This week we thought we’d take the chance to highlight one of the artifacts on display in our Culloden Exhibition and have chosen the Brodie Sword.
Reportedly commissioned and gifted by the Duke of Perth it is one of two swords and targes made for Prince Charles and his brother Henry. The sword would have been a symbol of power and used for display only, not as a weapon. The sword came to the Brodie family through the marriage of Elizabeth Brodie to George, 5th Duke of Gordon in 1813 with the tradition that it had been taken from the Princes baggage train after Culloden.
The sword is a basket-hilted broad sword from the 18th Century. The hilt is unmarked silver most likely of north European origin whilst the blade is German. The basket is a conventional shape outlined with rococo scrolls and is made from numerous small pieces cast in low relief and soldered together. It is highly decorative, and includes many symbols of Jacobitism, including the Medusa head.
The symbology on the basket is based on Greco/Roman mythology suggesting an intellectual owner. Symbols include two serpents forming the wrist guard for wisdom and guardianship, a lion for royalty and a dolphin on the pommel to represent power of earth and sea.
The labrys or doubled headed axe (later used as a Fascist emblem) is a symbol of power and appears in the centre of faches (pronounced fatch-ey), a bundle of birch rods tied with a leather strappins. Faches were dipped in pitch and lit for use as a flaming torch. Their symbolic meaning is of power through unity and civilization/enlightment by force if necessary. Interestingly this is also where the term fachism comes form.
The medusa head was to strike fear into the enemy and was also a Jacobite symbol, in Greek myth if the medusas’ head was cut of the body would die but the head would continue to live, The Stuarts used this metaphor to infer that Britain would suffer without its natural head of state i.e. the Stuarts.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about this piece and you know where to come to see it in real life! As always please like, share, follow, tweet, comment and let us know if you’ve seen this sword or its brother, which is on display in Glasgow.
All the best, K & D