Follow TV Tropes


The Cavalier Years

Go To
"The Wounded Cavalier"

The favorite era for the Swashbuckler, the 17th Century / early 18th century is the age in Europe when lusty musketeers dueled with each other and got sucked into intrigues involving dauphins, Corrupt Churchmen and vampish courtesans. Hats with large feathers and big bucket-topped boots were in fashion for men. Also The Golden Age of Piracy on the High Seas, when eyepatched and peg-legged buccaneers buried stolen gold, brandished cutlasses, and tied up buxom, bodice-wearing maidens and then forced them to watch as their hapless boyfriends walked the plank.

Somewhere in the middle, Britain had a civil war. Dashing Cavaliers fought dour Puritans the length and breadth of both islands, and the son of the King hid in an oak tree. The Puritans won, and abolished Christmas, then the country abolished them. The surviving Puritans left England and founded the United States, Charles II climbed back out of the oak tree, London burned to the ground, women were allowed to be actors on stage and Isaac Newton invented gravity. Somebody named Pepys kept a diary.

Later still, King James II, a believer in absolute monarchy, was run out of Britain in a Glorious Revolution. Parliament's invitation of Stadtholder William III of Orange as the new King made it real clear who was really in charge of the island from now on as modern democracy took its next step toward fruition. Meanwhile, in The Bahamas, this was the best kind of news to the pirate, Captain Blood and his crew, who were enslaved by James II, as they accepted the new king's commission to join the British Navy.

Across the Atlantic, English settlers of all codes and creeds took over a patch of land along the eastern coasts of the New World.

Back on mainland Europe the Thirty Years' War was fought; France, Sweden, and Austria contended over the Holy Roman Empire, hastening its long, painful decline. East of Germany, rowdy Polish nobility alternated between fighting in perpetual wars against Sweden, Muscovy and Turkey, and generally making a mess around themselves. More to the west, the Dutch were fresh from achieving their independence from Spain and had an economic and cultural boom, ushering in their Golden Age which lasted a whole century, and France became a military, economic, and cultural powerhouse starting with the reign of Louis XIV, with his heir prince eventually overtaking Spain too by becoming its new king, Philip V.

Then things settle down a very little, and The Enlightenment kicks in. But there’s a lot of overlap between the two periods, what with pirates, highwaymen, exploration, colonialism, and so on.

Sometimes explicitly called the Age of Exploration, especially if pirates are involved. If you want to do the pirates thing on land, remember that after the Restoration in England was the heyday of The Highwayman, so adventures featuring Dick Turpin and Claude Duval will be set at about this time.

Writers and artists of the first half of the 19th century LOVED this era, as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution and The Enlightenment of the previous century.

See also the Edo Period of Jidaigeki, the early Qing dynasty of Imperial China, and the middle Joseon period, respectively the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean equivalents coinciding with this era. Also coinciding in this era are The Thirteen American Colonies across the pond. The later years of The Protestant Reformation overlaps with the time period, and religious warfare is often a background feature in the swashbuckling plots of this setting.

Popular tropes from this time period are:

