Arms & Armor Duke of Urbino
A hands-on review by Jason Elrod
Writing in 1309 of an incident in the battle of Mansourah during St. Louis's crusade of 1250, Sieur de Joinville tells how a Saracen horseman had charged him from the side and bore him down across his horse's neck. Breaking free of the Saracen's lance, Joinville wheeled his horse, tucked his sword under his arm and using it like a lance ran his opponent through. In Sword in the Age of Chivalry, author Ewart Oakeshott uses this description to introduce swords of Type XV, some of the first swords dedicated more towards the thrust than to the cut.
The Duke of Urbino is a replica based on the sword described as XV.12 found in Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword. Located in a private collection, the original sword bears a copper coin in the recess on one side of its pommel that depicts the Duke of Urbino, hence its name. One of the first swords produced by Arms & Armor, the Urbino's fittings have had some casting problems which have caused the staff at A&A to replace the original sword's Oakeshott Style 8 guard with this reproduction's current Style 1 guard. However, the maker has mentioned that they do plan to recast the guard to make their sword closer to the original that inspired it.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
Seemingly never content with their current standards of reproduction, most of Arms & Armor's swords have gone through some refinement throughout the years. Sometime these changes are aesthetic and sometimes they are more subtle and contribute purely to the handling of the sword. For instance, the current version of the Urbino has a Point of Balance (PoB) of 3 1/4" from the cross while the sword in this review has a PoB of 4 1/4".
Having a nice stiff blade, the Urbino is designed for thrusting into the more vulnerable areas of the plate armor that became more prevalent after 1350. The slightly forward balance point gives it a powerful thrust while still maintaining good, though not exceptional, tip control. This allows the blade and point to fall fairly easily into place. Additionally the extreme profile taper allows for easy gripping of the blade in case the user would want to half-sword with the Urbino.
Not only good at thrusting, the sword's responsiveness during the cut was a surprise. Recovery was easy and quick and the Urbino has just enough blade presence to satisfy, though not "wow" those users who prefer the cut over the thrust. However, because of the stiff blade and fairly wide cross-section, I feel that this sword would be unforgiving in the cut with those users who failed to get the edge properly aligned with the target. This is pure speculation on my part, as I was unfortunately unable to use this sword on any sort of cutting medium.
Fit and Finish
As always, there is some minor pitting caused by the casting process, but this does not detract from the overall appearance of the weapon. In addition, the pommel block is not flush against the pommel and the slot where the blade meets the guard has an uneven diameter. However, these flaws help contribute to a more hand-forged appearance which this reviewer finds very appealing. In the end, Arms & Armor was able to strike a nice balance between function and refinement.
Arms & Armor's Duke of Urbino is a sword in transition. If you are looking for an accurate reproduction of the XV.12 from Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword, you should wait until A&A upgrades the sword to their current standards of historic replication. However, if you desire a nice handling, historically accurate Type XV sword at a reasonable price, then the Urbino is definitely a viable option.
About the Author
Jason Elrod is a retail manager with Borders Books in Dulles, VA. His sword obsession is tempered only by the knowledge that no matter how large his collection becomes, he still will not be able to use it to send his son to college.
Photographer: Jason Elrod