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Longsword

Longsword, found in Scotland, 1400–20

Longsword, found in Scotland, 1400–20

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This is one of an extremely small group of swords that survive from medieval Scotland. The hilt is of a very distinct shape. The quillons of the cross-guard droop towards the blade and terminate in spoon (or spatulate) shapes. The throat of the cross-guard is elongated towards the grip (now missing) and there is a small tongue or languet which protrudes slightly over the centre of the blade on both sides. There are traces of copper-alloy on the hollow pommel and small wedges used to fix the blade – probably originally from Germany – onto the hilt. The pommel itself is of a distinctive teardrop shape.

That the shape of the hilt was recognised as distinctly Scottish is evident from documentary sources. In 1271 a Scottish merchant based in Lincoln bequeathed a ‘Scottish sword’ and an English legal case of 1291 refers to a ‘gladio scotico’. In the inventory of the arms and armour of Thomas, Duke of Gloucester made in 1397 was an ‘espee descoce’. The Duke had led armies into Scotland in 1384 and 1385. A document written in the Tower of London in 1455 describes a ‘Scottish sword hilt and pommel covered with silver and a small crown about the pommel which was stolen out of the King’s Chamber and the blade broken and cast into the Thames’. This type of sword is also accurately depicted on the tomb slab of a soldier who was killed fighting for the earl of Mar with men from the north-eastern Lowlands in the battle of Harlaw in 1411.

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