  • Armor Is Useless: By 1650-1660, advances in firearm technology made the armored knight and body armor obsolete. Armor would not see widespread use in the Western world until metal helmets in World War I.
  • Baroque Music: Where it all began with Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach making a noise.
  • Brits Love Tea: Tea-loving Queen Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II of England, was the Trope Maker of this British stereotype, as she was the one who introduced tea to Britain.
  • Disability Superpower: Related to the aforementioned Baroque era of music. This period witnessed the wildly popular rise of castrati, male choral and operatic singers whose distinctive ethereal voices fell within typically female ranges. How they developed those voices? Well ...
  • The Dung Ages: The 17th and 18th centuries were the age when bathing was shunned by most European people, up to Kings (and more, in fact, than in the Middle Ages proper, contrary to popular belief). During the same age, the perfume industry flourished in France.
  • The Empire: The Holy Roman Empire in the beginning of the era, and France by the end.
  • Evil Jesuit: How they were viewed at the time by Protestant AND Catholic writers to the point that they were expelled in 1767. Jesuit Cardinal Richelieu of France has been cemented as a baddie by Dumas Sr. in his novels.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish:
    • Europeans had a love/hate relationship with the Turkish culture, with caftans, rugs, and Turkish delight on their wish lists.
    • Despite the Tokugawa Shogunate closing their doors to the world, the Dutch managed to get a bit of their stuff like kimonos and exotic prints. In turn, the Japanese had a thing for Dutch stuff like clocks, candy, and scientific apparatus.
  • Gratuitous French: Ancien Regime French was the lingua franca for trade and diplomacy. Even in the middle class, you'd be mocked for not speaking it.
  • The Highwayman: Earlier, they were just bandits; much later, they had organised police forces to worry about. But in this period, they got the big pistols and the nice hats.
  • Historical Domain Character: For England, the ruling kings of The House of Stuart like James the First, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, Charles II and James II and VII reigned in this era. For France, it was all about the Bourbons with Louis XIII and Louis XIV while Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin spend more time in fiction than they did at Mass. Honorable mentions include the House of Vasa with King Gustavus Adolphus II and Queen Christina, and scientists like Isaac Newton and Rene Descartes.
  • Land of Tulips and Windmills: For the Dutch, the 17th century was their Golden Age economically and culturally. The tulip became a symbol of the nation following the Tulip mania in the 1630s, and its been used as a case study for economic bubbles.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Coffee production and sales skyrocketed during this era. The first coffeehouse in England was started by an Armenian man, and the distinctive Viennese café was started by a a Polish nobleman, who made use of the coffee bags left by the defeated Ottomans after the siege of Vienna in 1683. Coffeehouses became a hangout for intellectual minds whose ideas that would kickstart The Enlightenment.
  • The Musketeer: Musketeers served as the Praetorian Guard for the King of France.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: While simplistic in comparison to Elizabethan fashions and those of the Rococo era, women's dresses of the 17th century still served opulence in the royal courts. The silhouette and styles became more grandoise and more diverse when Louis XIV came to the throne. France itself started to become the fashion capital in this period.
  • Pirate: After the 17th century, they were romanticized as rogues and anti-heroes, but during that time, especially in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, they were actual threats.
  • Playing Cyrano: Psst! It’s The age of the Trope Namer!
  • Real Is Brown:
    • Much of the overall palette of the Baroque era consist of warm and earnest muted colors from the leather cavalier gear, to the modest Puritans, to Anthony Van Dyck's paintings, where a shade of brown was even named after him. Pastel colors wouldn't be a thing until the mid-18th century with the Rococo style.
    • When it comes to blue, while there were generous amounts of blue from the old masters like Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Peter Paul Rubens through their usage of super expensive materials like lapis lazuli and smalt, the invention of the affordable Prussian blue in the early 18th century was a gamechanger for art, crafting, printing, textiles, and design, and the versatile color paved way for modern art and chemistry.
  • Regal Ruff: Persisted, and gradually disappeared throughout the first half of the 17th century, which was replaced by flat lace collars after the Thirty Years War.
  • Royal Rapier: The thinner the sword, the closer you were to the king.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: For the men, cavalier gear in the first half of the 17th century, and the coat-waistcoat-and-breech ensemble topped with perwigs in the second half were the dictates in fashion.
  • Witch Hunt: Continuing from The Renaissance.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The Age of Exploration was still going, and now eyes are moving towards Terra Australis.

Works set in this time period are:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Die Abrafaxe: This era has been visited repeatedly by the Abrafaxe. Their very first arc (January 1976-December 1977) was set in Dalmatia and Venice in the 17th century. This was followed by an arc set in Hungary, Austria, Bavaria and France at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession (January 1978-December 1980). Many years later, in the Baroque series (Mosaik No. 406-429), brainy Brabax as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's private secretary in the 1690s while Abrax and Brabax are stuck in the France of Louis XIV.
  • Barracuda is set during the The Golden Age of Piracy.
  • The French comic De Cape et de Crocs, which makes a good work in giving a feeling of being a piece of Baroque literature. Think of Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, except wackier.
  • Cossacks, a French comic book about a young early 17th century Lithuanian Hussar from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth who deserts the Polish army to integrate into a group of Ukrainian Cossacks.
  • Mendoza The Great featured tropes from the era. But instead of portraying swords and gun duels, as a British historical comic it featured instead the favorite British past-time of classical pugilism or bare-knuckle boxing. It featured the real-life pugilist Daniel Mendoza a protagonist.
  • Suske en Wiske: The stories "De Dolle Musketiers", "De Raap van Rubens", "De Jolige Joffer", "De Gladde Glipper", "Angst Op De Amsterdam", "De Kleppende Klipper", "Het Wondere Wolfje" and "Beminde Barabas".

    Film - Animation 
  • Disney's Pocahontas takes place at the beginning of this era, as does, of course, any other adaptation of the Pocahontas story.
  • Wolfwalkers: Takes place in 1650 Ireland during Oliver Cromwell’s time as Lord Protector.note 

    Film - Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 


    Video Games