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In the past, reigning
monarchs and members of royal families, members of the nobility and
various other prestigious men, all carried swords not just as
weapons, but as a traditional, highly visible sign of their status.
Even today, swords and their close relatives – such as scimitars –
continue to be a cross-cultural signal of high achievement or high
Swords, the Noblest of Weapons.
Of all the different weapons that are
in use today, and of all the different weapons that have existed
throughout history, swords are by far the noblest. Yes, swords are
brutally effective weapons. But they are far more than that.
In the past, reigning monarchs and
members of royal families, members of the nobility and various other
prestigious men, all carried swords not just as weapons, but as a
traditional, highly visible sign of their status. Even today, swords
and their close relatives – such as scimitars – continue to be a
cross-cultural signal of high achievement or high social status.
In the military, swords were, and still
are, traditionally carried only by commisioned officers and, in some
cases, mounted cavalrymen. Swords are used to cut, thrust, strike and
slash, and they have the longest reach of any edged weapon. During
the Middle Ages, any knight considered his sword to be his most
important weapon, and with the possible exception of his horse,
probably the most important possession he owned. The edged weapons
carried by rank and file foot soldiers, usually knives, dirks or
daggers, were much smaller than swords and much less deadly, with
much shorter blades. These smaller bladed weapons were also much
less prestigious to carry and conveyed no signal of the bearer’s
A sword consists of a very long
single-edged or double-edged blade and an attached hilt, which is a
collective term that includes the pommel, the grip and a simple or
elaborate guard. The swords of some cultures use straight blades,
while other cultures designed swords or sword-type weapons with
slightly curved blades. But the basic underlying design of all
swords is remarkably uniform. Swords are typically carried while
sheathed in protective leather or metal scabbards that are attached
to the waist. Swords that are intended to be used as weapons are
usually quite utilitarian and are not elaborately decorated as are
many ceremonial swords.
Swords in War and in Peace, Past and
Swords have been used as weapons since
time immemorial, in hundreds of different cultures and in just about
every region of the world. Throughout the passage of time, weaponry
swords have been made of bronze, iron and steel (later, tempered
steel) and, as noted above, these types of swords were designed for
killing efficiency rather than beauty.
But in addition to being used as coldly
efficient weapons of war, swords have also been used for ceremonial
purposes for at least one thousand years. And although they are no
longer used as actual weapons, they continue to be used
ceremonially. Swords play an important role in some military
weddings and in certain military rituals, and they still are part of
a commissioned officer’s dress uniform. The investiture of a knight
(being “dubbed” a knight) traditionally was, and still is,
performed by the man being touched on the shoulder with the flat of
the sword of his monarch or lord. Swords are even used by Masons
during certain Masonic rituals and ceremonies.
Ceremonial swords are most often made
of gold or sterling silver, and their blades and scabbards are often
very elaborately engraved or inscribed. Sometimes the sword guard
and/or the scabbard are bejeweled.
Traditional swords, sabres, rapiers,
cutlasses and scimitars. Swords that were used in mortal combat,
such as Japanese Samurai Katana swords, and ceremonial swords such
Masonic swords. They all have a noble past, and they all signify
tradition and prestige.