Object Title

Bearing sword

Bearing sword



Object Number



From the Royal Ordnance Depot, Weedon (Northamptonshire), 1958; latterly (1928 list) no. 473 (part of no. 226 in 1927 list). (Latterly Loan [CL]90). This or IX.1025 was earlier in in the Tower since at least the late 18th century (Grose 1786). It is probable that these are the 'Two large Swords of State, with plain cross-guards. Blade, 5 ft 4 in.' listed by Hewitt in his 1859 catalogue, under IX.25 and 26. In MS I.11, which gives the Dillon re-numbering, the relevant entries are marked 'Returned to Store' and no inventory numbers are given. If they were in store without inventory numbers, this might explain why they were sent to Weedon.

Physical Description

Taken largely from Norman and Wilson 1982. Of great size for processional use. Steel hilt coinsisting of an octagonal discoid pommel with a shallow circular recess in each face, and long straight cross-guard (quillons) of square section expanded slightly at the centre to take the thick tang. Massive tapering blade of flattened diamond section with a shallow fuller extending for almost half its length. There is of symbols on each face at one time inliad with copper or brass: from the hilt to the point there are three pairs of parallel lines intersecting, a stylized wolf, the letter M in black letter, and a fleur-de-lis. On one face there is in addition as star of five points. Original grip of wood covered with leather with a slight swelling towards its centre from which it tapers sharply towards the pommel.


Dimensions: Overall length: 2270 mm (91 in.), Blade length: 1664 mm (65.5 in.), Blade width, by hilt: mm ( in.) Weight: 14 lb. 6 oz.

Inscriptions and Marks

On the grip, painted: 473 and 86 (the former at least is a Weedon number).On blade, stamped and originally inlaid: in copper or brass. a series of marks described above, including a letter M, a stylized wolf and a five-pointed star.

Bibliographic References

F. Grose, A Treatise on ancient armour and weapons, London, 1786, pl. 22 (either this one or IX.1025), with the 'Giant's armour' (I.22) (repr. in Richardson 1989 (see Notes below), p. 774, fig. 38).

A.R. Dufty and A. Borg, European Swords and Daggers in the Tower of London, London, 1974, p. 16, Pl. 10a.

H. Seitz, Blankwaffen, 2 vols, Brunswick, 1965 & 1968, I, p. COMPL., fig. 102 (EXTRACT).

A V B Norman and G M Wilson, Treasures from the Tower of London, Norwich, 1982, pp. 45-6, no. 15 (illus. - full length) - 'hilt English, the blade German, Passau, early 15th century'.

[source of this provenance unknown, perhaps a confusion with another sword - PJL].


IX.1025 is very similar. 'This [i.e. IX.1025 but by implication the others like it] was presumably one of the processional swords of the early Lancastrian Kings, either Henry IV (1399-1413) or Henry V (1413-22)' (Norman and Wilson 1982). Another similar sword in Westminster Abbey is traditionally the sword of King Edward III (Laking, 'Record of European Armour and Arms', II, fig. 707).
For other swords in the Royal Armouries with related blades see Notes under IX.1. A bearing sword with a very large blade, decorated in a similar technique and sharing the same motifs with IX.1 and 2 is in the Museum of Scotland (no. H.LA 6). It belonged to the Sempills of Elliestoun and the blade is rather more tapered than 1024 or 1025.
Grosse's plate (22) showing one of the swords in question was partly used by Thomas Rowlandson in his watercolour 'The Horse Armoury at the Tower': for the armour Rowlandson substituted one at Warwick Castle (Grosse, pl. 44), but he appears to have retained the sword and lance shown in Grosse's plate 44, though the sword blade was cut off at the elbow (see T. Richardson, 'A Rowlandson source', 'Burlington Magazine', CXXXI, no. 1040, Nov. 1989, pp. 773-5). This altered the sword resembles the unusual pollaxe, VII.1583. Rowlanson clearly had access to Hamilton's illustrations in Grosse (publ. 1786) so it is possible that he also had access to Hamilton's illustration of weapons in the Tower, included in Richard Skinner's 'History and description of the Cities of London and Westminster', 1795, which included VII.1583 (see A. Borg, 'Two studies in the history of the Tower Armouries, 'Archaeologia', CV, 1976, pp. 317-352, at. p. 338, pl. LXXIV); though, on balance, the resemblence of Rowlandson's shortened sword to VII.1583 is probably just co-incidence.