Curtana – Sword Of Mercy Once Belonged To The Anglo-Saxon King Edward The Confessor And Perhaps Even The Arthurian Hero Tristan

Ellen Lloyd – AncientPages.comCurtana, the Sword of Mercy is an 11th-century sword that is a truly historical object and one Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. It is one of only five swords used during the coronation of British kings and queens.

The other four British coronation swords are the Jeweled Sword of State, the Sword of State, the Sword of Justice to the Spirituality, and the Sword of Justice to the Temporality. The British Crown Jewels swords are some of the most valuable swords in the world.

Curtana – Sword Of Mercy Once Belonged To The Anglo-Saxon King Edward The Confessor And Perhaps Even The Arthurian Hero Tristan

From left to right: The jeweled Sword of Offering, the Sword of State, and the Sword of Mercy (Curtana).
G. Younghusband; C. Davenport (1919). The Crown Jewels of England. London: Cassell & Co. p. 54. (published in the US by Funk & Wagnalls, NY). Cyril Davenport (1848 – 1941)

This famous weapon once belonged to Edward the Confessor (1003-1066), one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England before the Norman Conquest of 1066. He was known as 'the Confessor' because of his deep piety.

Edward the Confessor ruled from 1042 to 1066 and his reign has been characterized by the crumbling disorganization of royal power in England. Shortly after Edward the Confessor’s death, the Normans began to expand into England, led by William the Conqueror, a ruthless and powerful ruler that change Britain forever.

Curtana – Sword Of Mercy Once Belonged To The Anglo-Saxon King Edward The Confessor And Perhaps Even The Arthurian Hero Tristan

Church of England parish church of St Nicholas, Ickford, Buckinghamshire: stained glass window depicting Saint Edward the Confessor. Ickford, Buckinghamshire. Credit: Vitrearum - CC BY-SA 2.0

The name Curtana comes from the Latin Curtus, meaning short. Interestingly the sword is also linked to some ancient legends.

According to one legend, the Curtana was the sword of Ogier the Dane, an 8th-century warrior. The sword bore the inscription "My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal".  It is said that Ogier drew the Sword of Mercy against Emperor Charlemagne’s son in revenge for the murder of his own son, but stopped with a voice from Heaven called upon him to show mercy.

Tristan and Iseult as depicted by Herbert James Draper (1864–1920).

Tristan and Iseult as depicted by Herbert James Draper (1864–1920). Public Domain

Another legend links the Sword to Mercy to Tristan, the hero of the Arthurian Tristan and Iseult story. He was a Cornish knight of the Round Table.

The 13th-century Prose Tristan states that Ogier had inherited Tristan's sword, shortening it and naming it Cortaine.

These ancient legends may be true but have not been confirmed. What is certainly very possible is that Sword of Mercy did once belong to Edward the Confessor.

It has a steel blade inlaid with copper and a wire-bound grip. The scabbard is covered with velvet and embroidered with gold thread. The blade started as a normal pointed sword that has been cut off about from its original point. Why the sword is broken is an ancient mystery. Perhaps, Edward, the Confessor broke the blade himself or had it forged that way precisely for the current symbolic resonance. It's also been said that the blade was broken off by an angel to show that a sovereign needs to show mercy.

Today, the Sword of Mercy is on display with the other Crown Jewels in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.

Updated on November 22, 2021

Written by - Ellen Lloyd – AncientPages.com

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