The two handed sword, as we discussed in our last blog post, had a couple of different forms. The Arms & Armor 15th Century Two Hander is in a group of two handed swords that were seen in northern Europe, primarily in the British Isles and the German countries. This style is denoted with long broad blades and shorter cross guards. The hilt is not as long as later two handed styles and in the family of these swords is most often a form of the fish tail or scent stopper style pommel, being narrow at the base and flaring out in width as it rises.
This hilt family is of the same form as some of the Castillon finds from the river Dordogne in France. This group of swords may well have been English in origin and is thought to be associated with the battle fought near by in 1453. The last battle of the Hundreds Year War.
Our sword is based on one in the Wallace Collection, London. This original has been noted for having a cord bound grip. This is probably a mid 19th century restoration and not indicative of a style of grip finish in period. The piece at the wallace is covered in years of shellac and has acquired an almost coated appearance which some have mistaken to be string bound and covered in leather.
This massive sword is an elegant example of the early two handed sword. Its proportions are only minimally altered for its size but in most respects it it still proportioned as other swords of the period. This mid 15th C style was the sword of the day being taken to a larger size and used as a Greate Sword for combat on foot.
Review of 15th C Two Hander, apologies for the audio, forgot to pull a curtain to dampen the echo.
There are four other closely related swords to this piece in form. One is in the Museum of London and was found in the Thames. The other two, one in the Royal Armouries, Leeds, are associated with the Dordogne find mentioned above. They form the base of a group of two handed swords that Ewart Oakeshott suggested may well be an english form of two hander. This group is explored in an article by Neil Melville in the Park Lane Arms Fair vol 18 and his book The Two Handed Sword, its History Design and Use
Mid 15th Century depiction of Two Handed Sword in the hand of
Willem I Count of Holland
These swords would be a challenge to use for the uninitiated, but a mid 15th century warrior trained in their use could well have been described as Henry VIII was with such a sword in hand "...the kynge behaved hymself so wel, and delivered himselfe so valiauntly by his hardy prowes and greate strength, that the prayse and laude was geven to his grace..." a formidable weapon indeed.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.