French Swords of 30 Years War?
Greetings all,

I am hoping the brains trust here might help me with some questions regarding the origin, source and type of swords used by the French Huguenots, during the 30 years war? I have Huguenot heritage and have traced my family line to the late 1600's, as a result of which, my current research has me deeply focused on the 30 years war and Wars of Religion in this part of the world. I know that my families village in Picardy, was raised to the ground about 1635 when occupied by Spanish and Croatian/Hungarian Cavalry.

What I am trying to ascertain is this ...

# - What was a typical sword of the period fielded by Huguenots at this time?

# - What type of sword, blade and hilt construction would be correct for this period?

# - Where were French forces sourcing their blades from, typically at this time?

Essentially I am looking for a replica sword that will best represent the period, in honour of my Huguenot ancestors. From my limited research, it appears that two types of swords seem to be most probable for this era. The rapier type hilt, fitted with a broadsword blade and from what I can tell would appear to be cut and thrust/bastard swords. I would welcome further input in order to narrow the field.

I have a book called Imperial Austria which shows several swords fielded early in the 30 years war, most likely by Saxony forces that are listed as combination cut and thrust carried by Cuirassiers during the opening years of the 30 years war. The blades of these swords are stated to have come from Passau, hilts made in Styria though the blades are broader like the sword on the right. These swords from the Imperial museum look almost identical to the Windlass version below - those shown in the book are of the type that would have the hilt of the sword shown at left, with the blade profile of the sword shown at the right. The sword on the right has too short a handle and is unlike those in the Imperial Museum.

Would French forces of the period have used swords much the same as this, or were they favouring something different? Would the French have been sourcing blades from Germany and making their hilts locally or would they have been purchasing complete swords - if so where from?

Cheers, Simon.
Most likely they were using swords made in Solingen, Germany and bought through Amsterdam. These types are often called Campaign swords, or Felddegen/Velddegen (field). Sometimes they are called Walloons, though that type didn't exist until the late 1640's.

Below are a couple of swords I found at Hermann-Historica.

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Felddegen, 1640

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Felddegen, 1640, 110cm

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Velddegen, 1630 [ Download ]

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Velddegen, 1630, 105cm [ Download ]

Thanks for the input - I know that while the Walloons were, like their Huguenot counterparts, Protestant, I am not sure there is any relationship between the naming of that type of sword ( Walloon ) - and the cultural and ethnic Walloons, that inhabited Flanders. My sense of things is that most French forces at the time were likely carrying cut and thrust type swords with variations of rapier type hilts. Do you have anything to support the Huguenot use of the Walloon hilt swords? We are dealing with the period 1618-1648 and from memory the Walloon swords didn't really make an appearance until about 1640 onwards.

Walloon, though it is commonly used, is a bad name for the sword type. The swords have notheing to do with Wallonia in Belgium. Like some other sword names, it is misleading, and nobody really knows why they came to be called that.
They were made in Solingen, Germany for Dutch vendors, who then distributed them to whoever wanted to buy.

Below, antoher German sword from around 1620

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felddegen4a ger1620103cm.jpg
felddegen, 1620, 103cm

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Because many of the Huguenot forces in the time of Henry IV's reign were "en haye", I am assuming that a great many swords were perhaps private purchase ( though expensive I'm sure ) - and did not necessarily follow a specific standard as we might expect to see in a modern day army. I assume the same would have applied post his death 1610 onwards and into the 30 years war.

There seems to be a dearth of information about the specifics of swords carried by the Protestant Armies and Allies at this time - it is far easier to know what their English contemporaries were carrying in the same period, as the English Civil War seems to be far better documented - or at least produced more easily identifiable swords such as the Mortuary. Having said that the Pappenheimer is a well known hilt style of the period and was used during the 30 years war, but I am unclear as to whether the French Protestants themselves might have used them.


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