Broadsword and targe – how Highlanders fought
A quick introduction to the use of this weapon combination, shot very quickly at Fight Camp 2018. Sorry about the background noise.
This was shot at the end of the last day, and I was a bit hoarse from shouting, camping, and beer. When the aircraft overhead gets very loud, I have added subtitles.
The targes we are using are the correct diameter, but the real things were a fair bit heavier, and offered some protection against even musketballs.
The basket formed of flat sheet and curved boars with shaped guards with toothed border and incised linear details, profusely applied with silver mounts, icons and mottos, large compressed pommel with conical, the leather bound wooden grip with lattice bound twisted wire, the single edged blade with triple fuller and signed to both sides. Blade 83 cm, overall 102 cm long.
Provenance: From the collection of the late Baron Earlshall
Note: This important early basket hilted sword offers an insight into not just the traditions of use and significance of swords in Scotland, but also reflects the long-standing pride Jacobite families held across the generations. While it is easy to consider this sword as a romantic fancy, a family relic which has been ‘improved’ by the addition of silver mounts, this would be short-sighted.
The closest comparison to this sword in its overall outline and formation of the basket is the highly important ‘Twysden Sword’ in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The fine silver encrusted basket hilted sword that is believed to have belonged to Sir William Twysden (1566 – 1628) who was closely connected with the Royal Stuart court and was knighted by King James I in 1603. While it cannot be said the Earlshall sword under discussion is by the same hand it must be agreed that the similarities in style offer a close connection.
The distinctive silver mounts that encrust the basket of Earlshall sword are a key area of interest. The precise date of each of the mounts still remains a matter of debate, some being original to the early 17th century manufacture of the hilt and others added around 1707 and the Act of Union.
The two classical medallions to the pommel appear to be contemporary to the manufacture and have comparisons to the Twysden sword and others in the Wallace Collection. The addition of mounts in the early 18th century, reflect a high-status family strong and very public in their support of the Jacobite cause – choosing to make a political and nationalistic statement with their family relic.
This was likely around the time of the union under Queen Anne or perhaps a little earlier at the time of the initial Jacobite uprisings. The addition of St. Andrew on the cross, thistles and overt naming of James Stuart are obvious and common icons of this period. Equally, the motto to the knuckle guard can leave nobody in doubt owner’s allegiances, “Prosperity to Schotland, No union, God save ye Kings James VIII."
A motto emblazoned in the centre of the sword – in full view when worn by the side or drawn in action – would have been a bold and to some a controversial statement. This motto can be seen on other Jacobite relics of c.1700, most notably to a group of basket hilted sword blades which bear the same motto and unusual spelling of Scotland. For a fine example of this blade type see ‘Two Great Scottish Collections; property from the Forbes of Pitsligo and the Marquesse of Lothian’ Sotheby’s 28th March 2017 lot 108, for the sword of Alexander, 4th Lord Forbes of Pitsligo.
The spelling of ‘Schotland’ has long been explained by the manufacture of the blades in Germany before their movement to Scotland to be hilted, a common practice on the 17th and 18th centuries. It is believed that a group of blades, engraved with strong Jacobite sentiment, were commissioned on the Continent for distribution around Scotland to capitalise on the growing anti-Union sentiment. The mounting of this particular blade on such a prestigious hilt may be a reflection of the high status, perhaps even Royal connections, of the owner.
While there is much to be discussed around the Earlshall sword, including its early provenance, it is certain that it is a historically important piece of Scottish arms, reflecting a key moment in the country’s history.
82 cm blade by Robert Mole & Son, Birmingham, Makers to the War & India Offices etched with scrolling foliage, thistles and crowned VR cypher, regulation steel basket hilt, wire bound fish skin covered grip, in its steel scabbard with two suspension rings, complete with its crimson faced buff leather liner and fringe tassel.
British Pattern 1828 Highland Officer’s Sword
Crimea era sword. Regimentally marked to the 71st. Fuller marked to “Mayer & Mortimer Edinburgh”. Much of blade etching has been polished off over years.
By Henry Wilkinson, Pall Mall, London, [serial] no. 18920 for [the year] 1873. With tapering fullered double-edge blade etched along the forte on one side with crowned ‘VR’ cypher between symmetrical designs of thistles, and along the other with crowned regimental details between symmetrical foliage, and regulation steel guard retaining its buff leather liner faced in red woollen cloth and with red tassel, in its steel scabbard (some dents) with two rings for suspension (some light pitting and now varnished overall). 82.3 cm. blade.
The lighting is bad, so the blade looks like it’s been gilded.
A photograph of the fencing equipment of the British Lord Byron, originally published in Munsey’s Magazine. On the wall can be seen Byron’s basket-hilted broadsword, small-sword, singlestick, and fencing masks.
According to Henry Angelo’s Reminiscences, Byron began studying fencing with Angelo at the age of twelve; Volume Two of these memoirs contain several anecdotes referencing Byron’s training with the foil and broadsword.
Byron’s physical habits are described on Wikipedia as follows:
“He was renowned for his personal beauty, which he enhanced by wearing curl-papers in his hair at night. He was athletic, being a competent boxer and horse-rider and an excellent swimmer. He attended pugilistic tuition at the Bond Street rooms of former prizefighting champion ‘Gentleman’ John Jackson, and recorded these sparring sessions, with the man he called ‘the Emperor of Pugilism’, in his letters and journals. Byron and other writers, such as his friend Hobhouse, described his eating habits in detail. At the time he entered Cambridge, he went on a strict diet to control his weight. He also exercised a great deal, and at that time wore a great number of clothes to cause himself to perspire. For most of his life he was a vegetarian, and often lived for days on dry biscuits and white wine. Occasionally he would eat large helpings of meat and desserts, after which he would purge himself.”
Despite his reputation for being “wicked”, rakish, and prone to scandal, Byron was a noted defender of Luddites, a vocal supporter of Catholic emancipation, and an early practitioner of vegetarianism.
By Wilkinson inscribed to A.G. MacKay of the 13th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Straight 31 inch fullered blade etched with panels of thistles, one side with royal cipher and Wilkinson maker’s markings, reverse with regimental coat-of-arms and designation and riband inscribed A.G. MacKay/13th A. & S. H. Nickel-plated pattern hilt retaining the leather and red wool liner and the red silk tassel; grip wrapped in grey shagreen and twisted silver wire. Brown leather-covered service scabbard with German silver mounts.
Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui (Major Kemp)with his wife (probably his third wife, Te Mata Kaihoe)
Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui NZC (died 15 April 1898) was a Māori military commander and noted ally of the government forces during the New Zealand Wars. First known as Te Rangihiwinui, he was later known as Te Keepa, Meiha Keepa, Major Keepa or Major Kemp.
Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui is holding a Pattern 1828 Highland Officer’s Sword. This was a Sword of Honour given to him by Queen Victoria.
A lovely example of a Highland Light Infantry Field Officer’s sword (ranked Major or higher), by Henry Wilkinson, dating to 1900. The sword had been untouched for a long time when it came to me and had light rust on much of the hilt – this has been cleaned, but I am certain that more gentle work can be done here and the sword could warrant a professional restoration of the hilt. The blade is wonderfully etched and in good condition, with standard patina for the age. The hilt is all secure (Highland hilts can unscrew, so you can take it apart and put it back together again easily – this was to allow swapping out the Field Officer’s scroll hilt with a full basket hilt for parade purposes). The grip is in very nice condition with all the shagreen and wire. The liner is present if somewhat aged – you can still buy these liners from Pooley or Crisp, so that could be stored and a new one put in there for display purposes – they tie in place and are easily removable as in the photos.