The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Sword of Justice
  • Sword of Justice
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Germany
  • c. 1540
  • Steel and wood, darkened
  • Length: 87.2 cm
    Width: 5.9 cm
    Weight: 1.7 kg
  • Incised mark: three crosses
  • A721
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Ceremonial sword of justice, the darkened hilt spirally fluted (‘writhen’) and made up of a fig-shaped pommel; oval-section grip of wood (suffiently long to permit two-handed use) mounted with a steel collar at either end; short, straight guard spirally twisted; broad, flat blade of even width cut nearly square at the point; it is incised with three crosses on either side.

    German, about 1540

    Swords of justice are often confused with executioner’s swords. The 'heading sword' as it was called in England, was used in Germany in place of the axe. Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded by a sword at the Tower of London in 1536, by an executioner specially brought from St. Omer in France. Most extant German heading swords however are of much later date than 1540. See also no. A722. Furthermore, many so-called 'heading swords' of this type are in fact ‘swords of justice’, carried before judges in the German Lands as symbols of their authority over life and death.