British Diplomatic Uniform and Sword
For your 18th Century to early 19th Century adventures.
“Spadroon is a militarised smallsword” – This is a statement I hear a lot, and one I would like to see an end to. Not because the smallsword is a bad weapon, but because that statement undermines what the spadroon is and how it developed. The implication is that gentlemen in the late 18th century started adopting a slightly beefy smallsword to utilize their existing smallsword/foil skills. But this ignores the fact that spadroons were not new, they were not all for gentlemen, and that the development of smallswords and spadroons was a parallel one.
The spadroon was not based on the smallsword, they were both creations of a trend towards double shell simpler hilted swords that emphasized the point and were easy to wear/carry. This development really began in the early 17th century, and in some cases a little earlier in the late 16th. The smallsword is often said to have evolved out of the rapier, and so did the spadroon from military swords of the period. The mortuary, walloon and other munitions grade military swords of the 17th century spreading approx. 1630-1680. These were not even exclusively ”gentlemans” swords, but general use military swords.
Additionally, the “Spadroon is a militarised smallsword” statement dismisses it’s cutting ability as a throw away feature. Assuming it is merely beefed up smallsword for war that still can’t really cut. Yet that is far from true. The spadroon is a cut and thrust sword just as most 19th century sabres were intended to be. Are there bad examples? Sure, but don’t judge an entire category of swords by those bad examples. Don’t even judge the infamous 1796 spadroon by the bad examples, as there is incredible variety to be found. Blades found on the 1796 can be anything from as light as a smallsword to as beefy as some 17th century backswords. All the while still being a spadroon. I am not including the really beefy broadsword bladed 1796s. Even the double shell guards of the 1796 get criticized because they are a copy of the smallsword and not suited to cut and thrust, and yet this ignores the fact that double shell guatds were really popular on military cut and thrust swords for approximately 200 years, for hangers, cutlass, spadroons and broadswords.
The spadroon often looks similar to a smallsword at a casual glance, but that is because of simultaneous development. The spadroon was not a short-lived fad or experiment. Its service was as long as the smallsword, and in some cases longer still. Time to separate these weapons and appreciate them both for what they were and their long and colourful histories.
–Nick Thomas, Academy of Historical Fencing
I agree with Nick, and would also add that many spadroon hilts do not bear any resemblance to smallsword hilts. “Spadroon” really describes a blade type (straight cut and thrust blade) more than an overall sword type (blade and hilt). Spadroons can have just about any hilt type that was to be found in the 17th-19th Centuries. A while back Nick made a nice graphic showing various spadroon hilts over time. Click here for a larger version.
British Court Sword, Possibly for a Deputy Lieutenant of a County
I am interested in fighting swords, and so I tend to post swords that would have actually seen (or been capable of) combat. I am making an exception tonight and sharing some nice photos of a Victorian era British court sword. I don’t know anything about them, really, as there isn’t–to my knowledge–any good publication about them. All I have to say about it is that it has a lovely gilt brass hilt with a crowned VR cypher, and an etched blade with scrolling foliage and stands of arms. A pretty thing to wear to court, gentlemen!
Photos from OldSwords.com (Item 21072).
Victorian Court Sword for a Lieutenant of an English County, blade etched and polished H. Hill, 3 Old Bond St, London (1850–1855) with profuse scrolling foliage, regulation gilt brass hilt with crowned VR cypher above laurel, crown pommel, copper wire bound grip, in its leather scabbard with gilt brass mounts, locket applied with gilt maker’s label. Blade 79cm, overall 92cm.
Victorian Diplomat’s Court Sword, blade etched Gillott & Hasell, 36 Strand, London (1853-1868), crowned VR, crossed lances and profuse scrolling foliage, regulation gilt brass hilt with a pair of burning phoenix, thunderflashes, helmet-shaped pommel, laurel on knuckle bow, gilt wire-bound grip, bullion dress knot, in its gilt brass mounted leather scabbard. Blade 79cm, overall 92cm.
Victorian Court Sword, double edged etched and polished blade with W. Buckmaster & Co., New Burlington Street, London, W (1842-1884) crossed flags, scrolls and foliage retaining most original polish, regulation gilt brass hilt with beaded edges, a crown in relief on the shellguard and engraved grip retaining virtually all its original gilt finish overall, in its leather scabbard with engraved gilt brass mounts and leather frog. Blade 78.5cm, overall 94cm.
Replace that small sword with a rapier for maximum stabbing and replace that spadroon with an arming sword for max options
This was obviously just a bit of fun, but the thing to keep in mind is that these swords are period specific to the 18th Century to early 19th Century (Georgian period).