Among the most interesting reproductions we've done over the years is our Edward III Sword. The original sword has been an object of controversy since it first came into public awareness in the late 19th century when it was displayed in the Parisian gallery of an antiquities dealer who was later discovered to be selling many forgeries of very high quality. This led to a century long debate on the authenticity of the sword, involving many of the most prominent experts on European arms, including Ewart Oakeshott on whose notes we have based our reproduction.
Edward III was king of England and lord of Ireland from 1327 until his death in 1377. Below is a photo of his funereal effigy from Westminster Cathedral. Edward's long reign was characterized by continual conflict with France. In 1337 Philip VI of France confiscated Aquitaine and Ponthieu from the young English monarch, who refused to give fealty to the French king. At this point Edward, who was the grandson of Philip IV, decided to assert his right to the French crown, setting in motion the 100 Years War.
In addition to being one of the most important monarchs of the 14th century, Edward III also had a rad beard!
King Edward III is best known today for his victories in France, particularly that at Crecy in 1346 where he defeated a much larger French force with his army of 15,000 English knights, men-at-arms, and longbowmen. This was the battle that famously introduced Europe to the power of the English and Welsh archers. Edward III was the father of Edward of Woodstock, The Black Prince, who campaigned for him in France and Spain (check out this blog post about The Black Prince, and this one about his sword).
Edward III and his son The Black Prince
Edward's claim to be the legitimate ruler of both England and France was reflected in his arms. Below is a stained glass window that carries the quartered arms of France and England, which he adopted.
The Arms of Edward III
Edward was also deeply influenced by the Arthurian romances that were highly popular among the Western European upper classes at the time. He valued chivalric ideals and tried to embody them through his martial prowess and knightly pomp. In pursuit of these ideals the young Edward created the Most Noble Order of the Garter to build a brotherhood of knights based on the Arthurian Knights of the Roundtable.
The insignia of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
The original sword
The original sword first came to light in 1893 in the collection of a Parisian antiquities dealer who was discovered to be a seller of very high quality fakes, along with some original pieces. The Edward III Sword was caught up in the scandal over fake artifacts and was largely lumped in with some clearly fake objects with which it was displayed. When the sword was examined by Ewart Oakeshott in the early 1960's he became convinced that it was in fact the original and true sword of the King. If you are interested in a highly detailed and rather personal account of the conflict between Oakeshott and various other experts on the sword check out appendix D of Records of the Medieval Sword where Oakeshott makes his case for the authenticity of the piece.
Physically, the sword is a type XVIIIa longsword with an iron hilt, heavily overlaid with a thick layer of very pure gold. The hilt is decorated with rosettes and the pommel has an enameled inset of the crossed arms of England and France on one side and a disc of translucent chalcedony, or rock crystal, with cloth remnant visible beneath it, evidently some kind of relic. The blade is decorated with engravings including the sigil of the order of the garter and a portcullis on one side, and a smaller engraving of the sigil on the reverse. The original sword was, to the best of our knowledge, last sold at auction in 2012 and is now in a private collection.
The pommel is decorated with the quartered arms of England and France
In creating our replica we opted to make the hilt out of bronze rather than iron to be able to offer it with or without gilding. The leather wrap on the original is of tanned snakeskin, probably Adder, we have done it in pig skin to keep costs down. We have also opted to leave the opposite side of the pommel undecorated for the same reason, though we have done custom examples with insets. We have reproduced the details on the blade very closely from the original notes and photographs taken by Oakeshott when he examined it. Our close relationship with Oakeshott allowed us to gain additional insights about the sword by conferring with him, resulting in a very close replica. This is truly a kingly sword with deep and compelling connections to the English age of chivalry.
Engraved sigil of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and a portcullis
The opposite side of the sword
The sword is large but lively in the hand. It seems optimized for use in one hand, possibly while mounted, but can be easily be used in two when afoot. It is equally suited to hewing and thrusting. The blade is 2.44 inches wide at the cross, with a rigid diamond section tapering significantly toward the point. Though it is a substantial weapon, weighing 3.4 pounds, it moves easily and gracefully with a point of balance 3 inches from the cross. The sword has an overall length of 41.6 inches, blade length of 33.5 inches, and a grip length of 5.75 inches. We offer it either gilt or in polished bronze.
This sword is as practical as it is beautiful, exemplifying the nobility and martial prowess so valued by King Edward III. Perhaps we are romantics, but when handling this sword it is easy to feel traces of the noble ideals it continues to represent.
Check out this in-depth review of the sword from MyArmory.com