The Master’s Oath

Abridged and translated version of the Master’s Oath found in the Sloane MS 2530, Papers of the Masters of Defence of London, Temp Henry VIII to 1590

First you shall swear that you shall uphold, maintain and keep to your power all such articles as shall be here declared unto you and received in the presence of me your Master and these the rest of the Masters my brethren present here with me at this time:

You shall be true to the Catholic church to augment and further the true faith of Christ to your power.

You shall be true subject to our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth and to her successors Kings of this realm of England.

You shall be true Master from this day forward to the last day of your life, loving truth, hating falsehood and not grudging or disdaining any Master of this science. And you shall always be ruled by your brethren who are Masters of this science, and especially any Master who is your elder.

You shall not teach any suspect person, such as murderers, thieves, common drunkards or such as you know to be common quarrellers, nor keep company with them, but avoid all such as much as you can. .

If you come to any manner of prize or game or any kind of play at weapons concerning our science, you shall without respect, favour or hatred of either party, give true judgment of that which you see there.

You shall take no scholar with the intention of teaching him or causing him to be taught, without the oath appropriate for a scholar. You will charge the same for his learning as other Masters are accustomed to do, not taking less than other Masters do, to spite or hinder any other Masters.

You will not to challenge any English Master. And especially you shall not challenge your own Master. Upon taking the Master’s oath you shall pay your Master of all such debts, fees and demands which are due to him and you will love and honour him as your Master and elder.

You shall be merciful and where you happen to have the upper hand over your enemy, that is to say without weapon or under your feet or his back towards you. And also if you hear of any disagreement between other members, you shall do the best that you can to make them friends and always to keep the peace if you can.

You shall help all Masters and Provosts of this science, all widows and fatherless children, and if you know of any Master of science that is fallen into sickness being in poverty, you shall put the masters in remembrance at all prizes and games and other assemblies.

You shall not set forth any prize (nor keep more than one school in London) within twelve moths and a day after the playing of your master’s prize. Nor will you teach or cause to be taught any other Master’s scholar, without the consent of his first Master and unless the said scholar has paid his first master all fees for his learning.

You shall at no time set forwards any manner of Provost or Free Scholars prize without first seeking the consent of all the Masters. Having their consent, you shall give lawful warning where it shall be played and what day is appointed.

You shall not, for monetary gain, set forwards any prize of a Master, Provost or Free Scholar without a lawful cause and taken by you and at least two masters more besides yourself. And at any prizes set forwards by you, you must see that every Master and Provost have his fee according to our ancient orders and rules.

You shall not promise any person learning, unless you teach him or cause him to be taught as a Master ought of right to do. That is to say, a scholar like a scholar, a Provost like a Provost and a Master like a Master.

You shall not cause any oath to be given in your name by any person under the degree of a Provost except it be your usher who is your deputy for that time as long as his contract lasts with you.

You shall not allow or enable any Provosts licence without the consent of at least two Masters besides yourself. And you shall not agree with any person to keep a school for you or in your name so that they shall have the profit thereof.