Albion Armorers Next Generation Count
and Steward Swords
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly
In any age, the development of arms and defensive equipment was a tit-for-tat style of evolution. During the Middle Ages, armour was developed to protect the wearer against the arms of the period. Likewise, weapons were then developed to defeat that armour, and so on. The 13th century saw the increasing development of mail armour. The short-sleeved hauberks of previous centuries gradually developed into garments that featured full-length sleeves, as well as integral mittens and hoods. Mail chausses for the legs were also added, increasing the overall level of protection.
In true tit-for-tat fashion, swords of the period also evolved. The single-handed cutting swords of previous centuries were gradually augmented by larger cutting swords that could be used in a two-handed fashion. It is believed that these Grete Swerdes were developed in the countries of Germanic influence, and by the mid-13th century these swords had reached their definitive form. This new type of sword was capable of delivering powerful shearing cuts, and while large in size, they were still dynamic and responsive in their handling qualities. In his typology of the medieval sword the late Ewart Oakeshott defined this type of sword in two distinct categories: Type XIIa and Type XIIIa.
Even after a span of centuries, surviving examples are still impressive in their physical presence and handling qualities. The Grete Swerde is well represented in period artwork and literature. Apparently it was a popular type of sidearm for the medieval knight. Likewise, it is also a popular choice with modern sword collectors and practitioners. The type's physical size and presence make for an attractive addition to any modern sword collection, and its cutting ability makes it quite appealing to the western martial arts practitioner. The type is recognized today as a massive Sword of War and as the genesis of the medieval longsword. Still, not all swords of the type shared this impressive sense of proportion. There were swords then that were smaller than what may be considered standard for the type, at least in the mind of the modern collector. While these examples were still wide-bladed swords dedicated to the cut they are also smaller and more subtle in their handling characteristics.
In 2003 Albion Armorers introduced their Next Generation line of swords. The intent was to introduce swords that exhibited a degree of accuracy in their design and construction that had never before been seen in production swords. Aspects of these design features are covered in detail in our hands-on review of Albion's Baron sword. Since its introduction, the Next Generation line has been extremely well received by the sword collecting community.
The Count and Steward swords are two entries in the Next Generation lineup. Both swords utilize the same blade, but with different hilts. The Count is offered with a steel or bronze pommel option. The review sample is the all-steel version.
These two swords represent an interesting development of the high medieval Grete Swerde. Being smaller and lighter than their brethren, they are nevertheless still swords meant for war and should have been quite capable on the battlefield. This lighter style of war sword also saw resurgence as a civilian dueling weapon during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Many extant originals feature complex compound hilts mounted with this type of blade.
Count Measurements and Specifications:
Steward Measurements and Specifications:
Replicas created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
I did find both swords to be a bit sluggish when used with a single-handed grip. In spite of their smaller size, I feel these swords are meant to be used primarily in a two-handed fashion. Even though they aren't as responsive when used with one hand they are still quite useable in this fashion. I ran the swords through various solo drills and found them to transition easily from ward to attack and back again. In spite of their smaller size I don't think these swords would give up anything to their larger brethren in terms of cutting ability. While they are smaller and lighter, they also achieve more velocity in the cut. This attribute should prove to be a good counter-balance to their lesser mass. Even though these swords aren't designed for the thrust I found them to possess a decent sense of point control. Both swords followed the point well into a thrust, and the design should have proved adequate against an unarmoured opponent.
All in all the Steward and Count both possess excellent handling attributes. They are undoubtedly two of the most pleasant handling war swords I've had the pleasure to review.
Fit and Finish
The Count and Steward both share the same blade. This is the blade originally featured on Albion's Ritter sword. In that guise, the blade is classified as a Type XI in Oakeshott's typology. In the case of the Count and Steward, the blade's tang has been lengthened to create a sword of two-handed proportions. The blade has been turned into a very nice example of a light Type XIIIa war sword, after making the appropriate adjustments to compensate for mass distribution and mechanics. The blade is evenly finished with Albion's familiar satin finish. A narrow fuller has been cleanly machined into three-quarters of the blade's length. On both swords, the fuller is crisply defined and runs straight and true for its entire length. The blade also features nice clean edge geometry, with no secondary bevel evident on either sword.
As befits its name the Steward is the more subdued of the two swords. This sword features a more classic appearance to the modern eye. The Steward's guard has been fashioned with an octagonal cross-section but is otherwise unadorned, while the sword's pommel is the standard wheel shape with concave edges. The grip shares the same octagonal cross-section as the Count; however, the Steward's grip features two risers at its center. The grip has been finished in Albion's oxblood color with the usual antiquing added as a final touch. Both swords are finished by attractive rivet blocks that are appropriately proportioned in relation to the respective hilt designs. The Count and Steward are both as nicely finished as any Albion sword I have handled: which is to say, they're nicely finished indeed.
As I previously stated, there is little perceptible difference in the handling qualities of the Steward and steel-pommeled Count by Albion Armorers. In this case the buyer's choice is primarily one of aesthetics. Both swords exhibit very fine handling qualities and are a joy to wield. Either sword would be ideal for a collector or living historian who desires a trim medieval war sword for their collection or persona. Both of these swords are also excellent choices for a practioner of smaller stature, who desires a longsword that is dedicated to the cut. The Count and Steward not only add even more diversity to a product line that is already extensive, but they also represent an excellent value in terms of handling and function.
About the Author
Patrick is a State Trooper serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He has been fascinated with edged weapons, particularly the medieval sword, since early childhood. Not only is Patrick thankful for any opportunity to indulge in his favorite hobby, he is also blessed with a wife who tolerates a house full of sharp pointy things.
Photographer: Patrick Kelly