Albion Armorers Next Generation Thegn Sword
A hands-on review by Kenton Spaulding
The island of Britain has been conquered and re-conquered many times throughout its history. During the early medieval period, the island was inhabited by Germanic people known as the Anglo-Saxons, mainly comprised of the tribes known as the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. They came to Britain following the pullout of the Roman Empire in the early 5th century A.D. The Anglo-Saxon people contributed heavily to modern-day England during their time of hegemony from the 5th century through the Norman conquest in 1066. They instituted such cultural advancements as the beginnings of English "common law," and the creation of the Witenagemot (or Witan), which many people view as the forerunner of parliament.
In 793 Anglo-Saxon England was shaken by the arrival of Viking raiders. The plundering of the monastery at Lindisfarne was the first of many strikes the Norsemen would make on the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Over the course of the next century, the Vikings raided and settled, particularly in northeastern England, even founding the city of York. They managed to conquer much of England before being defeated at the Battle of Eddington by Alfred the Great, King of the West Saxons.
Warriors of this era, both Anglo-Saxon and Viking, would have been outfitted very much alike. Both sides would have carried a large round shield and a long spear as their primary defense and weapon respectively. Those who could afford it would have been outfitted with mail byrnies, and with steel spangenhelms. Other weapons that would have been seen on the field include the two-hand axe, and of course, the sword. These single-hand swords were very expensive during this period; therefore, only the richest of fighters would have had access to them. The Saxons managed to defeat the Viking forces at Eddington, thereby stopping the great tide of Viking momentum in England, but the Vikings were not expelled. The Vikings remained much as they had in England, and contributed heavily to the developing country. In fact, a Dane, King Cnut, ruled England from 1017 until his death in 1035, when the kingship passed back into Anglo-Saxon hands.
The Thegn, by Albion Armorers, is a sword that would have fit in well at the battle of Edington. It was designed by Swedish sword smith Peter Johnsson, and like the rest of the Next Generation line, the Thegn is a recreation of a certain type of weapon, not an exact recreation of one original sword. Mr. Johnsson evaluated numerous originals, and combined their features to create a sword which could have been present in the place and time intended.
The Thegn is intended to represent a slighter sword of Anglo-Saxon style, which could plausibly have been carried by a nobleman of 9th century England. It bears mentioning, though, that the Thegn is somewhat plain compared to many of the originals from this period, which often featured rich inlays of precious metals and intricate pattern-welded blades. Unfortunately, to produce a sword that featured these painstaking, labor-intensive features would certainly have put the price tag of the Thegn far beyond the budget of many present day sword enthusiasts.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
As can be seen by the statistics, at two pounds and under thirty-five inches in length, this is not a large sword. That said, this sword handles very well in the way that it was intended to be used. This is not a terribly powerful sword, though it is balanced as a cutter, but it is very quick and can be wielded for long periods of time without discomfort. This sword is best for slashing cuts against lightly-armoured or unarmoured opponents. The Thegn is not a sword that was designed to shear off mail-clad limbs, or split helms; rather it is intended to cut deep into bare flesh, attacking quickly at unarmoured body parts, such as the face, when the opportunity presents itself.
I found that the Thegn cuts very well in this respect, and is easy to wield, as well as forgiving in cuts. It is not difficult to keep the blade in line for the cut, and the sword slices through milk jugs with no problems whatsoever. Cutting against heavier targets, the Thegn also did very well. It cut through large pumpkins, but this took a bit of effort. It did not respond as well against these heavy targets as a large, more blade heavy sword, like the Albion Gaddhjalt did. The Gaddhjalt flew through these pumpkins without any real resistance. After getting it up to initial speed, it would basically swing itself. With the Thegn, however, I found that I needed to make a bit of an effort to completely bring the sword through these heavy targets, focusing more on powering the sword through the entirety of the strike. This is not a bad thing, as it is not the purpose of this sword to be a helmet-cleaver like the much larger Gaddhjalt. This disparity in cutting is to be expected due to the different purposes of these two blades.
Though I could feel a difference in power between the Thegn and the Gaddhjalt when cutting these heavy pumpkins, I could also feel a difference in my ability to precisely control my blows. Strikes with the Thegn were very easy to control, and I found that even with my modest skills I was able to cut very small rings out of the pumpkins, landing my blows exactly where I was intending. Wielding the Thegn, it is also possible to feint and change direction with a great deal of ease. The blade almost feels like an extension of the arm.
It is also worth noting that the blade seems quite robust and able to hold up to some fairly substantial contact. While cutting milk jugs, I once slipped a bit and my blow came in too low, driving the blade into the hardwood stand that I was using. Bear in mind: this was very hard wood. The Thegn cut a neat slice out of the wood, with absolutely no edge damage whatsoever. While I would not recommend trying this, as edge damage could occur, it is worth noting that the sword can stand up to some minor abuses.
Some people find Viking-inspired hilts to be uncomfortable, with the upper guard tearing into the hand when swinging the sword in what would seem the most natural manner. This led to the infamous "hammer vs. handshake" debate on the proper way to grip a Viking sword. Luckily, this debate can largely be avoided when wielding the Thegn, as both grips are comfortable and the upper guard does not rub painfully against the palm.
Fit and Finish
The pommel and guard are both well done, and even though I acquired this sword secondhand, it still exhibits no real pitting. The pommel is of interesting design, with two "saddles," one on either side of a tall central "lobe." The pommel is of a single piece design, not composed of two separate pieces (a pommel and an upper guard, coupled together with rivets) as can be seen on many Viking swords. Pommels on these Anglo-Saxon style swords were often designed this way. This single piece construction not only cuts down on the cost of the sword, but is also historically accurate in this case.
The twisted silver wire on the pommel is well done, and adds a touch of class to a somewhat utilitarian weapon. The proportions of the Thegn are pleasant, the blade is wide and imposing, and the hilt is clean and simple, while still retaining a dignified look. The grip is of black leather, and true to Albion's reputation, it is extremely well crafted. The grip features a central riser, which is not only attractive, but also offers added security with sword in hand. The seam on the leather grip covering is unobtrusive in feel, and is only visible if one is truly looking for it.
This is a very nice sword: an attractive weapon, of unique style, with excellent handling capabilities. I would recommend this sword to any lover of Anglo-Saxon weaponry, or anyone looking for a light, quick Viking-age blade. Although I am quite a large person (200 lbs) I could envision the Thegn by Albion Armorers as a great weapon for the slighter Vikings out there. Whether large or small, I cannot imagine anyone interested in Anglo-Saxon culture, warfare in particular, being disappointed with this sword. I personally do not foresee this sword ever leaving my collection.
About the Author
Kenton Spaulding is a student at the University of Maine. He has been studying and collecting swords since the summer of 2004. His main area of interest lies in European military history and technology from 750-1500. He has an interest in living history and historical combat techniques, though he has yet to act on either.
Photographer: T. M. Ryan