I recently learned of the untimely passing last year of Richard Alvarez, known as “The American Jouster” in medieval fair, fencing, jousting and film circles. His expertise, research, and writings were invaluable to me in my research for The Arthurian Age.
I just had my first weekend showing my books at a renaissance festival, the King Richard’s Faire in Carver, Massachusetts. I spoke with some of the people there who knew Richard Alvarez and spoke highly of him. None of us knew then that Mr. Alvarez had passed away last year.
Richard Alvarez is a true Renaissance man, having worked professionally as a television cameraman (KHTV), photographer, actor, playwright, disk jockey, newscaster (KODA), Stuntman, Choreographer, Mime, Jouster, Master at Arms, Director and Producer. His primary professional activity currently centers around Pierrot Productions.
The quote above, from his website, only gives a glimpse of the life of Richard Alvarez. His obituary (linked here) tells a bit more, but ultimately only hints at what seems to have been a fascinating life. I only conversed with him a few times by email, and wish I could have had the opportunity to see him in action.
Besides running a jousting troupe of his own, Mr. Alvarez travelled extensively helping others set up similar organizations to showcase this colorful and exciting aspect of history. He wrote and directed the award winning documentary American Jouster in 2005.
My introduction to Mr. Alvarez was during my research into how cavalry were used in warfare. The eras I studied ranged from classical Greece, through the Roman era and into the Norman period, so that I could have an understanding of how things changed over time. This would help me best describe how things may have been done in fifth century Britain.
One aspect that was hotly contested was the issue of how shock cavalry was used, if at all. Many academics, nearly all of which had no experience in horsemanship, much less the application of violence, made sweeping pronouncements that it did not exist until the advent of the stirrup. Mr. Alvarez’ experience in jousting made him doubt that claim, so he put it to the test with “experimental archeology“. The results of his research showed that not only were shock cavalry charges feasible without stirrups, but there is evidence that they were in use long before the Normans.
Among the theories about King Arthur, the idea that he made use of cavalry to give him a leg up against the unmounted Anglo-Saxons is popular. If you have read The Retreat to Avalon, you will have seen how I implemented the use of light, medium and heavy cavalry tactics into something that fits plausibly within the fifth century. I could not have done it without Mr. Alvarez’ research, for which I am eternally grateful.
Richard Alvarez’ website and the articles are no longer online, unfortunately, so I have painstakingly recreated both articles from the Internet Archive to ensure his work is not lost. The articles are arranged into two “pages” and are fairly long, but very interesting, with pictures, sources, etc. You may read them at this link.
Best wishes to the Alvarez family and his legacy. And thank you for stopping by.