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Old 11th December 2006, 01:04 AM   #4
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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Since this macabre topic seems to keep being pursued, I will try to address this in hopes of staying on topic, and focusing on the weapons. It seems most of the 'executioners swords' I have seen in various resources are German. Typically these 'swords of justice' are actually used as bearing swords, and are carried processionally in front of a judge to indicate his power over life and death. This tradition seems to have derived from 7th century Byzantine Empire where unsheathed sword carried point upward by arms bearer behind the ruler.
While these typically were actually bearing swords, it appears they were used in degree for thier suggested purpose. In England use of such weapon was uncommon, in fact Anne Boleyn in 1536, was the only instance in England of the use of such a sword in execution, and it was by her request.
An example of a sword similar is shown in "Swords, Daggers and Cutlasses" by G.Weland on p.26. The sword is German made, as are three examples shown in "Torture & Punishment" (Royal Armouries, p.19).

These swords characteristically had the squared point and according to Tarussuk & Blair (p.51) the balance of the sword was set forward, clearly for effective cut, but was entirely unwieldy for combat. Although examples seem to be made virtually all in Germany with dates ranging from 1530's through 1700 (one of this late date appears in "European Arms & Armour", Blair, #82), their use extended into Moravia and likely other Continental countries.

One thing that seems curious is that on some examples there are three pierced holes at the squared blade tip in triangular configuration (Wagner, "Cut and Thrust Weapons", plate 34), possibly the Holy Trinity?

I hope this is of some help.

Best regards,
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