Albion Armorers Next Generation Sovereign Sword
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
Ewart Oakeshott said of the Type XIV design that it "is a very distinctive sword-type which by its incidence in works of art can be given a more than usually precise life-span between 1275-1340." (Records of the Medieval Sword, 1991) There are many variances of this type, some with single fullers, and some with up to four. Sizes vary greatly, but this type is generally a single-handed sword with a very broad base that tapers very strongly to an acute point.
Such swords also tend to be made for one-handed use. A single-hand sword would generally have been coupled with a shield on the battlefield, and the oldest known fencing treatise happens to deal with the use of the sword and buckler. It also happens to be dated from the same time period as the heyday of the Type XIV. This name of this treatise is unknown, if it ever even had a name, and is known now as Royal Armouries MS. I.33, and is an illustrated sword and buckler manual depicting monks in combat. The manual is of special interest to practitioners not only because it is the oldest known western martial document, but because while superficially it only appears to have thirty-eight combat sequences, on closer examination, it is a surprisingly comprehensive and solid martial system. Of particular note is the use of the sword as the primary method of defense while the buckler is used more often to cover the hand in the midst of the attack.
In this style of fighting, the sword needed to be very quick, as it would flow from guard to guard with each strike. The sword would need a reasonable reach, but a too long of a sword may hinder some of the grappling techniques. The generally compact but powerful Type XIV somehow just seems to fit in very nicely with this style.
Albion Armorers has been breaking new ground with their much anticipated Next Generation swords. With the help of sword maker and scholar Peter Johnsson, this is a new line that promises to bring a whole new level of precision and historical accuracy to the production sword world. The Sovereign was among the first of the Next Generation line up, and is a single hander that shows an influence from XIV.8 of Records of the Medieval Sword. The pommel of the reviewed piece is steel, though it's also available in bronze as a standard option direct from the maker.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
The first thought when I pulled this sword out of its white Albion box was, "Wow. Now THIS is what I've been wanting." The sword feels fantastic. It's compact, but with a huge, broad blade that screams of power. Really broad blades have been lacking in the production world, and I can't express how happy I am that Albion did such a fine job with one of the only swords like this being produced. The short blade allows it to move very quickly, but it really packs a massive punch on the cut. At the same time, it is a wicked thruster, and the acute tip is not one that I would want to be looking down the wrong end of as my opponent stands in langort (the position where the sword is extended forward).
It didn't take me long to break out the sword and buckler drills. Albion advertises this sword as being one that would be well suited for the techniques of I.33, and I really see why. Somehow this sword just feels right for the style. From simply cuts to complex binds and grapples, the sword comes into place naturally, almost as if it were specifically designed for I.33's particular form.
Fit and Finish
The cross is crisply designed, being octagonal in cross-section, sloping towards the blade. The steel wheel-shaped pommel has a central boss that is recessed and could potentially hold a coin or a personal mark of some sort. In between the steel fittings is a well-formed grip of oval cross-section, which is wrapped in leather over cord. The grip has a band at both the top and bottom and three narrow bands in the center. This allows a firm grip to the sword, and helps make the sword feel natural in the palm. The seam of the leather is close to invisible. The red leather wrap on my sword is a very dark and rich color, and while it is technically called red by Albion, it is what I would have called oxblood. (To further confuse things, the featured sword in our photos has Albion's version of oxblood for its grip.)
Albion Armorers's Sovereign is a unique sword in the present market, and I could not have asked for a better representation of the type. As a functional weapon it is top-notch, and as a historically accurate replica it is nothing short of stunning. The form of the whole piece shows careful precision and an obvious eye for detail: A strong credit to the entire Albion team. To sum up, I'll just say the first thing that ran through my head when picking this sword up for the first time: "Wow."
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Chad Arnow