Sword of State


British Museum

British Museum

This large two-handed sword comprises a double-edged blade and a hilt of gilt brass with enamel and incised decoration. It was a ceremonial sword of the Prince of Wales.
There are punched marks on either side of the blade in the form of two running wolves, which suggest that it was made in Germany. However, the hilt was decorated, and possibly even made, in England. One side of the grip shows the English royal coat of arms, and those of Wales, Cornwall and St George on the same side of the pommel. The other side of the grip is decorated with the arms of Mortimer quartering Burgh and Chester. Along the quillons (hand-guard), around the pommel and down the sides of the grip are incised one or more inscriptions, which have not yet been deciphered though they may have protective meanings.
Although swords of similar size were used in battle from the fourteenth century onwards, this sword had a ceremonial purpose. The heraldry indicates that it was used by a Prince of Wales, having been carried in front of the Prince probably at his investiture with this title, or at state entries to cities of the realm. It may have been used either by Edward, eldest son of Edward IV, when he was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1471, or by Edward, son of Richard III, at the former's investiture with the same titles in York in 1483.

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  • Title: Sword of State
  • Date Created: 1473/1483
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 1814.00mm (overall); Length: 412.00mm (hilt only); Width: 40.60cm (quillons); Weight: 4.70kg
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: champlev
  • Subject: heraldry; cross
  • Registration number: SLAntiq.364
  • Production place: Made in Germany. Made in Passau. Made in Solingen. Made in England
  • Material: steel; latten; enamel; lead
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Sloane, Hans