Object Title

Sword

Sword

Date

1325

Object Number

IX.5501

Provenance

Purchased at auction from Christie's (London), 24 April 2001, lot 44. Stated in Christie's catalogue (and in Gwynn 1990 - see Notes) to have been recovered from the River Nene, near Oundle, Northamptonshire in 1964. Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 22 November 1965, lot 50 (sold to Lee)

Physical Description

Copper alloy disc pommel with chamfered edges and a slightly raised shield on each face charged with an incised coat-of-arms (see below); the remaining surfaces of the pommel decorated with incised radial bands, each composed of a grid of lines. Quillons of oblong section, tapering towards the tips and slightly inclined towards the blade.


Double-edged blade of flattened diamond section, tapering throughout its length. The tang of tapering rectangular section showing, in the patination in a few places, what may be the original wooden scales.


The coats-of-arms on the pommel is difficult to read and may be purely decorarative. The arms might be blazoned as: 'a fesse and in chief a bar dancetty' though the representation on the two sides are not identical. Also, it is unclear whether the minor features shown represent an attempt to show divisions of the field or charges, or simply decorative diapering (see Notes for possible identifications).


Condition on acquisition: in excavated condition; much surface pitting overall; the blade edges much corroded.

Dimensions

Dimensions: Overall length: 800 mm (31 1/2 in.), Blade length: 662 mm (26 1/16 in.), Width across quillons: 164 mm (6 1/2 in.), Pommel thickness: 27 mm (1 1/16 in.), Pommel diameter: 43 mm (1 11/16 in.) Weight: 705 g (1 lb 9 oz)

Bibliographic References

L. Southwick, The price guide to Antique edged weapons, Woodbridge, 1982, p. 18, no. 11 (illus. - det. of hilt and part of blade).

R.T. Gwynn, Catalogue of the collection of Reginald T. Gwynn, photocopied typescript and illustrations, prepared for private circulation, 1990, unpaginated, part 1, no. A84, illus. (overall and dets of both sides of hilt).

Royal Armouries, An introduction to princely armours and weapons of childhood (authors: B Clifford and K Watts), Leeds, Royal Armouries, 2003, p. 8 (illus. - full length).

Dorling Kindersley, Weapon. A visual history of arms & armour, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 2006, p. 62-3 (col. illus., 3rd from top).

C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011, volume 1

Notes

Gwynn 1990 expands slightly on the provenance, stating that the 'sword was discovered on the bank of the River Nene near Oundle, downstream of a mediaeval ford (now bridged) leading from Oundle towards Normans Cross. Dredging operations had thrown it from the river bed to the bank. [added in MS] 1964.'.
Possible identifications for the coat-of-arms on the pommel: C. Humphery-Smith, 'Anglo-Norman armory two. An ordinary of thirteenth-century armorials', Canterbury, 1984, p. 383, gives 'gules a fess and in chief a bar dancetty or' for Geoffrey Sergiones; Papworth's 'Ordinary' ('An alphabetical dictionary...'), 1874, gives 'argent a fess and in chief a bar dancetty (or indented) gules' for Hacelut, Hanchet and other simlar names.
Oakeshott ('Sword in the Age of Chivalry', London, 1964), sword type XV; pommel type H (Gwynn 1990). Since then a large number of swords of type XV were found together in France (the so-called Castillon find) and some of these are illustrated in R.E. Oakeshott, 'Records of the medieval sword', Woodbridge, p. 128 ff; see entry for IX.3683 for further details.
The Christie's sale catalogue (24 April 2001) compared the sword with one in the Wallace Collection (no. A462), latterly described by A.V.B. Norman as French and dated to 1270-1350 (J.G. Mann, 'Wallace Collection catalogues. European arms and armour', 2 vols, London, 1962, pp. 242-3, Pl. 106; A.V.B. Norman, (as foregoing) 'Supplement', London, 1986, p. 114; also Oakeshott 1991, op. cit., p. 128, no. XV.1 (illus.)).
Gwynn 1990 compared the sword (for size) with one in the London Museum (mus. no. C.2250), found in the Thames at Wandsworth and formerly in the collection of Sir Guy Laking which is 'almost identical in proportion' (G.F. Laking, 'A record of European armour and arms', 5 vols, 1920, I, pp. 134 (fig. 168 - hilt only), 136), and with another, that of Don Juan, el de Tarifa, a son of Alfonso X of Castile (killed 1319), preserved in Toledo Cathedral (Oakeshott 1964, op. cit., Pl. 17). Gwynn adds: 'it has been suggested that these small swords, of which there are few survivals, were made for boys, but it is more likely they are riding swords'.
IX.2225 is another small sword in the Royal Armouries collection, probably also a 'riding sword'.
Notes by Thom Richardson made shortly prior to the sale (see below) mention another 'riding sword' in Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries (Glasgow District Council): reg. no. not presently known.
Gwynn 1990 also says that 'less than a dozen European medieval swords bearing a coat-of-arms are so far recorded'. No attempt has been made here to reconstruct the list that Gwynn had presumably compiled but a number are illustrated in Oakeshott 1964 and [R.] E. Oakeshott, 'Records of the medieval sword', Woodbridge, 1991.
For a note on R.T. (Peter) Gwynn and his collection, by Claude Blair, see Christie's sale catalogue. Other notes on the collection, made shortly before the sale by Thom Richardson, are on the inv. file for IV.698.