Art of Swords

1. A weapon consisting typically of a long, straight or slightly curved, pointed blade having one or two cutting edges and set into a hilt.
2. An instrument of death or destruction.

Great Britain’s Sword of State

  • Maker: George Bowers, goldsmith, active 1660
  • Dated: 1678 - 1698
  • Medium: steel, silver gilt, the scabbard of wood, velvet, silver gilt.
  • Measurements: 121.3 x 32.1 cm
  • Acquirer: Charles II, King of Great Britain (1630-85), when King of Great Britain de facto (1660-85)
  • Provenance: supplied to Charles II in 1678, the scabbard supplied to William III

The sword has a broad, straight, flat, two-edged steel blade with etched decoration, and a cruciform silver-gilt hilt, the quillons in the form of a rampant lion and unicorn, a fleur-de-lis at the front of the quillon block and a Tudor rose at the back, with a portcullis above. The wooden scabbard is covered in velvet with applied silver-gilt emblems including a rose, thistle, harp and fleur-de-lis, with a portcullis, royal lions and the coat of arms of William III.

This sword, known as the Sword of State, was traditionally used by the monarch after the coronation, in place of the Sword of Offering (which was kept with the regalia in the Abbey), for all formal occasions, when it would have been carried before the sovereign. The hilt of the sword and the decorative emblems on the scabbard show that it was intended to be carried with the point upwards.

Two swords of state were made for Charles II - the first in 1660, and this one in 1678. It is described as 'a new Sword of Estate most extraordinarily wrought Enchased and gilt'. The 1660 sword was used when Charles II attended Parliament, and this example was used at other formal occasions such as the ceremonial creation of the Knights of the Bath.

The scabbard carries the coat of arms of William III and so dates from his coronation. The 1660 sword no longer exists but this one has remained among the regalia in the Tower of London. It is still used occasionally by the Queen for events such as the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 and the VE Day service in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1995.

Source: Copyright © 2014 The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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