Albion Armorers Next Generation Poitiers Sword
A hands-on review by Greyson Brown

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A favored tactic of the English during the Hundred Years' War was the chevauchée. This was essentially a large-scale raid with the intention of demonstrating the French lack of authority rather than actually taking and holding land. The typical French response was to wait for the English, laden with spoils, to head for home. The French could then overtake, and hopefully overcome, their foe. This was the situation in the fall of 1356, when the English, slowed down by their baggage train, were forced to make a stand against the French. The English, led by Edward the Black Prince of Wales with around 7,000 men, were noticeably outnumbered by the 18,000 Frenchmen, but they took up a strong position behind a hedge which had only two gaps in it. Their flanks were defended by wooded hills on one side and their own baggage train on the other.

The French charged with the inevitable result that many of them were shot down by the English archers. The few that were able to reach and break through the hedge were quickly killed or captured by the waiting English. The surviving Frenchmen retreated in the ranks of their own army, causing even more confusion. The English did not rest, however; once the opportunity presented itself, the English mounted and charged the French, while a group that had been sent out on the flank earlier also attacked. In this way, the English caught the French off guard, and were able to take the King of France prisoner.

In this battle, named The Battle of Poitiers, both sides would have used a variety of armour. Mail was still quite common, but was usually reinforced with plate. Knights' torsos would have been protected by armour while their heads and faces would have been covered by bascinets or other helms of the period. This transitional armour was designed to provide better defense against both arrows and against earlier cutting swords.

Albion's Next Generation Poitiers sword, named for this battle, would have been ideal in that fight, especially the earlier stages. Its Oakeshott Type XV blade has a sharp point that would have been highly effective against the transitional armour of the day, while its agility and short length would have made it well-suited to the close-quarter fighting that ensued.

The Albion Armorers Poitiers is not based on any particular historical sword, but is rather based on Peter Johnsson's research of originals and incorporates features that are common of swords of the type. By using fittings with little ornamentation, Albion has created a sword that would not at all seem out of place in the hands of a common soldier. Subtle details, such as the octagonal cross-section of the guard or simple but decorative peen on the pommel, and the obvious quality make it a sword that would be equally appropriate in the hands of a man of higher status. Likewise, this sword would be fitting anytime between the late 13th and the early 15th centuries.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 10 ounces
Overall length:37 5/16 inches
Blade length:30 5/8 inches
Blade width:2 3/16 inches at base, tapering to 9/16 inch
Grip length:4 1/2 inches
Guard width:7 5/8 inches
Point of Balance:3 1/2 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~17 3/4 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XV blade, Type I pommel, Style 7 guard

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Handling Characteristics
The first thing that I noticed about the Poitiers in handling exercises was how fast it was. I had hardly taken it out of the box before this sword was crying out for me to swing it about a bit. This may very well be the most agile sword I have handled. The very strong profile taper of the blade leaves the point of balance about 1/2 an inch closer to the guard than on most of my swords. In doing this, the Poitiers becomes very fast without sacrificing either point control or blade presence.

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Sword in Hand

My cutting/thrusting tests were conducted using plastic bottles filled with water. The Poitiers demonstrated adequate cutting ability against these targets, but, as expected, stabbing was where it really excelled. Thrusting is extremely enjoyable. The point was easily controllable, and passed through targets with almost no resistance. Most of my swords will penetrate a jug with about four to six inches of blade, after which the jug moves, usually falling off of the stand; the Poitiers showed a tendency to pass 12 to 15 inches of the blade through a jug before the target moved. This sword follows one's hand very well, and I felt as though I was doing nothing more than pointing at the jug in order to skewer it.

My comments about the Poitiers' thrusting ability are not meant to undermine its ability as a cutter. Because the center of percussion is closer to the guard than on most swords I've handled, cutting can be a little awkward at first. Once I got the hang of it, the Poitiers is capable of some very nice cuts. I was especially surprised at how effective tip cuts were. I expected minimal results and a lot of vibration; neither was true. It would certainly be good enough for use against an unarmoured opponent.

I have had some swords with slender grips that I felt were difficult to grasp, even with my relatively small hands, so I was a little apprehensive when I opened the box and discovered that the grip was narrower than I had realized. This fear proved to be completely without merit. I did find the grip to be most comfortable when using a "hand-shake" grip, but there was no position in which I felt the grip to be too slender. The cord risers and textured leather provide a sure grip without "biting" into my hand like wire can.

Fit and Finish

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Cross Detail

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Pommel Detail

The Poitiers has the same satin finish as Albion's other Next Generation swords. The blade is nicely shaped, with a straight, distinct center line. It does not exhibit quite as much distal taper as other cutting swords I have handled. This helps to keep it rigid and the point strong for better thrusts. Because of the narrow, relatively thick point, it would be easy to think that this blade would not be as sharp at the end, but this is not true. Albion has done a very nice job of creating an edge geometry that still allows for effective cuts with the tip.

The guard is wedged in place, producing a solid fit that does not shift. It is of Oakeshott Style 7 with an octagonal cross-section, which makes for a classy guard without being overly complicated. Its simple lines are cleanly executed, and the inlet for the blade is one of the closest fits I have seen, even from Albion. There is almost no gap at all. There are no casting pits or other marks on the guard.

The Oakeshott Type I pommel shares the same quality of construction as the guard. It is wedged and peened into place, as with all of Albion's swords, but rather than grinding the rivet flush, Albion has left the peen exposed. They have still taken the time to smooth it out so that, far from being unattractive, it creates a nice understated, rivet-like decoration on the end of the pommel.

The grip on my Poitiers is covered with Albion's dark brown leather wrap. Others have commented that this color looks almost black under certain lighting. I did not find it to be that dark, but it is a good dark chocolate color. The cord risers do have a couple of small bubbles under the leather that I assume to be dried glue, but they do not detract from the appearance or handling of the sword. Aside from that, the grip is well done. The cord overwrap that created the grip's texture was evenly applied and the grip's seam is only visible under just the right lighting.

I have wanted a Type XV sword for quite some time now, but all of the others that I considered just never seemed right. I am very glad that I waited for this one from Albion Armorers. They have once again done an excellent job of producing a very fine sword. Thrusting is surprisingly natural and precise. Cutting will take a little bit more experience, but all that is required is some practice. Once that is accomplished, this sword can do anything that can reasonably be expected of it.

About the Author
Greyson Brown is a soldier in the United States Army, and a student of European history. He has been interested in arms and armour for as long as he can remember. That interest has also inspired him to become a hobby blacksmith.

Sword in the Age of Chivalry, The, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
Brassey's Dictionary of Battles, by John Laffin
Chronicles (Classics S.), by Jean Froissart

Photographer: Patrick Kelly

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