Unsurprisingly one of the highlights of visitors time here at Culloden is attending the workshops that volunteers come and run in the exhibition looking at weapons of the ’45 Rising. The chance to see and touch replicas of the real items on display in the cases helps bring the story to life.
In particular people are interested about the swords that we have on display. It is not unusual for guests to enquire about the famous large Scottish two handed sword of ‘Braveheart’ fame but during Culloden and the ’45 weaponry had moved on to the sleeker and more refined basket hilted broadsword.
For those who get to feel the weight of the sword it is often lighter than they expect and is easily wielded by one hand leaving the other free for the targe and dirk. The Scottish version of the sword was typically broader than other swords around at the time. It’s Gaelic name would have been claidheamh-mór which translates as ‘great sword’ in reference to this larger size.
Despite us referring to its special Scottish nature most swords were originally made in Europe with German steel often creating the main blade of the sword. There were also basket hilted swords in England as early as the 1500’s so Scotland was not exactly the pioneers of this new style of weapon.
Eventually though there were Scottish sword makers and the hilts made in Scotland began to form their own style with wider coverings around the hand than the thin bars of English hilts. Some hilt makers, or ‘hammermen’, became quite renowned in Scotland producing intricate works. We are lucky enough to have on display the ‘Brodie Sword’ which is believed to have belonged to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. It is a decorative piece rather than a fighting weapon and its hilt is elaborately decorated with the head of medusa with her snakes curling around the hilt and is a great example of 18th Century workmanship.
The style of the sword was not just for decoration. The hilt itself helped form a protective guard around the soldiers hand and a weight at the base of the hilt would be used to pommel enemies in close quarter combat. Those that were well made would form a perfect balance with the sword blade which would help make the soldiers slicing actions smooth but powerful. Combined with the targe and dirk in the other hand, basket hilted broadswords made the Jacobites a formidable opponent even against the Governments muskets and bayonets during the ’45 Rising.
We hope you enjoyed this short insight into the broadsword. As always please like, share, comment, tweet and if you want to know feel free to come along and see the broadswords on display for yourself.
All the best, K & D