Albion Armorers Next Generation Agincourt Sword
A hands-on review by Alexi Goranov
Sword design varied through the ages. One of the most noticeable trends is the domination of cutting-oriented swords with lenticular cross-sections up until the middle of 14th century and the increased popularity of swords more capable of thrusting with diamond, hexagonal, or hollow-ground cross-sections from the late 14th century onwards.
The commonly accepted hypothesis is that the design and function of the sword was dictated by the type of armour that opposed it. As the availability and the wide-spread of mail and plate armour increased during the 14th and later centuries, the thought is that the function of the sword had to adapt to give more thrusting potential by using stiffer and more pointed blades. Cutting-oriented blades with low thrusting potential continued to be manufactured well into the 16th century, yet these blades too had diamond cross-sections, which is generally associated with stiff blades. In other words, a diamond cross-section does not always mean a stiff, thrusting-oriented blade.
There are examples of Oakeshott Type XVIIIa and Type XIIIa swords that have diamond cross-sections but are very flexible and would not fare well thrusting against hard targets. The question then becomes why would a diamond cross-section be incorporated into a blade type that is mostly a dedicated cutter like the Type XIIIa? Is there a reason other than the spread of mail and plate that caused the popularity of the diamond cross-section after the end of 14th century, while the lenticular cross-sections nearly disappeared? Was one easier/faster to manufacture? Was it in part the current fashion? What dictated the almost complete lack of diamond cross-sections until the beginning of the 14th century? Did the increasing demand and metallurgical advancements in addition to armour availability dictate the form and function of the sword?
Many of these questions may remain unresolved but modern sword makers still try to emulate the proper feel of medieval swords including ones featuring diamond cross-sections. One such type, Oakeshott's Type XVa, was described by the late Ewart Oakeshott as having a slim blade of flattened diamond cross-section with a nearly triangular profile defined by straight edges that do not curve, coming to a sharp, often reinforced point. Such swords were in use at least from the second half of the 14th throughout the 15th century.
With their popular Next Generation line Albion Armorers has introduced an impressive batch of medieval swords designed through careful research of period originals by Swedish swordsmith Peter Johnsson. One of their newest offerings is an Oakeshott Type XVa sword they call the Agincourt, after the location of the famous 1415 battle which England won over the French army. The name is appropriate as it refers to a time where Type XVa swords were popular.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
The blade is very stiff and sturdy and together with the strong point they make the sword a very potent thruster. Changing guards with this sword is very easy and fluid. The long grip and forward pivot point of this sword (within an inch from the tip) make control very easy and give the feel of a natural extension of the hand during thrusting exercises.
The thick narrow blade is perfect for half-swording. When the blade of the sword is securely grabbed with the off-hand, half-swording techniques are easily and safely executed, though the author only attempted such exercises wearing thin leather gloves. The sword can be used with one hand, though (at least in the authorís hands) the full potential is only unleashed when gripped with both hands.
Fit and Finish
The guard fits very snugly around the blade. The pommel is amazingly attractive. It is interesting to see how careful use of simple volumes and shapes can generate very visually pleasing objects. The investment cast pommel has an even finish and the few small pits from the casting add a great deal of character to the overall look of the hilt. The peening atop the pommel is nicely executed into a dome shape formed directly over the pommel. The grip features four risers placed between the wooden core and the leather that covers it. Two of the risers are at the ends of the grip, and two are in the middle. The leather's seam was barely visible.
The gently curving guard of the sword was well executed. It features a hexagonal section at the tips and swells towards the middle. This guard style is generally considered to be typical of Anglo-French weapons as opposed to the Italian fashion which has the ends of the guard sharply turned down (as on the sword attributed to the Black Prince). A beautiful example of the style of guard and pommel used on the Agincourt can be seen on sword A.460 from The Wallace Collection, thought to be of French provenance.
The Agincourt is a terrific sword in both handling and appearance. Its beautiful lines are the result of meticulous research and knowledge accumulated by Peter Johnsson and brought to life by the skilled artisans and smiths at Albion Armorers. I highly recommend this piece to anyone interested in practicing the martial art of the German longsword or anyone interested in purchasing a weapon that feels like the period originals.
About the Author
Alexi is a postdoc in the biological sciences at MIT. He has had an outstanding interest in medieval military history and weaponry for many years, but only started collecting in late 2003. His main interests lie towards European weapons and warfare practices of the 13th and 14th centuries.
Photographer: Alexi Goranov