Albion Armorers Next Generation Regent Sword
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly
During the high Middle Ages, roughly during the mid-thirteenth century, a new type of sword came into use. Developed in the German countries, this sword (then known as the Grete Swerde or War Sword) was designed to be used with effect against the improving mail armor of the day. The War Sword featured a longer grip that could be used with either one or two hands as well as a correspondingly larger blade. While some variants of the type possessed a serviceable point, they were primarily dedicated to the cut. This general pattern of swordalso known as a hand-and-a-half, bastard sword, and longswordwas to become a permanent fixture on the battlefield throughout the medieval period.
As the Middle Ages progressed, this versatile hand-and-a-half design continued to evolve according to the battlefield requirements of the day. The dedicated cutting designs of the thirteenth century gave way to the thrusting oriented patterns of the late fourteenth century. By the middle of the fifteenth century, the type had reached what can arguably be considered as the complete refinement of its design. Not only did the fifteenth century longsword possess a blade profile that allowed for effective thrusting, it also retained a large measure of its earlier ancestor's cutting ability. Not only did the late medieval longsword possess a great degree of versatility in its design, but it also reached a level of aesthetic refinement which resulted in one of the most visually attractive swords extant.
The medieval longsword has long been a popular staple of literature and the cinema. Many of our favorite heroic figures have used these manly and imposing weapons. Consequently, the longsword has also been a regular figure on the replica sword market. Some of these attempts at replication have met with success. Others have not. Recently some of the finest recreations of the type have been coming from the Wisconsin-based workshop of Albion Armorers.
In mid-2003, Albion made the decision to take their product line in a new direction. Their line of swords at that time (now known as the First Generation) was generally well received by the arms collecting community. With a decision to offer a new batch of swords with even more historical authenticity, they announced the Next Generation line. To read more about the details and philosophy behind this new product line, please see our hands-on review of the Next Generation Baron sword.
The Next Generation line seems to have become Albion's most successful line to date. One of the most exciting members of this lineup is a recreation of a late medieval Longsword. This sword, known as the Regent, is the subject of this review.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
Fit and Finish
Thus far I have been impressed by the hilt construction of Albion's Next Generation line. In the case of the Regent, while the hilt is impressive, the most exciting feature is the blade, because the blade is hollow-ground. Hollow-grinding is nothing new in the field of production swords, but I believe that Albion Armorers is the only company that is doing it correctly. Several lower cost sword makers use a manufacturing process that results in a hollow-ground blade. In this case, however, the hollow-grinding is a by-product of the technique not an intentional design detail. On the other hand, the Regent is a sword that has been designed from the ground up to feature an accurately constructed blade of this type. When viewed in cross-section, the Regent's blade exhibits a distinct hollow-grind that curves deeply from the blade's central ridge. As this curvature nears the edge it begins to slope upward until it comes to within .156 inch of the edge terminus. The edge then slopes downward to its terminus, thereby creating a secondary bevel. This is the key aspect that sets the Regent apart.
While we have come to consider a secondary edge bevel to be an undesirable feature in European edge geometry, it is a key and important feature of the Regent's blade. Other hollow-ground production blades will feature a continuous slope downward from the central ridge with no secondary bevel. In terms of edge geometry, this results in a blade that is weak in terms of edge structure. This may be fine in knife design; however, this will result in a sword that lacks the needed material to support the blade's edge. The edge will then be weak, and will buckle or chip during use. The secondary bevel present on the Regent's blade provides an edge geometry that is as strong as that found on other non-hollow-ground blades. According to Albion's Master Cutler Eric McHugh, all medieval hollow-ground blades exhibit this feature. The only difference lies in the fact that the ridge defining the secondary bevel would be smoothed out on more expensive blades. For reasons of cost, Albion chose to leave this ridge visible on the Regent. I actually prefer this, as the ridge is evenly machined for the entire length of the blade. This results in a nice bit of visual detail. The blade terminates in a point that is very acute, yet at the same time adequately reinforced for use against fully armored opponents.
The blade is very evenly machined throughout its entire length. The central ridge is very straight and precise, with no wobbles or curves whatsoever. Finally, the entire sword is finished in Albion's signature satin finish. I have come to prefer this finish on all of my swords, as it is very attractive yet highly practical as well. The Regent's components of blade, guard, grip, and pommel all flow together in a beautiful harmony of design and proportion. This is a sword that looks "fast" just sitting still.
All of the nice detail and polishing in the world won't amount to much if the sword's handling qualities are found wanting. In the case of the Regent, the modern swordsman will want for nothing. Ewart Oakeshott listed swords like the Regent as the Type XVIIIa in his typology. As such, the Regent represents the final refinement of late medieval longsword design. While designing the Regent, noted swordsmith Peter Johnsson drew inspiration from the swords used in the medieval countries that fell under Germanic influence. The Regent is not a direct recreation of any one particular sword, yet receives its design elements from many swords of this type that Peter has examined.
The Regent performed well in all cutting exercises that were executed upon soft cutting mediums. The sword tracked well into and out of the cut, and no undue resistance or vibration was felt. No cutting tests were performed on harder mediums that would have simulated use against a shield or some form of armor. However, due to the blade's strong geometry I have no doubt that the Regent would have given service equal to its medieval ancestors. I found the Regent to be very responsive and easily controlled during thrusting maneuvers. The sword follows the point with little effort. The blade exhibits a non-linear distal taper. This taper maintains its rate of decline for approximately three-quarters of the blade's length. It then increases its rate of decline further until it terminates at the point. When combined with the blade's profile taper as well as overall mass distribution, this results in a very nicely balanced blade. This design also provides for a pivot point that is fairly close to the tip. The overall result is a sword that is decisive in the cut, yet highly agile in the thrust.
I ran the Regent through several drills compiled from Christian Henry Tobler's book, Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship. This work provides an excellent outline of the techniques of medieval German Master Johannes Liechtenauer. The Regent represents a type of sword that was designed specifically around this German school of swordsmanship. Consequently, it is no surprise that I found the sword quite responsive in use. Even though the Regent's design is centered on the German school, I believe that it would serve equally as well if used in the Italian methods as taught by Fiore dei Liberi.
I found the Regent to be everything a medieval longsword should be. It exhibits excellent construction and outstanding handling characteristics as well as a level of workmanship that will give the owner much pride in its possession. Albion Armorers continues to set new standards for production quality with its Next Generation line. With the introduction of a longsword that features an accurately hollow-ground blade, that standard has leapt even farther down the path. The Regent is expensive, but as they say, quality isn't cheap. I consider this sword to be money very well spent.
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: Nathan Robinson