Basket-Hilt Broadsword ("Mortuary Sword")

Basket-Hilt Broadsword ("Mortuary Sword")

hilt: c. 1640-1650; blade: 18th Century

Steel, chiseled; inlaid gilt- silver foil; wood and wire grip

Overall: 101.6 cm (40 in.); Blade: 85.2 cm (33 9/16 in.); Hilt: 13 cm (5 1/8 in.)

Weight: 1.12 kg

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Severance 1916.696


The decoration on this sword's hilt includes an image of King Charles I of England (beheaded in 1649). Because the image resembles the king's death mask, this sword is known as a "mortuary sword." It may have belonged to Sir Thomas Fairfax, a general of the Parliamentary cavalry during the English Civil War (1642-51). Large, double-edged broadswords, designed for heavy cavalry use, were common from the 1600s through the 1800s.

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