AN IMPORTANT EARLY SEVENTEENTH CENTURY SILVER MOUNTED SCOTTISH BASKET HILTED SWORD
the basket formed of flat sheet and curved boars with shaped guards with toothed border and incised linear details, profusely applied with silver mounts, icons and mottos, large compressed pommel with conical, the leather bound wooden grip with lattice bound twisted wire, the single edged blade with triple fuller and signed to both sides
blade 83cm, overall 102cm long Estimate £20,000-30,000 + fees Provenance: From the collection of the late Baron Earlshall
Note: This important early basket hilted sword offers an insight into not just the traditions of use and significance of swords in Scotland, but also reflects the long-standing pride Jacobite families held across the generations. While it is easy to consider this sword as a romantic fancy, a family relic which has been 'improved' by the addition of silver mounts, this would be short-sighted.
The closest comparison to this sword in its overall outline and formation of the basket is the highly important 'Twysden Sword' in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The fine silver encrusted basket hilted sword that is believed to have belonged to Sir William Twysden (1566 - 1628) who was closely connected with the Royal Stuart court and was knighted by King James I in 1603. While it cannot be said the Earlshall sword under discussion is by the same hand it must be agreed that the similarities in style offer a close connection.
The distinctive silver mounts that encrust the basket of Earlshall sword are a key area of interest. The precise date of each of the mounts still remains a matter of debate, some being original to the early 17th century manufacture of the hilt and others added around 1707 and the Act of Union.
The two classical medallions to the pommel appear to be contemporary to the manufacture and have comparisons to the Twysden sword and others in the Wallace Collection. The addition of mounts in the early 18th century, reflect a high-status family strong and very public in their support of the Jacobite cause - choosing to make a political and nationalistic statement with their family relic.
This was likely around the time of the union under Queen Anne or perhaps a little earlier at the time of the initial Jacobite uprisings. The addition of St. Andrew on the cross, thistles and overt naming of James Stuart are obvious and common icons of this period. Equally, the motto to the knuckle guard can leave nobody in doubt owner's allegiances, "Prosperity to Schotland, No union, God save ye Kings James VIII."
A motto emblazoned in the centre of the sword - in full view when worn by the side or drawn in action - would have been a bold and to some a controversial statement. This motto can be seen on other Jacobite relics of c.1700, most notably to a group of basket hilted sword blades which bear the same motto and unusual spelling of Scotland. For a fine example of this blade type see 'Two Great Scottish Collections; property from the Forbes of Pitsligo and the Marquesse of Lothian' Sotheby's 28th March 2017 lot 108, for the sword of Alexander, 4th Lord Forbes of Pitsligo.
The spelling of 'Schotland' has long been explained by the manufacture of the blades in Germany before their movement to Scotland to be hilted, a common practice on the 17th and 18th centuries. It is believed that a group of blades, engraved with strong Jacobite sentiment, were commissioned on the Continent for distribution around Scotland to capitalise on the growing anti-Union sentiment. The mounting of this particular blade on such a prestigious hilt may be a reflection of the high status, perhaps even Royal connections, of the owner.
While there is much to be discussed around the Earlshall sword, including its early provenance, it is certain that it is a historically important piece of Scottish arms, reflecting a key moment in the country's history.
Sold for £20,000
(buyer's premium included)