Basket-hilted broadswords were characterised by a basket-shaped handguard – surprise surprise! The rapier is one of the most commonly known basket-hilted swords, but the broadsword was the version in military use, while the rapier was worn over civilian dress.
The broadsword was “broad” by contrast with the rapier, and as a military weapon was suited to cut-and-thrust fighting, as compared to the thrust-oriented rapier. The broadsword was the double-edged version of the weapon (gaelic: claidheamh leathann), while the backsword was the single-edged version (Gaelic: claidheamh cùil), and neither term is contemporary to the sword itself. The weapon was typically around 95 – 105cm in length. It was often used with a Scottish dirk (Gaelic: biodag) in the left hand, or alternatively a targe (shield). The dirk might also be held behind the targe. The handle of every dirk was unique, as they were carved by their owners.
In the 18th century the broadsword came to be particularly associated with Scotland. Hence sometimes it is called the ‘Scottish broadsword’. This was how I came across it in the first place – the kingdom of Ahlleyn in my latest WIP, In the Company of the Dead, is loosely inspired by Scotland, and my hero, Lyram, needed a weapon.
What type of weapon led to how big which led to how it was worn…. Despite its length, the broadsword was worn on the hip, albeit in a baldric because of the extra weight of the basket hilt.
The broadsword came into use after the musket made armour obsolete, and therefore also heavy weapons like the claymore. There are no muskets in my WIP, so I’ll have to equip Lyram with a claymore as well for actual battle. His broadsword might therefore become a largely ceremonial item of historical significance.
The basket-hilted broadsword is still worn as a ceremonial weapon by officers of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.