Tales of Riccardo di Pisa
I was Queen at Gulf War when we heard of his death. I went out and bought a bolt of black brocaded ribbon and started passing it out as arm bands to all the Ansteorran fighters in his memory. Everyone started asking me for ribbons when they heard who had passed away, even people from other kingdoms. No one could ever work up a crowd into a war mood like Riccardo could with his rousing shouts of WAR!! WAR!! All I could think was the Gulf War would never be the same without him. Then later when his sword became our new sword of state, I knew a legend had passed but his spirit would always be with us.
Riccardo (Richard) and I were stationed in Camp Darby, Italy, near the town of Pisa. He was in the Army and I took a job at the Recreation Center. The Recreation Center mission was to provide an on Base facility to American families living/serving at Camp Darby. The facility director and staff decided it would be fun to do an event, in period costume. We got busy researching costume. (1975 folks, so no internet). We set up a market place for the day, with an off site dinner at an Italian restaurant on Saturday evening. Late in the day in came a beautifully attired couple from the Army base in Vincenza who had heard of our event and decided to attend. I don’t recall the gentleman’s name (I am 77). The woman was Mobi Bader. They were SCA. Riccardo/Richard was entranced. Or maybe I should say hooked. Thus, Riccardo di Pisa. The rest is history.
In reference to this image: :
(Collected from the Northkeep email list, November 2009)
This photo is a mural of Ansteorran giants – Master Korwyn (Korwyn Marius Velis Ariannaid), King Simonn of Amber Isle and Queen Tessa of the Gardens, Sir Ricardo di Pisa (God rest his soul), and Sir Sir Lord Lord John John (God rest his soul). (I cannot make out the gentleman in the black hat and red robe behind Sir Ricardo.)
Sir Ricardo enjoyed playing persona, perhaps more than anyone I’ve ever met in the SCA. I mean, he REALLY loved being Ricardo. Ricardo was a crusader-era Italian knight. Ricardo was an Italian patrician who loved the good life. Ricardo was bigger than life. He fought hard, played hard, loved it when others had a good time, and spared no effort to make sure they did. He loved to be entertained by dancing girls. During my brief time fighting heavy weapons, he was my teacher and, let me tell you, he was a patient man.
I remember a Bjornsborg event many years ago with a fighting scenario of Chivalry-versus-the-known-world. All the white belts and baldrics lined up on the crest of a ten-foot slope and dared everyone else to come take them. Ricardo spied someone about to make it to the top, and moved to intercept. His foot caught, and down he tumbled. He took out five fighters before he reached the bottom. The accidental tactic worked so well that, when they set up for the next bout, he lay down and had two knights roll him down upon the enemy. One of the all-time favorite events among my memories is a fall court event in Bryn Gwlad, for which his household cooked a feast that just beat the band. I can still taste the alfredo. I can also still see him walking up and down the aisles between the tables, making sure that no one shirked on stuffing themselves silly, patting folks on the shoulder and laughing and joking, all the while clenching a large wooden spoon in his fist as if it were a short sword.
Then, as if that weren’t enough work for one event, he co-starred in a Commedia del’arte play by Mot Cather (recently elevated to the Laurel) in which he played a lecherous, money-grubbing antagonist. We hurt ourselves laughing.
King Lloyd von Eaker and Queen Joselyn Allyne Reynard bestowed the Lion of Ansteorra on him in 1982, the year after I first met him. The rightness of their choice was clear to everyone who knew him. He loved life, people, parties, and a good fight - and being entertained by dancing girls.
I have several outstanding memories of Sir Riccardo da Pisa I'd like to share.
The first is one that many people, old and not so old, all share. After winning Kingdom Warlord once many moons ago, Riccardo travelled the kingdom to whip up fervor and enthusiasm for the upcoming war. Riccardo would stand up in court or at feast, and he would begin what you might term the Ansteorran War Revival and Holy Roller Incitement of the Black Star Warriors. Picture it: Ricardo striding back and forth across the hall, preaching the war like an old time gospel tent preacher, his eyes gleaming, the crowd following and chanting at his direction. The first dozen times Riccardo did it, I literally laughed until I cried. But even many years later when I'd heard it for the umpteenth repitition, it had the power to move me as well as others. Riccardo was able to take his own enthusiasm for the war, his own love of combat, and whip the crowd to a frenzy so that they felt his intensity and fervor and desire as well. In this one field of performance, not even Ragnar Ulfgarsson could outdo Riccardo.
