Arms & Armor Edward III Sword
A hands-on review by Russ Ellis

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In the 14th century there was a renewed interest in swords made for both cutting and thrusting. One of the forms created is what Ewart Oakeshott identified as the Type XVIIIa. Mr. Oakeshott was an authority on medieval European arms and attempted to type the various forms of swords, categorizing them in recognizable groupings. The Edward III sword recreated by Arms & Armor of Minneapolis, Minnesota is a splendid example of this type of sword.

Christopher Poor founded Arms & Armor in 1982. He and his company have been building some of the finest medieval replicas available to the public ever since. Most of the replicas made by Arms & Armor are recreations of actual historic pieces. In recent years, Arms & Armor has been instrumental in the creation of the The Oakeshott Institute; a body founded for the purpose of collecting data and preserving knowledge about ancient weapons.

I've always had a pleasant experience when purchasing from Arms & Armor. Their sales staff is responsive as well as patient and professional. In this case, my order was for a semi-customized piece. Since this was the case, the order took longer than normal to fill; however, whenever I asked for a status update it was provided within one to two days. Arms & Armor ships using UPS as their main carrier. Their packing methods are secure and the items purchased arrived undamaged.

Edward III was the sixth British monarch of the Plataganet dynasty. He ruled from 1327 to 1377. Edward was one of England's true warrior kings. During his reign he was almost constantly fighting either along the borders with the Scots or in France. Some of Edward's most noteworthy victories include the Battle of Sluys, Crecy and Poitiers. In 1348, Edward instituted The Most Noble Order of the Garter; a group of knights intended to emulate Arthur's Knights of the Round Table.

Click to enlarge
The original
Edward III sword
The original sword has been dated between 1348 and 1350. This sword has been a focus of controversy for years. In fact, for many years it was believed to be a fake. It was only through an exhaustive scientific examination conducted in 1983, that the sword's provenance as an original piece belonging to Edward III was established. It is unknown if the original sword was ever used in battle; however, according to Oakeshott, it was admirably capable of serving as a battle weapon. It is light and well balanced. X-ray photographs also show that the sword has a substantial tang. There are also wear patterns on the grip that suggest that the sword just might have served in hand at some time during its life. The original bears a maker's mark; a portcullis (a Plantaganet badge) and the badge of the Order of the Garter stamped on each side with the motto of the Order: "Shame on him who thinks this evil." The original also has the original adder skin grip. The grip is gold plated iron. The pommel bears the coats of arms of England and France quartered in enamel on one side and on the other are some small strips of fabric said to come from the shroud of Edward the Confessor placed under a rock crystal inset.

This will not be the typical review. Two variants of the same sword—a gold plated bronze version and an all-steel version—will be compared to one another as well as contrasted with the original.

Measurements and specs for gold-plated bronze version:
Weight:3 pounds, 10 ounces
Overall length:42 1/2 inches
Blade length:33 inches
Blade width:2 1/2 inches, tapering to 1 inch
Guard width:9 1/2 inches
Grip and Pommel length:8 inches
Point of Balance:3 3/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~19 1/4 inches from guard

Measurements and specs for all-steel version:
Weight:3 pounds, 7 ounces
Overall length:42 1/2 inches
Blade length:33 inches
Blade width:2 1/2 inches, tapering to 1 inch
Guard width:9 1/2 inches
Grip and Pommel length:8 inches
Point of Balance:4 1/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~19 3/4 inches from guard

Both replicas created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics

Close-up of the pommel

Oakeshott states that the original Edward III sword is surprisingly light feeling and well balanced. The Arms & Armor reproductions maintain these characteristics. Despite being a physically very imposing sword, the Edward III reproduction is a reasonably quick weapon for its size and capable of dealing powerful shearing blows. For a person with reasonable strength it should even be possible to use the sword one-handed for a limited duration. The gold-plated version belongs to a customer so I was unable to cut with it. The all-steel Edward III works well against soft targets and I have no doubt would perform admirably against harder targets as well.

Fortunately because I happened to have both versions of the Edward III here at the same time, I was able to compare them side-by-side. There seems to be little difference in the handling characteristics. The steel version is slightly more blade-heavy while the gold one has slightly more overall weight. I talked to Craig at Arms & Armor about the difference and he says that he believes it's because the bronze that is used on the gold-plated example has slightly more weight than the steel used in the fittings for my version.

The engraving
Fit and Finish
Visually both versions of the Edward III are stunning. This is to be expected since the original sword was intended as the side arm and status symbol for a king. The reproductions would probably be fairly serviceable for royalty as well. The fit and finish are up to Arms & Armor's usual high standards. The blades are clean with no grind marks or obvious geometry problems. The castings for the hilts and pommels also are clean. The enamel work on the pommels is well executed and fairly well defined. The other side of the reproduction's pommel is left plain, foregoing the fabric and rock crystal inset found on the original. The grips are nice and tight. The engravings on the blades are very sharp and crisp. I asked Craig how these were applied. He said that the guys at Arms & Armor had settled on a sand blasting method to apply the engravings. He said that it was preferable to an acid etch which he had also tried. These swords are the showiest pieces from Arms & Armor that I have ever handled.

I have admired the Edward III for years, but I just could not get past the gold-plated fittings. I knew that they were historically correct, but nonetheless I've always preferred the look of steel fittings to gold or other more fancy things. Therefore, I decided to commission a custom version of this sword with plain steel furniture rather than the gilded bronze that is the usual Edward III. Craig was at first a little surprised and warned me that it would take a lot longer to get the sword into my hands but I was willing to wait. I think the results were well worthwhile. The steel version of the sword, in my opinion, is even nicer than the gold. It also has the added benefit of not tarnishing. That was one thing I noticed with the gold version of the sword, it must be constantly maintained as the gold quickly tarnishes (yes they use real gold).

About the Author
Russ Ellis is a Systems Engineer working for Northrop Grumman by day and a scabbard maker by night. He has been a student of medieval history for many years and this eventually led him to the world of sword collecting. He currently resides in Alabama with his wife and three children.

Photographer: Russ Ellis

Click photos to enlarge:

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