynn rapier is a viable alternative to the katana, having equal accuracy, reach, and armor penetration with slightly less damage, for half the price.

    Video Games 
  • The Suikoden series provides us with quite a lot of characters wielding a rapier:
    • Vincent de Boule, a former aristocrat from the Scarlet Moon Empire, uses one in Suikoden and Suikoden II.
    • Lilly Pendragon carries one in Suikoden III. She also dresses like a musketeer, complete with a big plumed hat. An another character from the same game, Yuber, seems to dual-wield rapiers.
  • Prince Enrique from Skies of Arcadia uses one.
  • The Prince(ss) class from Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City initially uses Rapiers. So do Buccaneers, which combine traits of Musketeers and Pirates.
  • Estelle from Tales of Vesperia can wield these as well as staves. She also wields a shield, and has the highest defense stat by default among your characters. However, she doesn't have many combat Artes, being a better mage than a fencer (although very capable in expert hands).
  • Richard in Tales of Graces wields these and is a prince.
  • Saleh from Tales of Rebirth wields one. It's fitting for a suave Smug Snake like himself.
  • Noblewoman Phiona in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, while a member of the series' Heavy Warrior class, goes with a giant rapier as her weapon of choice, regardless of how little sense that makes.
  • Sima Shi, Yuan Shao, and Liu Shan in Dynasty Warriors 7 and subsequent games. All three of them are nobles and are quite skilled with this weapon.
  • In the most recent Final Fantasy games, the rapier became the weapon of choice of The Red Mage job, a class of suave fencers with a pimp hat skilled in both black and white magic. Notably, the Joyeuse became a recurring weapon and is always a fencing sword.
    • Larsa from Final Fantasy XII wields one (quite fittingly for a prince of the empire).
    • In Tactics Advance and A2 rapiers are used by the Red Mages, Elementalists, and Fencers, all three of which are Viera only classes.
  • One of the weapon types available in Dark Souls, used for quick, repeated thrusts. There's even a unique one dropped by the Undead Prince Ricard, Ricard's Rapier. You can actually find two of them in Dark Souls II for dual-wielding purpose.
  • Fiora Laurent, the Grand Duelist of League of Legends. Her lore stated that she used to belong to a family of nobles that has fallen from grace due to her father doing some sort of foul play. A frustrated Fiora defeated her father and set off to beat down everyone she comes across with her rapier to restore her family's honor. Oh and she is extremely smug at doing so.

    Webcomics 
  • Elan the Bard of The Order of the Stick, who became able to use it more efficiently after taking a level in his prestige class, Dashing Swordman, allowing him to add his charisma modifier to his attack rolls instead of his dexterity if he delivers quips and puns during his fights.

    Real Life 
  • King Gustav Vasa of Sweden (14961560) was apparently fond of them. According to an inventory of his possessions made in 1548, he owned no less than twelve rapiers.
  • King Henri IV of France (15531610) was another notable rapier fan. When he married his second wife Marie de Medici in 1600 he was presented with a magnificent matched rapier and dagger etched, blued, and gilt, and inlaid with pearls. Napoleon Bonaparte took this same sword with him on campaign as a good luck charm. Dueling reached epidemic proportions among the nobility during Henri's reign, and while he made edicts restating the ban against duels he favored them in private and tended to undermine his own laws by issuing a lot of pardons. When the Marquis de Crequi asked leave to fight Philip of Savoy, he supposedly said "Go, and if I were not a King I would be your second!"
  • The rapier was not intended to deal with armor and saw limited use on the battlefield. Instead, it was developed as civilian weapon for personal defense. As such, it was primarily associated with street brawls, bravos, swashbucklers and duelists. Only in later, romanticized tales did the rapier become a symbol of elegance and sophistication.
    • No sword was ever made to deal with a 16th century munitions cuirass head on, the association with bravos and duelists is ultimately thanks to one Mister Silver, in the anglosphere at least, a man who largely misrepresented what the italian masters taught as flynning and managed to create the image of the rapier as a thrusting sword for dandies, mainly to defend his livelihood as a short sword fencing master. Swords identical to what is called a rapier in english saw extensive use as sidearms in the French and Spanish armies at a time when these were the main land powers in western Europe.
      • What Silver's critics tend to forget is that Silver was Vindicated by History. The extremely long (often over four feet) rapiers of Silver's day had all but vanished a hundred years later, replaced by shorter, handier swords, in the military context by cut-and-thrust swords and sabres (which could also cut, which was one of Silver's main gripes with the rapier), and in the civilian by the shorter and much handier smallsword.
    • It is also worth noting that while many lower-class punks bandied about with rapiers, there absolutely were noblemen and gentlefolk using them to spill blood in the streets. The opening scene of Romeo and Juliet was not far from reality. In modern times we usually think of violence and crime as problems affecting the poor, but for much of history the upper class jealously guarded its right to settle differences through fighting and was responsible for a large share of civil disturbance.


Alternative Title(s):

Regal Rapier