I need help in identifying sword/dirk of Scottish Earl
First, I would like to thank Tod (from Todstuff) for directing me to this sight. I am currently in the midst of writing a novel set in 1660 Scotland. I was lucky enough to have found a portrait of my male lead character, but have been unable to identify the weapon seen in the lower left of the portrait, or whether the baldric he is wearing was tooled leather or some type of fabric. Any information would be extremely helpful in my pursuits.[/img]

I apologise in advance for the low resolution - this is the only known image available - I hope the jpg came through all right

 Attachment: 94.49 KB
Kenneth Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Seaforth c. 1660 [ Download ]
sorry - I meant my his left - looking at the portrait it would be the lower right
Hi Mindy, the baldric is most likely a fabric style, with embroidery/lacework detailing. It's kind of sash-like, and maybe a scarf baldric. The weapon is either a development of the rapier known as a "Scarf Sword" (explains why the baldric is a fabric scarf style), or perhaps a parrying dagger, with short, S-curved quillons and a small side ring. Rapiers, left-hand daggers, and early scarf swords were the choice amongst nobles and gentry in the early to mid 17th century in Europe, and Scots nobles would have followed the Continental trends.

If your gentleman was following Highland fashion, he would have been armed with a dirk, a basket-hilted broadsword (Claymore), and some tartan clothing, most likely, along with an engraved steel pistol or two.
You might also try the term "pillow sword" http://swordlinks.com/courtswords/p5.html look at plates 10-13 for some examples. These were for court or home wear... very minimal guard as compared to a small sword or transitional rapier of the time. Therefore it does not get in the way as much.
Term pillow sword came about as they were thought to be for home defense and kept next to the pillow... might be another one of those Victorian antique collector terms but it has stuck...
Basically you have to understand that Luis in France and his court were setting the standard for all things fashionable in Europe right at this time... so this gent is having his portrait made wearing all of his finest regalia in the current fashion which was starting to change at least twice a year. The baldric is probably fabric covered in gold embroidery. His lace collar and cuffs probably cost him a fortune to be imported from France... Wow, a real dandy.

Ok, so a little bit more research... date bottom left corner... Mr McKenzie dies in 1678 and his son takes over and probably had this painted to show his Dad in best light as he is taking over the family... and come to the fashion catalogue for the year 1678 and you find this depiction in the fashion magazine telling you exactly what is propper and fitting to wear.


take a look lower right and it tells you what the article you are looking for is and was made of... as long as you speak French.

Thank you French fashion for making this type of research really easy... To the point that starting in the 1640s you can name a year and later a season and you will find a record of what is in fashion...
left out the picture is from the Mercur Gallant by Donneau de Vise...
From what I have been able to find out, Kenneth Mackenzie was a personal friend of Charles Stuart and a frequent visitor to the Court of Charles II at Whitehall after the restoration - the portrait was painted by John Micheal Wright who was at that point in time (1660-1661) living in London and vying for Peter Lely's position as the official Court Painter - that being said, one could assume that since Kenneth is wearing courtly attire and not that of what he would have worn at his home near Dingwall, Scotland, I find it likely that this portrait was painted either at Whitehall or at Wright's studio in London. The inscription in the corner with Lord Seaforth's date of death is not on the original portrait and I am assuming it was added at some point to either a photocopy/pdf/reproduction or some other medium and of that I am completely at a loss to explain, but as I will be traveling to Scotland in May for research I hope I will be able to ascertain more information when I view the family portraits in person.

Again if this was painted in London it may explain Kenneth having a "pillow sword" at his side instead of a claidheamh mr across his back and wearing the traditional feileadh mohr (or more than likely a pair of trewes and a long linen shirt)

But getting back to the swoard, as I am completely unfamiliar with terminology associated with weaponry - it would be wonderful to have a 101 on the parts of a swoard - what it would have been made of - where it may have been made, etc.

Many thanks for the info I have received thus far!

If you will look at the upper right corner of the forums' front page, you will see under the "myArmoury.com" title a list of the resources this website offers-- 'Features' has what you need, but for your convenience--

Anatomy of the sword:

Glossary of various sword terms:

Glossary of the various forms of sword and dagger used in Europe throughout history:

These three articles should be more than enough for your purposes.

As to where, something that a lot of people don't know at first is that many historic swords were actually made by different hands-- a smith would forge the blade, a cutler would hilt it and sharpen it, and a scabbard-maker would fit it out with a scabbard and belt. In Scotland in particular, it was quite common to import blades from Germany and fit them to traditionally Scottish hilts; Solingen was a common source of these blades. I'm not the person to ask about that exact issue, though...

Materials-- the blade was pretty much always steel in the period you're interested in. The guard and pommels could be iron, brass, bronze; hilt would have been a wooden core either left plain or covered in fabric or leather of some variety. Scabbard would have been a wooden core with leather or fabric covering and metal fittings.
Mindy Schweigert wrote:

Again if this was painted in London it may explain Kenneth having a "pillow sword" at his side instead of a claidheamh mr across his back and wearing the traditional feileadh mohr (or more than likely a pair of trewes and a long linen shirt)


As a member of the newly favoured post-Commonwealth aristocracy, and a favourite of Charles II, I doubt very much if Earl Kenneth spent much time in Scotland and, if he did, he'd still be wearing clothes befitting his status, not just trews and a long linen shirt. I also doubt if he ever wielded a claymore.
Look at portraits of his contemporary peers, David Leslie, Lord Newark for example, or John Leslie, Duke of Rothes, or even Sir George Mackenzie, Kenneth's cousin, an eminent Scottish lawyer. All dressed very much in the height of mid/late 17th century fashion and not a huge two handed sword between them.

As Patrick Cargill famously said in 'The Blood Donor'; "We're not all Rob Roys you know?". :)

As an aside, the wearing of claymores in a back scabbard (and, indeed, any sort of back scabbard for Western swords) is, I think, a modern creation for which there is no historical evidence.
Excellent info for me - it's been diffiicult finding specific info that is accurate ( or at least as accurate as possible) it's that problematic don't believe everything you read on the internet - if it's on the web it must be true so I'll just perpetuate it and eventually if everyone copies the info it will change history and become a fact - which I why I am thrilled to have found this site as well as others who can correct any disinformation

A couple of books I suggest you get hold of.

Restoration Scotland, 1660-1690. Royalist Politics, Religion & Ideas by Clare Jackson (a good study of the social, cultural, intellectual and political changes of the period).

A History of Everyday Life in Scotland 1600-1800 by Foyster and Whatley (good for background detail; sights, sounds smells etc. Lots of primary sources).

It's a fast moving, complicated period; in the space of 40 years we went from having Charles I on the throne to the Glorious Revolution that put the crown on William of Orange's head, via Cromwell's Commonwealth and Charles IIs Restoration.

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