The next set of memories is more of an en famille type of tale. For many a year, Riccardo was the Official Nipple Inspector of Bjornsborg. I don't quite recall how he got the title, but I suspect Briony Blaaslagen had something to do with it when she was Seneschal for Bjornsborg. The Ladies of Bjornsborg presented Riccardo with the insignia of his office, which he treasured and carried with him ever after: A red sequined pasty on a garter, worn upon his arm. When the Insignia was visible, no nipple was safe! Yet Riccardo never lost sight of the nature of the game -- he was extremely sensitive to each lady's limits. Some nipple inspections were, well, thorough. For those who were shy or who didn't care to play with the game, Riccardo never stepped beyond the bounds of propriety. I will never forget the day that the Ladies of Bjornsborg elected to play a joke on Riccardo -- several of the ladies accosted the good Italian knight whilst he was wearing his insignia. Much affectionate hugging and backrubbing and the like went on. What Riccardo did not know was that one lady had run her hands under the Official Insignia, slipped it off his arm, and handed it to Ivar's daughter Elaisaid, who was very young in those days. Poor Riccardo! He looked high and low for the Insignia, but never suspected that the littlest Bjornsborg Lady had it standing right beside him the whole time! (He eventually got it back, but only after being sentenced to give backrubs to make up for his "losing" the Insignia!)
Another memory of Riccardo came from the infamous Cattle Raid On Rimkus Ford, where Baron Robbie led his men into Bjornsborg lands to steal livestock, under the command of Riccardo as warleader. There were a dozen or more Bryn Gwlad warriors, faced only by eight Bjornsborgers, led by Sir Emrys Shaunnon. Most of the Bryn Gwladians bore long pikes, while I was the only Bjornsborger with a polearm. Seeing the men of the Halberd badge assembled on the far side of Rimkus Ford, Emrys quickly outlined his plan of battle -- we would march straight at the foemen, and at the last minute break right and try to flank them to remove the danger of that wall of pikes we faced. The only problem with this plan, when the charge began, was that I somehow had understood "stage right" and found myself suddenly looking across a sea of pikes at my fellow Bjornsborg defenders! There was no way to rejoin my comrades, so I did the first thing that popped into my mind: I slammed my pike across the shafts of all those enemy pikes, and then SAT on the handle. Rather than let go the polearms, the pikemen kept tugging at their now-useless hafts, until Bjornsborg blades bit them. The look on Riccardo's face when he realized what had happened was a study. I will always regret that no one snapped a photo at that moment!
Lastly, I will always recall the Candlemas some years ago where Riccardo cooked the famous Italian all-you-can-eat-then-we'll-feed-you-some-more feast. Riccardo in his apron, fussing over diner after diner, encouraging them to eat "just a little more" even when we were all stuffed and about to die of too much fantastic food. This was still the best feast I've ever attended, and I never eat Italian food mundanely anymore without finding that it does not hold a candle to Riccardo's wonderful cooking.
Truly, Riccardo was a man who will be missed.
by Leon Donne
It was the first of the wars with the Outlands, my first war. I was a foot soldier, fodder really, in the army of Rhabia Jan.
It was hot and dry... so very dry. But at last the two armies were arrayed before each other in order of battle. And my guts were as queasy as a maiden on her marriage bed.
Sir Ricardo was the biggest Bull Knight within earshot so I spoke my fears...
“Sir Knight, how are we going to win this thing?” l ask.
Sir Ricardo had a voice somewhere between a bark and a growl... “If you are still alive at the end of this day we will have won. That is how we win!” The knight’s attention went to more important matters.
On that field I took my first prisoners. Funny, just the other day I was recalling Sir Recardo...
Salute Good Knight
Regarding the Auctioning of Riccardo's Sword
(Originally posted to the Ansteorra Kingdom Email list by Gerald Norris)
I am a humble bard (humble, as may be), and the tales of battle that surround this crown tournament are numerous indeed. However, I was particularly moved by the auction of Ricardo's Sword and would tell this tale for those who were not there.
The auction was public, and done during feast. Baron Pendaron, his mighty voice ringing over the crowd, announced the beginning of the auction and regaled the audience with a small history of the sword. And the bidding started.
Fifty at first, then one hundred. One fifty. "Two hundred!" came a cry from the crowd. Elfsea and Lizard Tree each called their bid as the numbers jumped up to three hundred. Friends of Ricardo, those who had learned from him and those who had shared with him good times and bad, came forward to tell tales of honor and glory. His Excellency, Mahadi, a good knight and true, called his bid to keep the sword among the chivalry, "Three hundred and ten."
The bidding went higher, three hundred and fifty, and then it was four. But the heart of our kingdom is strong, and the generosity that pours from it was given evidence once again as the offers continued. An offer of four hundred and fifty came up, but Mahadi, determined, bid ten more. Huzzahs filled the tent, then silence.
Going for the third time.
Then a great cry as Mahadi was declared (as is often the case) victor.
Over four thousand dollars was raised that day for Ricardo's widow; a tenth of it and more from the sword alone. But these are only numbers, and like all numbers are cold and lifeless. The numbers alone do not show the love and care and greatness displayed that day for a widow's loss, and the memories of a great warrior.
I thank you again, for your patience.
In service to the dream, with a song in my heart,