Have you ever appreciated the rapier of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II – an exquisite sword crafted from solid gold, set with glittering jewels, and commonly regarded as the epitome of the Renaissance sword? We’d bet good money that you didn’t even know it existed at all. Until now, that is…The team at the Wallace Collection are about to teach you a thing or two, as they unveil this fine rapier as the star of their latest exhibition – ‘The Noble Art of the Sword: Fashion and Fencing in Renaissance Europe’ – which places weaponry on the must-see museum map. Delving behind the unsung history of the Renaissance rapier, this free exhibition neatly explores the historical and social context behind these lethal objects with razor sharp attention to detail. Wielding a sword in the street may be a public offence nowadays, but back in Elizabethan London it was all the rage. Rapiers were not simply for gentleman duels: they were fashion statements, status symbols as devastatingly beautiful as they were lethal. Expect bling galore, the finest regal costume and priceless fencing manuals. The exhibition runs until September 16, and with Olympic hysteria steadily building in the capital, there’s no better time than summer 2012 to get to grips with sword-fighting, the ancient precursor to the modern Olympic sport of fencing. Lisa Paul
For info, see wallacecollection.org.