Object Title

'Bastard' Sword (hand-and-a-half sword)

The 'Bastard' sword was a hybrid sword. Its longer grip made it suitable for use with one or two hands, depending on what was required in battle.


High quality swords were expensive knightly weapons and they were highly prized. Shorter and less elaborate swords served as sidearms for the common footsoldier.

During the Middle Ages, most swords were relatively light. By the 15th century, larger and heavier swords had been developed, including the 'Bastard' or 'Hand-and-a-half' sword. They were hybrid swords that enabled blows to be delivered with the power of a two-handed sword but could also be wielded with one hand.

Medieval swords of this era typically had a cruciform hilt, alluding to the knightly principles of chivalry and the 'Soldiers of Christ'. The pommel, at the top of the sword hilt, was of various shapes and made from a variety of materials. Richer swords even had pommels made of rock crystal and chalcedony, and some were left hollow so that they could contain a holy relic.

Many swords were made in continental European centres like Lorraine, Cologne, and Solingen. They were then exported to England, France and elsewhere.

Use and effect

The Bastard Sword (with a longer grip) could be used for thrusting or cutting and had fearsome capabilities on the battlefield.

It was used as close-combat weapon and was capable of striking a massive blow. Its thrusts were deadlier, which improved their effectiveness when attacking plate armour. The blades of such swords could also be acutely pointed, which helped them to find the gaps in plate armour.

The blade could be the same length as a single-hand sword but the tang and the grip were long enough to accommodate two hands, which provided better leverage and more power.

Swords were worn in scabbards slung from waist belts, many of which were highly decorated with plaques and heraldic designs.

Although sword design changed through time, the blade remained an efficient killing tool.


Blade length 997 mm (39 ¼ ins)
Overall length 1200 mm (48 ½ ins)
Weight 1.8 kg (4 lb)



Bob Woosnam-Savage