DIY Beauchamp/Rous Sword ca. 1480s
Most of us have seen images from late 15th c. English manuscripts associated with John Rous, a cleric/antiquarian who may or may not have been the artist sometimes referred to as the Caxton Master. The drawings in the “Rous Roll” and “Pageants of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick” are detailed and realistic, and depict a host of arms and armour of the 1480s.

Most of the single-hand swords in these documents are Type XVIII variants with Oakeshott Type J or K pommels, but the artist frequently associates lobed Type R pommels with high status individuals. I like the look of these and decided to build one.

For this project I used a modified Hanwei-Tinker fullered bastard sword blade, modified A&A Henry V guard that came to me as a rough-cast discard (due to the steel not filling in one terminal of the mold, apparently) and a pommel adapted from an Alchem 1.75” ball. I shortened the blade from the shoulder, tang and tip. In retrospect, I think I’d prefer to work only from the tang and shoulder. Instead of doing just a little work on the stock tip I had to create an entirely new tip that’s slightly thicker than I would prefer. It’s a small matter, though. A couple of the other H-T blades would be fine alternatives to this one.

I found many illustrated examples of Type R pommels, not only in the Rous manuscripts but also in Continental artwork. Surviving examples are scarce, but there is one pictured in ROTMS and identified as Italian. If the elites in the Rous manuscripts are assumed to be wearing Continental (esp. Italian) harness, perhaps their sidearms are Italian as well.

I noticed an unusual crenelated peen block atop one or two pommels in the Rous Roll. This is unusual even among the unusual Type R pommels depicted by Rous/Caxton Master. My first thought was that it’s a crown, given the royal figure holding it, but then I noticed how closely the combined pommel and block resemble a pomegranate. Other lobed Type Rs in these documents are more onion-like at one extreme and more perfectly round at the other. Pomegranates can be lumpy, so the lobes shown here might be aimed at representing that in a stylized and symmetrical way befitting a high-status weapon. But why a pomegranate? In the medieval period, the fruit was associated with resurrection, eternal life and fertility. The Rous Roll and Pageants of Richard Beauchamp are commemorations of deceased noblemen, commissioned by Ann Neville (widow of Richard III) and Anne Beauchamp (daughter of Richard and widow of “Kingmaker” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick). Combining the pomegranate symbol with the status of a sword makes sense artistically, culturally and technologically.

I chose to emphasize that pomegranate form (minus the crenelated block) because I like the idea of it and couldn't un-see it once I'd seen it. I chose incised lines instead of the deep lobes I’ve used in earlier projects because I needed to retain weight in the hilt.

I’m pleased with the results. This sword feels very strong and eager to cut when in motion. It feels and looks special with that R pommel. You won't see another off-the-rack, which is a shame--I'd love to see one of our great craftsmen produce one of these. The illustrations show us exactly how to develop these projects, from proportions to suspension. I expect to develop a scabbard and suspension for this sword, but this is all for now.


weight: 2.1 lbs
overall length: 36.5”
center of gravity: 4.75”
blade length: 31”
blade width at guard: 1.5/8”
blade width 1” above tip: .75”
guard width: 7”

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Last edited by Sean Flynt on Thu 07 Jan, 2021 4:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
a view of the grip

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Looks great Sean! Good job!

I really like this style of guard and it does fit well with the pommel.
Thank you! By the way, these swords might also originate in The Netherlands, judging from the artwork I'm seeing. Type R pommels seem to be common on surviving Swedish swords, and they persist into the 16th century in England, so maybe they're drifting down and across the North Sea and English Channel.
Great job Sean,
got to agree, this type looks as if it would do well on sell through, has a A+A catalogue look to it,
well done
Great looking work and sword, I really like the way the transition from blade to blade shoulders to tang was ground in with radiused curves to avoid any stress risers. Not only a good finished DIY project sword but a well engineered reworking of the blade's tang and shoulder: I admire good structural design choices.

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