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Rapier: HEN.M.217-1933

Object information

Current Location: Gallery 31 (Armoury)


Unknown (Uncertain)




Rapier. Large, tall barrel-shaped pommel, oval in plan, with a well-shaped button. Knuckle-guard, loop-guard, double ring-guards. Branches and single rear quillon, all of a broad ribbon-section. The knuckle-guard terminates against the side of the pommel with a large open ring; at the midpoint it swells to a balustic-shaped feature below which is a flat disc, below which again the lower part of the guard swells to a second balustic-shape; thus the disc id clasped between these two elements. At this point the loop-guard in front of the hilt and the back-guard at the back spring out. Each of the ring-guards show the same feature of a flat disc clasped between the two balustic-like elements. The lower ring encloses an elegantly pierced plate. There is a flat, rectangular ecusson from the lower edge of which springs a short triangular element. The single rear quillon turns strongly towards the blade and terminates, slightly curled inward, in a disc. Each of these discs on the guards and quillon is decorated with a neatly chiselled double-trefoil rose pattern while each of the enclosing balustic forms has, similarly chiselled, a long acanthus leaf. The same motifs, in a diamond shape, are repeated on the pommel. These decorations only appear on the outside of the gilt, the inside being quite plain. The grip is of oval section, bound in a most complex manner with strands of thick and thin twisted wire. The back-guards are of three elements. The hilt retains all of its original blue colour. Long narrow blade of flat diamond section; at the forte, three well-marked fullers, the middle on extruding halfway down toward the point. The stout ricasso, a little narrower than the blade, has its faces slightly dished. In the middle of each face of the ricasso is a stamped, very clear maker's mark, a fleur-de-lis ensigned with a crown within an ecusson.
Norman hilt type 57.


History note: Probably Mr James Stewart Henderson of 'Abbotsford', Downs Road, St Helen's Park, Hastings, Sussex

Legal notes

J.S. Henderson Bequest

Measurements and weight

Length: 130.8 cm

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1933-03-16) by Henderson, James Stewart


16th/17th century
Circa 1580 CE - 1620 CE


The rapier developed in the late 16th century and remained popular for the next century. With a long, narrow, tapering blade, a hilt with bars to protect the hand and a large pommel which helped to balance the blade, it was the fighting sword par excellence and which every man worth his salt strived to master. This example is marked with a crowned fleur-de-lys within a shield.

This is an outstanding sword, in perfect condition and of the very highest quality. The mark on the ricasso is one which has a long history; first used by the late Plantagenets and the Tudors as a royal badge, it became in th 16th century a mark of denote 'appointment' of the bladesmail or cutter to a royal house, with the same meaning as have the words ESPADERO DEL REY (sword-maker to the king) engraved upon some high-quality Spanish swords.

Western European

Components of the work

Grip composed of wire
Sword composed of steel
Blade Length 107.3 cm
Blade At Hilt Width 2.5 cm

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: fleur-de-lis ensigned with a crown within an ecusson

  • Location: On ricasso
  • Method of creation: Inscribed
  • Type: Mark
  • Text: 217H
  • Type: Tag

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: HEN.M.217-1933
Primary reference Number: 18942
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 19 April 2021 Last processed: Tuesday 20 April 2021

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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