Dagger and sheath


The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Object Type
In England during the early 17th century it was fashionable to call a certain type of dagger a 'Buckingham' dagger, since its popularity coincided with the ascendancy of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), the favourite of James I. The cross-guard is usually of iron overlaid in silver and the grips are of wood. In this example, the blades of flat-diamond section are etched with Latin mottoes, a date and Tudor roses. Traces of gilding were found on the blade when it was recently cleaned.

Ownership & Use
Daggers in the 16th and early 17th centuries were usually worn 'en suite' with a sword, but by the 1630s they were carried separately. The leather sheath dated 1654 is a replacement for an earlier one and the pocket at the front would have carried a by-knife and a bodkin.

Historical Associations
By tradition this once belonged to Sir John Hotham. Deprived of his office as Governor of Hull by Charles I, he initially supported the Parliamentary cause but his ambitious nature soon brought him into conflict with leading Parliamentarians like Cromwell and Colonel Hutchinson. The 17th-century historian Lord Clarendon described him as being 'without any bowels of good nature or the least sense or touch of generosity'. Found guilty of intriguing with the Royalists, Hotham was beheaded in London in 1645.

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  • Title: Dagger and sheath
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Provenance: Given by Lady MacAlister