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Luis Pacheco de Narvaez

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Luis Pacheco de Narváez
Born 1570s
Baeza, Spain
Died 1640
Occupation Fencing master
Patron Philip IV of Spain
Movement Verdadera Destreza
Genres Fencing manual
Language Spanish
Notable work(s)

Don Luis Pacheco de Narváez (1570s–1640) was a 17th century Spanish philosopher and fencing master. Born in Baeza, Jaén in the early 1570s, he became the greatest student of Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza, the grand master of the new school of Spanish fence called la Verdadera Destreza ("the True Skill"). After Carranza's death in 1600, Pacheco seems to have assumed his mantle of leadership in the Destreza, and ultimately was appointed Head Master of Arms to the royal court by King Phillip IV in 1624.

Arguably the most prolific fencing author in history, Pacheco published his first treatise on the Destreza, Libro de las Grandezas de la Espada ("A Book on the Greatness of the Sword"), soon after his master's death in 1600. This was followed by at least eight other printed fencing manuals, including a revised edition of Carranza's own work De la Filosofia de las Armas y de su Destreza in 1612. His greatest work, Nueva ciencia, y filosofía de la destreza de las armas ("The New Science and Philosophy of Skill at Arms"), was written in 1632 but doesn't seem to have been published until forty years later, well after his death.

Pacheco was a very controversial figure in his time. Well known in Spanish literary and political circles, he was occasionally lampooned for his overly-intellectual and philosophical approach to fencing. In 1608, this lead to a duel with noted author Francisco Gómez de Quevedo. In the first pass, Quevedo knocked Pacheco's hat from his head; the duel was subsequently broken up and thereafter the men remained enemies. (Later, Pacheco went as far as to report four of Quevedo's books to the Inquisition.)

Despite drawing on the prestige of Carranza to great effect in his early career, later in life Pacheco seems to have grown tired of living in his master's shadow. Particularly after becoming the crown fencing master and charged with certifying new masters, he devoted great energy to undermining Carranza's legacy and to exposing (and correcting) perceived flaws in his Destreza. This ultimately broke the tradition into two competing camps, called Carrancistas and Pachequistas, a schism that was never mended.


Additional Resources

The following is a list of publications containing scans, transcriptions, and translations relevant to this article, as well as published peer-reviewed research.