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Scottish Basket Hilted Back Sword of the 116th Regiment of Foot

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Price: £3,650

Ref: 051.18

Item Description

A fine example of a very distinctive form of late 18th century Scottish military basket hilted back sword.  The sword type was issued to Scottish fencible regiments raised in 1793/4 mainly to bolster the British Army for war with France but were disbanded in 1801. The most notorious was the 116th Regiment of Foot, or Perthshire Highlanders. The fourth Earl of Breadalbane raised this regiment in January 1794, but it had a short life, being disbanded after a mutiny in Dublin in August 1795. 

The hilt is symmetrical from the front being made up of two halves of steel  brazed together to produce the uniquely pot-bellied profile. The hilt is pierced with roundels engraved with Scottish thistles and leaves, and shaped with ribbon-like rear and secondary rear guard bars. To the front a roundel is present with the regimental insignia “116” surrounded by “NEMO . ME . IMPUNE . LACESSIT” inside a star. The Latin verse translates to “no one attacks me with impunity” and was the motto of the Royal Stuart dynasty of Scotland, from at least the reign of King James VI, when it appeared on the reverse side of merk coins minted in 1578 and 1580. It is the adopted motto of the Order of the Thistle and of three Scottish regiments of the British Army.

The small domed fluted pommel sits in a ring formed from the upper part of the hilt. The original wooden spirally fluted grip is covered with shagreen and bound with copper wire and mounted with iron ferrules top and bottom. The hilt retains its original leather liner stitched with red velvet on the outside. The broad back sword blade has short ricasso and a single broad fuller extending from the hilt for most of its length underneath the blunt back edge. Two further examples can be seen in Cyril Mazansky’s British Basket Hilted Swords page 201. The frontal roundel of one of these is engraved with the marks of the Breadalbane Fencible Infantry.

Our sword is in very good condition compared with many of its surviving peers from the 116th and other fencible regiments including those in Mazansky mentioned above and in other public and private collections. The metal of the hilt is quite thick and the engraving is crisp and clear. The sword is tight together with some wear to the grip on one side and minor age related blackened patches to parts of the hilt as seen in the photographs below. The blade is 32 inches long (81 cm). Overall the sword is 38 inches long (96.5  cm).

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