Historic Arms

The Collection of the late Baron of Earlshall

A highlight of our recent Scottish Silver & Applied Arts auction on 15 August was a fine range of historic arms and armour - including two feature lots from the renowned collector, and author of 'The Scottish Basket Hilted Sword 1450-1600', the late Baron of Earlshall.

The Earlshall Sword

This important early basket hilted sword offers an insight into not just the traditions of use and significance of swords in Scotland, but also reflects the long-standing pride Jacobite families held across the generations. While it is easy to consider this sword as a romantic fancy, a family relic which has been 'improved' by the addition of silver mounts, this would be short-sighted.

The closest comparison to this sword in its overall outline and formation of the basket is the highly important 'Twysden Sword' in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The fine silver encrusted basket hilted sword that is believed to have belonged to Sir William Twysden (1566 - 1628) who was closely connected with the Royal Stuart court and was knighted by King James I in 1603. While it cannot be said the Earlshall sword under discussion is by the same hand it must be agreed that the similarities in style offer a close connection.



Earlshall Jacobite sword



The distinctive silver mounts that encrust the basket of Earlshall sword are a key area of interest. The precise date of each of the mounts still remains a matter of debate, some being original to the early 17th century manufacture of the hilt and others added around 1707 and the Act of Union.

The two classical medallions to the pommel appear to be contemporary to the manufacture and have comparisons to the Twysden sword and others in the Wallace Collection. The addition of mounts in the early 18th century, reflect a high-status family strong and very public in their support of the Jacobite cause - choosing to make a political and nationalistic statement with their family relic.

This was likely around the time of the union under Queen Anne or perhaps a little earlier at the time of the initial Jacobite uprisings. The addition of St. Andrew on the cross, thistles and overt naming of James Stuart are obvious and common icons of this period. Equally, the motto to the knuckle guard can leave nobody in doubt owner's allegiances, "Prosperity to Schotland, No union, God save ye Kings James VIII."



Earlshall Jacobite sword



A motto emblazoned in the centre of the sword - in full view when worn by the side or drawn in action - would have been a bold and to some a controversial statement. This motto can be seen on other Jacobite relics of c.1700, most notably to a group of basket hilted sword blades which bear the same motto and unusual spelling of Scotland. For a fine example of this blade type see 'Two Great Scottish Collections; property from the Forbes of Pitsligo and the Marquesse of Lothian' Sotheby's 28th March 2017 lot 108, for the sword of Alexander, 4th Lord Forbes of Pitsligo.



Earlshall Jacobite sword


The spelling of 'Schotland' has long been explained by the manufacture of the blades in Germany before their movement to Scotland to be hilted, a common practice on the 17th and 18th centuries. It is believed that a group of blades, engraved with strong Jacobite sentiment, were commissioned on the Continent for distribution around Scotland to capitalise on the growing anti-Union sentiment. The mounting of this particular blade on such a prestigious hilt may be a reflection of the high status, perhaps even Royal connections, of the owner.

While there is much to be discussed around the Earlshall sword, including its early provenance, it is certain that it is a historically important piece of Scottish arms, reflecting a key moment in the country's history.


LOT 641
the basket formed of flat sheet and curved boars with shaped guards with toothed border and incised linear details, profusely applied with silver mounts, icons and mottos, large compressed pommel with conical, the leather bound wooden grip with lattice bound twisted wire, the single edged blade with triple fuller and signed to both sides
blade 83cm, overall 102cm long
Sold for £20,000 in total




The Cameron Family Sword

The tradition of re mounting family historic blades by antiquarian members of families is will recorded, with many important families still having such items within their collections. This can be seen in other relics / trophies such as the Preston Blunderbuss sold within these room 'Jacobite, Stuart & Scottish Applied Arts' 13th May 2015, lot 124.



Cameron Family sword Jacobite



This blade is unusual in its mounting seems much earlier than the usual early 19th century fashion for the Scottish revival fueled by Sir Walter Scott culminating in the visit of George IV to Edinburgh. Sadly its provenance is now almost lost and the story which follows it has been handed down verbally rather than written.

Repute which follows this blade suggests that it was remounted in the early 18th century (the basket hilt being commissioned at that time) to be taken to the Jacobite risings and follow Prince Charles. It was not only used but continued the family's connection and involvement with the protection and support of the nation.


LOT 640
the early 18th century basket of Stirling form with flattened round bars enclosing bold ram's horns and S bars, the pierced knuckle guards with scalloped edges and pierced lozenge and circular designs, the reeded pommel with screw fitting, the fish skin covered grip copper flat wire bound with similar ferrule, the earlier large double edged blade with twin short fullers and orb and cross bladesmiths mark, engraved the length 'Yis Suerd was brukyt be Ht Cameron at ye Batttailly off Stirling Bryg MCCXCVII and Bannockburn MCCCXIIIII & Feili Melle', at the join of blade and hilt a loose fitting plaque is engraved 'Yis Thrusande Claiffoff Metell gud aeft Tynt 3 hits Shynn in Saxonys Blud', original leather tooled scabbard
blade 81cm long, overall length 98cm
Sold for £8,750 in total





Dates for your Diary


AUCTION | Scottish Silver & Applied Arts | 15 August at 10am
LOCATION | 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3RR


Recent Articles