Albion Armorers Squire Line 13th Century Knightly Sword
A hands-on review by Greyson Brown

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While most early medieval swords were designed primarily for cutting, it soon became obvious that the rounded tips found on earlier swords were inadequate for defeating the improving armour of the high Middle Ages. Knights were increasingly armoured with plate or leather in addition to the mail that had been the mainstay of their panoply. Thrusting was an effective way to overcome this extra protection. A good thrust could damage the rings of mail or enter the sights of a great helm while a slashing attack would most likely be ineffective.

One sword type designed to accomplish this task is what Ewart Oakeshott has labeled as the Type XII. The effectiveness of Type XII swords is testified by the fact that they remained in use from the 12th to the 14th centuries. They are characterized by having greater profile taper than previous swords, which results in a sharp, serviceable point. Despite the more acute point, Type XII blades were still relatively broad, which allowed the sword to retain its usefulness as a cutter. These swords retained the lenticular cross-section that was common at the time, but the fuller was shortened so that it extended only two-thirds to three-quarters of the blade length from the hilt. While these are not the needle-sharp dedicated thrusters of later centuries, Type XII swords were the first effort at a cut-and-thrust design, and their success paved the way for those later types.

Albion Armorers of New Glarus, Wisconsin, is well known for the excellent quality of their Next Generation line of swords, but they also offer several swords at a lower price point. Known as the Squire Line, these swords are lower priced so that those on a budget can still enjoy owning a quality sword. The lower cost of these swords is accomplished largely by designing the Squire Line swords around an unsharpened edge and employing a lower level of finish on the swords' simplified fittings. Also, Albion does not offer a choice of grip colors on these swords. Despite these differences from the Next Generation line of swords, the Squire Line still shares the same solid, historical construction described in our review of the Baron. For those who like the advantages of a lower priced sword, but still want to cut with it, Albion will sharpen a Squire Line sword prior to shipping if the customer so requests. This service costs $25, which still keeps the sword's price very attractive. The piece reviewed here is a sharpened Albion Squire Line 13th Century Knightly sword.

It should be noted that, while these swords normally do not have a sharpened edge, they are still thin enough that they should not be used for historical fencing. There are other tools available on the market that are specifically designed for such activity.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:2 pounds, 8.2 ounces
Overall length:37 3/8 inches
Blade length:31 1/4 inches
Blade width:2 1/16 inches at base, tapering to 7/8 inch
Grip length:4 1/4 inches
Guard width:7 3/4 inches
Point of Balance:4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~19 1/4 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XII blade, Type I pommel, Style 1a guard

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Handling Characteristics
This is a comfortable sword to handle. One of the things that surprised me about it was how thin it seems when handled. The blade is nice and flat as befits a cutting sword, but the non-linear distal taper and lenticular cross-section of the point help to make it seem even slimmer. It is very easy to imagine a blade built like this slicing easily through soft or even lightly armoured targets. Likewise, the grip is formed to a thin oval section at the guard. In my opinion, this helps to promote use of the handshake grip, which in turn improves the handling of the sword.

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Blade Detail
This is the first sharp sword that I ever tried to use for cutting. My initial cut was unsuccessful due to some hesitation on my part, but I quickly learned that this sword would perform well as long as I did my job by using enough force and follow-through (and hitting the target, of course). It is hard to say whether the secondary bevels on the sword's edge affect the way it cuts, as I did not have another Type XII sword for comparison. I did do some comparative cutting with my Type XVI Albion Next Generation Squire and felt that it proved to be slightly faster, but that the Squire Line Knightly sword had just a touch more authority in the cut. In the end it is hard to say how much these perceived differences are the result of the construction differences between the two Albion lines and how much of it is because they are two different sword types.

Obviously, if this sword is supposed to represent one of the early cut and thrust types, it should be able to thrust well. This sword lives up to that expectation. It is not a rapier or Oakeshott Type XV or any other sword specifically designed for thrusting, but I believe that it would be a great improvement over the wider points of Type X and Type XI swords. The point does wander slightly when thrusting, but not very much. I didn't really notice it until I started to compare it with swords like the Albion Next Generation Poitiers, which is not a fair comparison at all. The Squire Line Knightly sword's thrusting ability is certainly satisfactory given that it was designed to provide improved thrusting performance while still being capable of strong cuts.

Fit and Finish
The Albion Squire Line swords have a slightly more matte finish than their more expensive Next Generation cousins, but I did not find the difference noticeable. Even the secondary bevels from the sharpening process are not very obvious to me. The biggest visible difference was the simple shape of the guard, and the lack of cord risers on the grip.

The guard on the sword reviewed is quite simple, with no beveled edges or decorative lines. It is still functional and historically correct, but simply does not have any fancy extras that would increase the cost of the sword.

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Grip Detail
Another simplification that Albion uses to keep down the price of this line of swords is to use a simple black leather grip covering with no cord risers. I had originally intended to re-wrap this grip using the process described in Sean A. Flynt's The Instant Antique: A Practical Guide feature. I asked Albion's customer service representative about the ramifications of doing so, and he informed me that they would still cover the blade, but could obviously not guarantee the hilt after I had modified it. When I finally got the sword in hand, I liked the grip well enough that I have not bothered to change anything. It fits well in my hand, and provides a solid grip. There is a slight bulge in the leather where it is slightly longer that the grip itself, and the seam is visible, but neither of these imperfections is noticeable when holding or using the sword.

Despite these simplifications, the Squire Line still features Albion's wedged and peened hilt construction that is not available on other swords of this same price.

Some might notice more difference between the finish on Squire Line and Next Generation swords by Albion Armorers, but to me the biggest difference is the secondary bevel from having it sharpened and the absence of risers and cord wrapping on the grip. The bevels are unobtrusive and do not make a huge difference in handling, and the grip is still comfortable and secure. This is a very good sword for anyone who wants to own the classic knightly sword but is not able to afford the higher priced alternatives.

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.

Photographer: Greyson Brown

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