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Scottish Infantry Officer’s “Three Quarter” Basket Hilted Broad Sword Circa 1750

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Price: £2,700

Ref: 064.16

Item Description

A rare British Army “three quarter” basket hilted broad sword dating to the middle part of the 18th century, most likely made for an officer serving with a Scottish infantry regiment such as the Black Watch.

The “three quarter” basket guard was largely developed as a result of the Duke of Cumberland’s reviews of his army in the mid 18th century, where he made known his concerns about full military basket hilted swords (Cumberland Papers, Windsor Castle). In his opinion they were cumbersome and men could not salute properly with them. As a result, for a short time, a number of reduced basket hilt designs were explored. Surviving examples from this period are usually munitions grade whereas this example is clearly of higher quality, of Scottish type and for an officer.

Compared to the more usual full military basket hilt design this sword is an attractive compromise to produce a lighter basket guard. It is reduced to “three quarter” size, in that the rear guard bar has been completely removed,  as has the secondary rear guard bar plus one of the frontal panels on the inside.  A flowing curved bar curls downwards from the pommel and merges with the cross guard near the wrist guard giving a pleasing flowing appearance to the altered hilt structure. This is a unique design feature which indicates a lot of thought went into the appearance and functionality of this new hilt, rather than simply removing of a few bars, as is more frequent with the contemporary munitions grade constructions. Although a lighter hilt, the guard bars are thick and sturdy, very much fit for purpose.

The guard bars of the basket are fluted on the outside with a wider groove to the middle flanked by narrower incised lines in “Glasgow” manner. The bun shaped pommel with integral button is typical of other British military basket hilted swords of the time. The arms of the guard are forged onto a ring into which the base of the pommel sits. The original spirally grooved grip is covered with shagreen, bound with copper wire and mounted with iron ferrules top and bottom.

The infantry length 31.5 inch (80 cm) plain double edged blade tapers to its tip and has a single shallow fuller either side extending some  8 inches (70 cm) from the hilt down the middle.  The overall length of the sword is 37.5 inches (95 cm).

For further examples of reduced basket designs see Cyril Mazansky, British Basket Hilted Swords, 2005, Boydell Press, pages 227 & 229.

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