“Prepare every vessel that floats. At dawn, we’re at war.” —Elizabeth Swann
I remember being surprised and impressed with Kiera Knightley’s performance when I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl in theaters back in 2003 (gods, I feel old just thinking about it). There was an epic smartness about the film that offered an excellent balance of farce and fantasy, adventure and eeriness, drama and action, character and comedy. While I didn’t care as much for the following Pirates films, I remained more or less impressed with Elizabeth’s character all throughout the films. (I mean, I thought the part where she marries Will in the middle of a battle crossed the line from silly to kind of dumb, and only getting to see her husband one day every ten years made for a sucky happily-ever-after, but on the whole she remains consistent as a strong, interesting female lead.)
It’s a common trope in pirate filmography where the Governor’s kidnapped daughter replaces the kidnapped princess as the story’s damsel in distress. One of my favorite aspects of Elizabeth Swann’s character in the Pirates of the Caribbean films is that she really only serves this function for the first third of the first movie. After her initial rescue, her usefulness increases a hundredfold. From there on out she battles cursed pirates, regular pirates, giant sea monsters, and mutant fish-people beside the rest of the heroes with a believable level of skill and with a minimum of screaming.
Indeed, Elizabeth gets the chance to show off her leadership abilities leading into the climactic ship duel at the end of At World’s End, when she gets elected King of the Pirates and leads her fleet against the Armada of the East India Trade Company. I didn’t find her pep talk to the pirates to be quite worthy of Henry V, but it was a decent little motivational speech. (Of course, it turns out to be superfluous, given that the East India fleet wusses out following the destruction of their flagship, so viewers were robbed of the epic, large-scale naval battle we only thought we were being set up for.)
Though Elizabeth ends up in her underdress a couple times and has to wear a corset for part of the first movie, for the most part her outfits over the course of the movies were effective for a pirate scrum and thematically appropriate for the pirate adventure genre. Her Pirate King outfit is possibly my favorite of Kiera’s costumes. While not heavily armored, it affords a fair level of protection without hampering her swashbuckling skills.
Elizabeth’s mantle is a thick, black leather number, protecting her shoulder joints from the bite of rapiers and cutlasses. Her coat is heavy, padded wool, likely functioning similar to a medieval padded hauberk. Though not proof against direct hits, the wool padding should offer decent protection from minor damage from blades. The leather harness at Miss Swan’s waist should offer superior protection to her abdomen, especially coupled with the padding from her coat—proof against most sword blades and all but a direct, point blank shot from a flintlock. Her hip joints and upper legs are protected from incapacitating slashes by a waist-cloak of leather scales. Like her harness, these should protect against all but the heaviest of hits.
Lastly, Elizabeth’s pretty head is protected from the sun and elements faced aboard ship by a snappy leather hat of Singapore make. Her trousers are loose cotton for effective movement aboard ship or during boarding actions. Boots are light, flexible leather, higher in the front for protection against disabling blows to the legs, but open behind the calves for improved movement.
Anyway, thanks as always for reading, folks. Take care and stay awesome!