The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Halberd
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France
  • c. 1660 - c. 1789
  • Steel, walnut and gold, gilded, engraved and chiselled
  • Length: 229 cm
    Length: 62.2 cm, head
    Weight: 2.8 kg
  • A973
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Halberd, the top-spike with waved edges and strong central ridge, the edges at the base of the blade curved inwards and chiselled as palm branches, the space between being chiselled and engraved as a seeded fleur-de-lys; the decoration formerly gilt. The spike is carried on a bold moulding. Plain, triangular axe-blade with wavy edges, balanced by triple flukes, the outer two also wavy. In the centre, between blade and flukes, the surface is chiselled with a sun in splendor, formerly gilt. Cylindrical socket between two mouldings at the neck, then octagonal and pierced with a transverse steel lug. It bears faint traces of engraved foliage. Two langets or side-straps.

    Staff of walnut with moulded steel ferrule.

    French from about 1660 to the end of the Ancien Régime.

    Saint Rémy, Mémoires, 1697, pI. 94A, Pertuisanne monté sur sa hampe pour les Cens Suisses du Roy. In the Musée de l' Armée, Paris, are preserved thirty-nine halberds of the set: nos. K 318- K 356, which were carried by the Gardes Suisses of the King of France. They vary somewhat in quality and in minor details, and are possibly not all of the same period; most of them are numbered on the socket. Others are in the collection of the late M. Pauilhac, and one was in the Offerman sale, New York, 1937, lot. 196. See also nos. J 63 and 64 at Turin.

    The Swiss Guard had its origin in a mercenary regiment during the Wars of Religion, and was first incorporated in the permanent establishment in 1589 and in the guards in 1615. The massacre of the Swiss Guard was one of the events of the French Revolution (10 August, 1792). The guard was partially revived at the Restoration, and finally disappeared in 1830. A similar form of halberd was carried by the Swiss Guard of the Dukes of Savoy, being differentiated by a cross of Savoy (Turin, J 65-91).

    Similar weapons are illustrated by P. Dulin, Costumes du Sacre de Louis XV, and by G.-F. Doyen, Louis XVI recevant I' hommage des Chevaliers de I' Ordre de Saint-Esprit, Ie 13 Juin 1775, both at Versailles. Carre, Panoplie, 1795, pI. Ill, H, Pertuisane des Suisses. Only one of those now at Paris, no. K.324, has the engraved fleur-de-lys at the base of the main spike. It presumably indicates the weapon of a Sergeant of the Cent Suisses de la Garde du Roi (C. Aries, fasc. XII, 1969, Hallebarde des Cent-Suisses, no. 1). This unit, which formed part of the Garde du dedans du Louvre, is entirely distinct from the much younger Régiment des Gardes Suisses. However, this second unit had a number of trabans whose duty was to act as body-guard to the Colonel. They also carried halberds and it is not impossible that A973 is an example of such a weapon (Col. M. D. McCarthy, personal communication, June 1982).