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Date: June 05, 2007 10:12AM
an extremely rare museum quality English Civil war period broadsword dating to
This beautiful sword is of the exceptionally rare, "mortuary-hilted"
subcategory of the "basket hilted" style of sword manufacture. The
basket hilt (or handle) was a style of manufacture that, owing to its basket
shape afforded great protection to the hand and wrist during combat. The so
called mortuary hilts are basket hilts that were only used during a narrow 50
year period from 1620-1670. The mortuary hilted swords were the cavalry sword
of the English Civil war.
Although the majority of known mortuary hilts are simple basket hilts with a
double-shell like front plate and scroll-bars, a small number are decorated with
chiseled moustached heads, as with the present example. This form of decoration
is virtually unknown on any other swords of the period and academics have
speculated that the portrait represents the head of the beheaded martyr king,
Charles I. This is unlikely as these swords were used by both sides during the
civil war and many predate the execution of Charles I.
The English Civil war was fought between 1642-1651 between the supporters of the
British parliament and the supporters of the British Crown, the roundheads and
cavaliers respectively. The conflict claimed the life of Charles I, who was
beheaded in 1649. Subsequently Oliver Cromwell came to rule Britain in a period
known as the commonwealth, before the eventual restoration of the crown in 1660.
This sword is one of the finest known of its type and constitutes an
exceptional, museum quality item of early English Military history.
The Hilt (or handle of the sword) consists of a "boat shaped" bowl
(the large frontal plate), from which three guards emerge and are inserted into
the pommel. These are the knuckle-guard, the side knuckle guard and the rear
scroll guard. Two scroll guards join the two outer guards to the main knuckle
guard. There is a forward curved wrist guard at the top of the frontal plate
for added protection. The plate itself is profusely chiseled with foliate
decoration and three moustached heads. Towards the wrist-guard and main knuckle
guard ends of the plate two larger bearded heads lie with wide curling moustache
and stern expression. Orientated near the blade, two smaller heads lie with
thick, bushy hair. The robust blade is wide and tapers to a rounded point
terminally. For the first few inches of its length it has a double fuller
(depressed channel), incised with parallel lines. An inscription lies in the
fullers on either side, probably denoting the maker of the sword. The original
grip survives and is made of bone. Total length of sword: 42 inches. Maximum
width of the handle: 5 1/2 inches. Maximum width of blade: 1 1/2 inches.
An exceptional piece in remarkable preservation. See Cyril Mazansky,
"British Basket Hilted Swords: a typology of basket-type sword hilts",
2005 p. 260 for a very similar example in the York Castle museum (CA745).
Mazansky, in his typology refers to this hilt-type as a IIDii hilt.