Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Sword of Gustavus Vasa

Because of my interest in swords in general and in the early 17th century specifically, I've always had a certain fondness for rapiers. The title image of this blog entry depicts one of the rapiers of Gustavus Vasa, who was the king of Sweden in the 16th century and pretty much created Sweden by uniting the country under his rule and ridding it of Danish influence.

In 1551, Gustavus Vasa ordered the start of weapons production in the city of Arboga and German sword smiths were imported to start the production of swords in the city. It has been theorised that at least the guard of the king's rapier was made in Sweden, but the blade most likely came from Germany. One or both of the cross-guards (or quillions, if you prefer) have been bent, probably as a result of the sword having been tossed out of the window of the Royal Castle in Stockholm when it was destroyed in fire in late 17th century. It is now kept in the Stockholm Royal Armouries.

The sword has enough presence to be used for slashing attacks from horseback, unlike the lighter rapiers of the later eras. However, given the condition of the blade and the time when the sword was given to Gustavus Vasa, it is likely that this was never used in battle. The king, like any men-of-war, naturally had many blades during his lifetime, some of them getting more use than others.

A unique feature of the sword is the gilded silver socket at the ricasso, where it protects the finger that wraps over the cross-guard, but also the blade itself when it is sheathed. The front of this socket is decorated with a female figure and foliage, while the back side is engraved with a simpler design.

The measurements of the sword are: length: 1088mm, length of blade: 952mm, width of blade: 35mm, weight: 1390g.

This truly beautiful sword captured my heart the very first time I saw it and when I learned of the replica made by Arms & Armor, I simply had to get it. It took me a couple of years to gather the courage, but when I finally ordered the piece and then received it, I was a happy man. The gold gilding of the original is replaced by simpler polished metal in the replica, the quillions are straight and the silver socket at the ricasso is not included, but it is still a very beautiful piece.

If you are interested, you can read an excellent history and description of the Gustavus Vasa's rapier at MyArmoury.com.