Tag Archives: history

The Basket-Hilted Broadsword: Medieval Weaponry and Accoutrements

Basket Hilted Broadsword
Basket Hilted Broadsword

Admiral Sir Thomas Allin – Allin’s sword hangs on a heavy baldric of the type needed for a basket-hilted broadsword

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.

‘Scottish broadsword’ by Rama available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basket-hilted_sword#mediaviewer/File:Claymore2-Morges.jpgunder a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 France  Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en

‘Scottish broadsword’ by Rama available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basket-hilted_sword#mediaviewer/File:Claymore2-Morges.jpgunder a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 France Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en

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.

The Morningstar – Distinguishing Your Bludgeoning Weapons: Medieval Weaponry and Accoutrements

Morningstar
Morningstar

Flail. Mace. Morningstar. I’ve been asked what’s the difference?

Quite simply, they are all crushing weapons. The flail features one or more striking heads attached to a handle by a rope, strap or chain. Both the mace and the morningstar have the head affixed directly to the handle, and so are the two most similar of these three weapons. A mace may or may not have flanges or knobs, but does not have spikes. A morningstar always has a spiked head, and most particularly, has a spike extending straight up from the top of the head. A flail may have spikes, but of course is differentiated from the morningstar by the head not being affixed to the shaft.

And now we’ve come full circle.

Each weapon is worth examining separately, so today we have the morningstar. Previously we have examined the flail and the mace.

Due to the morningstar’s design, it inflicted damage to an enemy via a combination of blunt-force and puncture wounds.

While superficially similar, the mace and morningstar developed independently, and when the mace transitioned to wholly metal construction, the morningstar retained its wooden haft. Additionally, the morningstar traditionally had a longer reach, with a typical weapon having a haft of six feet more – although cavalry weapons were typically shorter. Some weapons were even bigger! I don’t think I’d want anyone swinging that thing at me.

One example housed in the Vienna museum is a whopping 7’ 9” in length! This is a professionally made military morningstar, and the top spike itself is 21 inches in length. I don’t know about you, but that’s long enough to go clear through me and out the other side.

Cruder morningstars also existed, and were usually cobbled together by peasants out of hand-cut timber and fitted with nails and spikes. Pretty sure I still wouldn’t want someone hitting me with that.

It’s a Flail! A Mace! No, it’s a Morningstar! Simple Chart To Work Out the Difference

Fails, Maces and Mormingstars

The Mace – Distinguishing Your Bludgeoning Weapons: Medieval Weaponry and Accoutrements

The Mace


Flail. Mace. Morningstar. I’ve been asked what’s the difference?


Quite simply, they are all crushing weapons. The flail features one or more striking heads attached to a handle by a rope, strap or chain. Both the mace and the morningstar have the head affixed directly to the handle, and so are the two most similar of these three weapons. A mace may or may not have flanges or knobs but does not have spikes. A morningstar always has a spiked head, and most particularly, has a spike extending straight up from the top of the head. A flail may have spikes, but of course is differentiated from the morningstar by the head not being affixed to the shaft.


And now we’ve come full circle.


Each weapon is worth examining separately, so today we have the mace. Last month we looked at the flail, and next month we’ll examine the morningstar.

The Mace 


A mace is typically a strong metal or wooden shaft with a heavy head of stone, copper, bronze, iron or steel. The head could be smooth, although knobs and flanges were incorporated in some versions to allow the weapons to be used more effectively against wearers of plate armour. Damn knights! That said, the force of a blow from even a solid mace head without flanges or knobs was significant enough to injure a man even through plate armour.

Maces varied in length from 2 – 3 feet for infantry maces, through to the longer cavalry maces, with the longest being the two-handed maces. This was not a weapon designed to be used in close formation, and were most effectively used by heavy cavalry.

A popular belief is that clergy used maces to avoid shedding blood – evidently the inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons where clerics can only use blunt weapons, but there is little actual evidence for this practice in reality. The myth seems to be largely based on a picture of Bishop Odo of Bayeux wielding a club-like mace at the Battle of Hastings in the Bayeux Tapestry. However, other Bishops were depicted with the arms of a knight, contradicting such a theory.

Maces exist in modern society largely as ceremonial items, particularly in parliaments following the Westminster system, where they are carried in by the sergeant-of-arms (or other mace-bearer) and placed on the clerks’ table while parliament is in session. As well as being removed when the session ends, the mace is removed when a new speaker is elected to show that parliament is not ready to conduct business. 

Ceremonial maces are also used by the clergy as a symbol of jurisdiction, in parades as part of military bands, and in universities in a similar manner to parliament.

It’s a Flail! A Mace! No, it’s a Morningstar! Simple Chart To Work Out the Difference

 


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The Flail – Distinguishing Your Bludgeoning Weapons: Medieval Weaponry and Accoutrements

Flail

Probably a two-handed flail, judging by the
length of haft and chain. The head is of the
spiked variety.
Flail. Mace. Morningstar. I’ve been asked what’s the difference?

Quite simply, they are all crushing weapons. The flail features one or more striking heads attached to a handle by a rope, strap or chain. Both the mace and the morningstar have the head affixed directly to the handle, and so are the two most similar of these three weapons. A mace may or may not have flanges or knobs but does not have spikes. A morningstar always has a spiked head, and most particularly, has a spike extending straight up from the top of the head. A flail may have spikes, but of course is differentiated from the morningstar by the head not being affixed to the shaft.

And now we’ve come full circle.

Each weapon is worth examining separately, so today we have the flail. In later posts we’ll look at the mace and the morningstar.

The Flail

The bottom weapon appears to be a single-handed flail
with a knobbed head.
The flail comes in two main varieties – one- and two-handed, the latter of which originated from the agricultural tool used to thresh grain. It was mainly an offensive weapon, having virtually no defensive capabilities. The key benefit of the two-handed version was that it could overcome your opponent’s shield – cool! On the downside, it lacked precision, and in close combat or close formations you were just as likely to brain the bloke next to you – OK, not so good.

The one-handed flail is most often depicted as one or more metal heads, which may or may not be spiked, attached to a short handle by a long metal chain. Multiple striking heads! More power! I’m almost having a Tim the Tool Man moment, and I will totally include a multiple-headed flail in the next book I write – this is just too cool to ignore. In the majority of cases, the chain on the one-handed flail is long enough that you need to be careful not to hit your own hand. Yeah all right – that’s not so good, especially if your flail does have multiple heads.
 
Top Right – Multiple-headed flail. Middle Right –  Mace. Bottom Right – Morningstar with knobbed head and typical central spike. Top Middle – Morningstar. with typical central spike and smaller spikes. Middle – Mace with knobbed/ridged head. 

It’s a Flail! A Mace! No, it’s a Morningstar! Simple Chart To Work Out the Difference



If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my July Newsletter if you missed it.


Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.


Thanks for stopping by and visiting!