Object Title

Arming Sword

The sword used in combat, when the soldier is 'armed' and worn at his side, is often called an 'arming' sword. Swords were highly regarded weapons that were typically associated with higher-status soldiers. High-quality swords were expensive knightly weapons and they were highly prized. However, shorter and less elaborate swords did serve as sidearms for the common footsoldier.


During the Middle Ages, most swords were light and easy to wield, and could be used to attack armour. Late medieval Europe saw the development of the art of fencing and a finer control of the blade. This sometimes involved looping the finger over the cross of the guard, so during the 14th century a ring or bar was sometimes added to protect the finger. By the third quarter of the 15th century some swords had had developed crosses that included more elaborate finger guards and ‘S shaped hand guards.

During the later Middle Ages swords developed a blade of flattened-diamond section, tapering to a needle-like point, which gave increased rigidity for thrusting with.

Use and Effect

The robust, acutely pointed, blades of some swords enabled them to attack mail and plate armour more effectively, as the blade sought out the gaps in plate armour.

Knights could carry two swords, the 'Grete' (great) sword together with a shorter sword for more close work. A knight, David Holgrave, is described in 1372 with "one on the belt and the other at the arçon of the saddle" of his horse.



Bob Woosnam-Savage