Object Title

Sword - Backsword

Sword - Backsword



Object Number



Formerly in the collection of the Royal United Services Institution

Physical Description

Hilt of Mortuary type, Japanned and gilded with foliate patterns and with trophies (including Union flags) on the pommel and dish. Pierced dish guard, with short painted langets, one broken off. Knuckle-guard and two counter guards attached by screws to pommel. The latter ovoid, with button. Original fish skin grip with copper Turk's heads. Single-edged blade, with single fuller near the back. There are two damage marks on one side of the blade.


Japanned, Piercing, Gilding


BladeLength810 mm
OverallLength970 mm
OverallWeight1077 g

Inscriptions and Marks



Bibliographic References

R.R. holmes, Naval and Military Trophies and personal Relics of British Heroes: A seies of watercolour drawings, London: J. C. Nimmo, 1896, illus. Plate I, The Swords of Oliver Cromwell and John Hampden. by William Gibb.

A Letham and B E Sargeaunt, Official catalogue of the Royal United Service Museum [Whitehall, London], 3rd edn, London, the Council of the Royal United Service Institution, 1908, p. 28, no. 209.

A.R. Dufty and A. Borg, European Swords and Daggers in the Tower of London, London, 1974, pp. 46-7, Pls 46a & b (two views of hilt).

M. D. Coe, et. al., Swords and Hilt Weapons, London, 1989, p. 76 (hilt).

D. Blackmore, Arms and Armour of the English Civil Wars, London, 1990, p. 25, fig. 31 (view looking down on hilt), p. 58, Pl. 6 (hilt).

C. Blair, 'Some swords associated with Oliver Cromwell', Park Lane Arms Fair, 12 (1995), pp. 26-33, at p. 27.

D. Blackmore, 'Arms and the Man', Royal Armouries Yearbook, I, 1996, pp. 107-110, at p. 107, illus. fig. 1 (det. hilt).

T. Richardson and G. Rimer, Treasures from the Tower in the Kremlin, Moscow, 1997, cat. no. 17, pp. 60-61 (col. illus. - gen. view det. hilt and base of blade), 176 (b. & W. illus. - det. hilt and top of blade) - 'British, about 1640'.

Royal Armouries, Civil War: a Royal Armouries exhibition sponsored by the Times, Royal Armouries, London, 1992, p. 32, no. 20 - 'English, c. 1640 [and provanace]'.

C Mazansky, British basket-hilted swords. A typology of basket-type sword hilts, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2005, p. 256, type IICa, 'Mortuary' pommel type III (illus.): 'c.1650'.


This sword is (according to the Royal United Services Museum catalogue), reputed to have been that used by Oliver Cromwell during the siege of Drogheda in 1649, where he himself led the storming party to the final assault. It is also stated that two marks on one side of the blade are said to have been made by musket balls [though this is now considered unlikely] and was presented to the R U S I by J S Simmons Smith Esq.

A scrapbook, forming part of the Tangye Collection at the Museum of London, contains some text and an engraving of this sword (with a watch, also supposed to have belonged to Cromwell) (found by David Blackmore, 2002; copy on inv. file). It gives Simmons Smith's first name as Joshua and says he inherited the sword as a collateral descendant of Cromwell. Blackmore (1996) points out that the black japanning and painted gold decoration are probably later because latter includes Union flags which were confined to the navy until 1707.
For other swords associated with Oliver Cromwell see Blair 1995 and W B Redfern, 'On a Cromwellian sword', 'Connoisseur', 60, no. 238 (June 1921), pp. 99-100 where IX.1096 is mentioned in passing (photocopy on inv. file).