This is one of the finer swords in the Museum's collection. It may have originally come from the armoury of the Electors of Bavaria. The chiselling of the hilt is exceptionally fine and is based on designs by the French engraver Etienne Delaune.
The blade is a high quality Toledo blade signed by the prestigious maker Alonso Perez. Perez worked at the shop of the famous swordmaker, Gil de Almau who produced several swords were for the Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II of Spain
Swords were not just weapons but important decorative elements in masculine costume. They were symbols of honour and rank for their owners throughout Europe. The most common sword worn by gentlemen with their civilian dress from the middle of the 16th century onwards was the rapier. From 1560 it was applied almost exclusively to a fencing sword for civilian use. It was usual for rapiers to be accompanied by matching daggers. The rapier was a thrusting and slashing weapon with a slender light blade, while the dagger was more robust, used primarily for parrying and for thrusting in close. Rapier scabbards were suspended from a belt in a form of sling while the dagger was generally worn in a sheath on the left hip.
The classic rapier of the period 1570-1630 had a ‘swept’ hilt like this one. This was made up of interlinked bars and rings in front of and behind the guard sweeping in an elegant curve from the rear of the hilt to the knuckle guard. It afforded much more protection for the hand than the older straight quillons but was still not immune from the thrust of a thin rapier blade.