Albion Armorers Next Generation Kingmaker Sword
A hands-on review by Mark Mattimore
The Kingmaker is a name that has come to carry great weight in English medieval history. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (November 22, 1428 to April 14, 1471) was a pivotal figure in the Wars of the Roses and bore the name "Kingmaker" for his Machiavellian influences upon the monarchy during this period of English conflict.
With the exception of the royal family themselves, Warwick was the richest and largest landowner in England. He was nephew by marriage of Richard, Duke of York and inherited his earldom through his wife. He grew richer and more powerful still after he lost his father, a brother, an uncle and a cousin at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460.
Warwick helped topple the Lancastrian King Henry VI and fought beside Edward IV at Towton to aid him in securing the throne. Some historians even go so far as to frame Warwick as the true power in England during this period, ruling the country in all but name.
By the mid-1460s, however, Warwick became disillusioned with Edward and fell out of favor with the king. After forming an alliance with Margaret of Anjou, the exiled queen of Henry VI, he eventually staged a coup d'état in 1469. Edward fled and Henry VI was restored to the throne. Warwick thus made not one king, but two.
By the spring of 1471 Edward returned from exile with an army and seized London and the throne. Warwick faced his former king at the Battle of Barnet and was killed on the field. Thus ends the life of one of the most powerful men in English aristocratic history. Warwick's body was displayed in London before being buried in Bisham Abbey, the ancestral tomb of the Nevilles.
The Kingmaker is a single-handed, Type XVIII sword from Albion Armorers. With this sword's namesake being such a paragon of knightly virtues, one would expect it to carry a particularly noble air. That, in fact, is exactly what the Kingmaker is; a sword with a spirit that takes command to steer the course of history.
The Kingmaker is typical of many 15th century knightly side arms. Swords of this style are commonly depicted upon effigies of the era in England and throughout Europe. With the rise of plate armour, knights and men-at-arms began to favor a sword that could face more heavily armoured opponents while at the same time slash and cut against those wearing less substantial defenses. The Kingmaker represents a style of sword that would have seen action during the latter years of the Hundred Years War as well as the entire period of the Wars of the Roses.
The Kingmaker is typical of a nobleman's side arm of the 15th century, a sword most commonly suited for war, but also worn for other functions. Although shields were less common at this time, single-handed swords of this kind were often paired with a small buckler for extra defense.
Albion Armorers has a reputation within the collecting community as being one of the best production shops in the industry. When Albion launched their Next Generation line of swords in 2003 they were touted as the new benchmark in production replicas. In the ensuing years, lead designer Peter Johnsson and the rest of the Albion team have done more than just introduce new models. They have continued to advance the line by incorporating even higher levels of historic research, design, and production values into each subsequent release. This has resulted in a lineup of quality reproduction swords that is arguably the best outside of the realm of custom makers.
I pre-ordered this sword in advance of its production which led to a wait of about 14 months. This, however, was something expected. While many would scoff at such a waiting period it personally did not bother me. I would much rather have to endure a long wait than have the manufacture rush the design or manufacturing process. This is a sword that I intend to have for a very long time so I was willing to wait for the fine folks at Albion to get it right. And get it right they did, for the Kingmaker is a sword like no other I have ever experienced.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
The Kingmaker possesses the feel and handling one would expect from a high-end replica. In practicing basic form work, this sword moves nicely from guard to guard. The acute point is very easy to track into powerful, accurate thrusts. The sword is quick, with a very "centered" feeling, but still possesses a healthy blade presence that make it commanding in the hand.
The Kingmaker is capable of strong, powerful cuts. In fact it is much more of a cutter than I had expected, especially considering that the blade was narrower than anticipated. Its elegant appearance belies its cutting ability. During several attacks on well-ripe pumpkins the blade was capable of both delicate slices with the tip or full cuts straight through the gourds. While it doesn't deliver as devastating a blow as many longswords I've used, it is nonetheless a powerful and effective cutter.
During certain maneuvers, such as powerful, full-arm cuts, I did find control of the blade to be a bit difficult. I suspect, however, that this comes less from balance or weight issues of the sword itself and more from my relative lack of training and grace.
The overall feel of this sword is much lighter and faster than others of its type that I've handled. The hollow-ground blade lightens the sword very effectively by removing mass from the blade's surface and thus adds a very noticeable quickness. This hollow-grinding makes the blade particularly stiff and thus an excellent thrusting weapon. The net effect is of a weapon that is fast, precise and eminently suited to a variety of battlefield situations.
Fit and Finish
The hollow-ground blade is very precise and tapers to a wicked point. The hollow-grinding makes for an extra visual kick that many other swords could only hope to possess. The blade is extremely well executed and in my opinion, nobody does a hollow-ground blade better than Albion.
The Kingmaker's grip is of the standard Albion cord over-wrap design and possesses three separate cord risers at the front, rear and middle of the grip. It tapers down from the guard to the pommel and this gives the grip a comfortable, "forward" feel.
The fittings are extremely well executed. The Oakeshott Type K wheel pommel is typical of swords of the mid to late 15th or early 16th centuries. It is simple and the uncomplicated design reinforces the simple elegance of this sword. Its recessed center begs for a decorative insert for a bit of customized flair. Another high-end detail is the fact that the pommel cap is a completely separate piece and not merely a cast extension of the pommel itself.
The cross-guard is quite wide and possesses a flat, ribbon-like cross-section typical of Oakeshott Style 9 guards, with two sloping faces and each end turned over in a small roll. Subtle grooves down the middle of the guard make for an additional appealing design feature. The bottom edge of the guard has the customary raised triangular shape, tapering in contrast to the flat top. I found this to be a pleasant surprise when I finally received the sword because this detail isn't completely visible in Albion's on-line photos.
As a whole, the Albion Armorers Kingmaker is a sword that will appeal to the tastes of a historical connoisseur and I highly recommend it to the serious collector of late medieval reproduction arms. It is without a doubt the best single-handed sword I own and one of the best I've ever handled. It is far more beautiful than overly-designed wall hangers and will be loved by those who appreciate simplicity of form mixed with elegant design aesthetics.
The Kingmaker represents what I love about historic replica arms and armour. As a quintessential 15th century knightly sword the Kingmaker embodies all of the very noble ideals of knighthood; chivalry, honor, and a dedication to the art of arms. To heft this sword is to seize a piece of history. It pays tribute to our ancestors, their accomplishments, and their fighting spirit.
About the Author
Mark Mattimore is a writer living in Cincinnati. An obsessive reader and true lover of history, he has an abiding interest in medieval arms and armour in addition to being a student of the western mystery tradition. Professionally, he works as a copywriter with specialties in word-of-mouth marketing and brand identity development.
Photographer: Chad Arnow