Finding a Knight in Shining Armor

Finding a Knight in Shining Armor

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Well, I don't know quite how to describe this one. Maybe we could say it's a wedding story that got out of hand.

Here were Smithsonian computer whiz Bryan Kennedy and his fiancée, Linda Welzenbach, and they wanted to get married, but they hated the whole idea of the conventional ceremony with the garter and the bouquet toss and the Mendelssohn, so they decided to have a period wedding. And an original one, too.

Picking a period was simple. Just subtract, say, 600 years from that year, coming up with 1396. "She picked the time; I picked the place," said Bryan. "I said, how about Burgundy, in France."

The couple ordered their guests to come in costume and included research references in the invitations. They held the party not quite in France, but the next best thing, at Liriodendron, the great old mansion in Bel Air, Maryland, and not only did everybody come but nearly all the guests came in costume.

"And some of them were rented, but most were made from scratch," Linda recalls proudly.

Wait, that's not the story. Returning from their "plain old camping honeymoon," they turned into the driveway and heard sounds of sword fighting next door.

"We knew right away what it was, so we ran towards it," Bryan tells me. The neighbors had only that day returned from England, where they had been training in the sport of live steel sword fighting. They talked it up so enthusiastically that the newlyweds bought swords of their own on the spot, ordering them from an armorer in England. (The weapons have no point and no edge, for safety reasons.)

Sword fighting offered a switch from real life. Bryan, who now does computer-support work on contract to a number of Smithsonian offices, was at the time working for Smithsonian Institution Press. He had majored in English at Lynchburg College in Virginia on his way from his native New Jersey to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where the couple now lives. Linda, a geologist, is a collection manager for meteorites at the National Museum of Natural History.

"We joined a sword group for a while and fought in front of a bunch of people," Bryan says, "but then I got into the armor and the weapons and all of the accoutrements."

It was slow going, since relatively little hard information existed about details of 14th-century clothing. But the Internet helped. Bryan holds up a shoe he has made. It is a copy of a shoe in the Museum of London.

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