Albion Armorers Next Generation Prince and Squire Swords
A hands-on review by Chad Arnow, with comments from Harlan Hastings.

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Introduction
The High Middle Ages saw an arms race between armourer and swordsmith. As the use of plate armour became more commonplace, swordsmiths were forced to try new blade designs (or tweak old ones) in order to allow their weapons to have maximum effect against their intended targets. Blades began to evolve that could handle thrusting into joints in armour, using an increase in the amount of profile taper to create an acute tip. These blades tend to fall into three categories: those that are primarily cutters, but can thrust if pressed; those that are primarily thrusters, but that have some cutting ability; and those that are designed to do both.

The swords of the latter group combine the most effective characteristics of the first two groups. They have wide blades, often fullered, for cutting power. They also have reinforced cross-sections (diamond or hexagonal instead of the older lenticular section) and acute tips for powerful thrusts.

Overview
The Next Generation lineup, by Albion Armorers, features swords designed to cover the spectrum of historical swords. The two swords reviewed here, the Prince and the Squire, are quite difference in appearance, showing both elegance and simplicity in their designs. Both are good early examples of swords designed to be versatile; their blades are effective for thrusts and powerful cuts. Swords like this with wide, fullered blades and acute points were popular from the late 13th century through the mid-14th century. These two swords share the same blade, though, as can be seen below, subtle differences in measurements create a noticeable difference in handling.
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Measurements and Specifications for the Prince:
Weight:2 pounds, 7 ounces
Overall length:38 5/8 inches
Blade length:31 13/16 inches
Blade width:2 3/16 inches at base, tapering to 1/2 inch
Grip length:3 3/4 inches
Guard width:7 9/16 inches
Point of Balance:4 3/4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~21 1/2 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XVI blade, Style 6 guard, Type I1 pommel

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Measurements and Specifications for the Squire:
Weight:2 pounds, 8 ounces
Overall length:38 5/8 inches
Blade length:32 1/16 inches
Blade width:2 3/16 inches at base, tapering to 1/2 inch
Grip length:4 1/8 inches
Guard width:7 11/16 inches
Point of Balance:4 7/8 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~22 1/2 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type XVI blade, Style 2 guard, Type J (or K) pommel

Both replicas created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Fit and Finish
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Side view of Prince Grip and Pommel

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Side view of Squire Grip and Pommel

Both swords are well-finished, and showed no gaps or any sloppy fitting. Many reproduction swords miss the subtleties of visual detail (subtle proportions, shapes, and volumes) that are seen on surviving antiques. If the lines and details are too sharp, the swords can look artificial and overly modern. If the details are poorly defined, the sword has the appearance of a 10th generation photocopy. As with the rest of the Albion swords I have seen, the Squire and the Prince each feature crisp lines that still manage to look organic and wholly authentic. Albion's investment cast mild steel hilt components on both swords are cast cleanly, without being too perfect. There are a few very minor casting pits, and some very slight asymmetries due to the amount of manual work that goes into crafting the waxes. Albion manages to give mass-produced hilt components a traditional handmade feel. The fullers on both blades are cleanly finished, and the blades taper to lethal points.

Fellow collector Harlan Hastings described the fit and finish of both swords as "top notch." He went on to say, "the blades are smoothly finished with crisp ridges on each side of the fuller transitioning to a clean, well-defined diamond cross-section in the point. The Squire definitely strikes me as a working man's sword with its simpler, straighter cross and wheel pommel. The Prince I handled, especially with the faceted bronze pommel, a red grip, and more complex curved guard, drew attention to itself in a way any nobleman would appreciate. The grip on the Prince is a little thinner in cross-section giving it a more elegant look (and more comfortable to my smaller hands)."

Handling Characteristics
Both swords are quite lively in the hand. Since they are designed to have a nice blend of cutting and thrusting abilities, they have a very pleasant feel in the hand, feeling quite capable of doing either task. While these swords share the same blade, they handle quite differently, due mainly to the difference in the swords' Points of Balance. The farther PoB of the Squire lends a little extra blade presence to that sword, while the Prince feels livelier in the hand. Of the eight Albion single-handed swords I have cut with at this time, these two cut the best against soft targets. Both cut extremely well, but the Squire has a slight edge over the Prince in terms of cutting efficiency, due, no doubt, to the difference of its balance point. Neither sword caused any excessive vibrations to be transmitted to the hand during cutting.

The grips of these two swords are also quite different. The grip on the Squire is oval in section and relatively thick; a half-dozen cord risers lend to a very sure gripping surface whether used with bare hands or while wearing gloves. The Prince, however, has a thin grip which is octagonal in section, with three cord risers in the middle. At first glance the grip of the Prince seemed too thin to accommodate my large hands. In fact, swinging the sword without gloves was a nerve-wracking experience, though the sword stayed firmly in my hand. With gloves on, however, it was quite comfortable and secure.

I tested these swords against pool noodles, cutting from three different grips. The first was the typical hammer grip, which produced the least effective cuts. I also tried the hammer grip with my forefinger looped over the cross. Holding the swords like this gave a lot of control to the tip section and produced a lot of good cuts against these soft targets. I also tried gripping the sword in a fashion similar to the proper way to hold a Viking sword. When gripping a sword like this, the hand is angled as if giving a handshake, allowing the pommel to slide by the heel of the hand. This produced the most effective cuts, even though the sword isn't gripped quite as tightly as in the other two grip styles.

Harlan agrees that the swords exhibit different handling characteristics: "the Squire felt more authoritative in the cut while the Prince was a little handier and quicker with the point. If I had to fight in a battle against potentially armoured opponents I would take the Squire. It's a sword that would deliver a very strong cut while still enabling accurate thrusts. In a conflict on the street however, I'd rather have the Prince with it's faster handling and pinpoint tip control. Most people who saw/handled both swords together did not realize they were built with identical blades."

Conclusion
I was impressed by both swords. Aesthetically I prefer the Prince, but the Squire had the advantage in cutting. That is not to say, however, that the Prince is a poor cutter or that the Squire is unattractive. Both are attractive and both show good handling characteristics when cutting. These swords by Albion Armorers are great examples of weapons that would have seen service in the early stages of the Hundred Years' War.





About the Author
Chad Arnow is a classical musician from the greater Cincinnati area and has had an interest in military history for many years. Though his collecting tends to focus on European weapons and armour of the High Middle Ages, he enjoys swords, knives and armour from many eras.

Acknowledgements
I want to extend my special thanks to Harlan Hastings for his comments and observations.
Photographer: Chad Arnow



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