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A Medieval Mystery: The Sword of Windsor revealed!

A mysterious parcel was waiting for me when I arrived at my School's Christmas Party (and my 40th birthday party) on Saturday, November 23. It had been shipped from Edinburgh and was addressed to me, but I was not expecting a delivery that day. Besides, shipping companies do not normally deliver on a Saturday in Finland. The sender was a group called “The Honourable Heirs of Windsor”. I had never heard of them, and so expected somebody at the party to know something about it. But nobody did.

Sword of Windsor package My wife encouraged me to open it anyway. So out with a screwdriver, and under layers of cardboard we found the documentation that came with the shipment. It included a letter addressed to me from The Honourable Heirs of Windsor,

Sword of Windsor Letter

(which bizarrely has post-nominals but no names), a description of the provenance of something called “the Sword of Windsor”, apparently lost at the battle of Towton in 1461,


Sword of Windsor provenance 1Sword of Windsor provenance 2

and a metallurgical analysis of this sword by David Edge of the Wallace Collection.Sword of Windsor MetallurgySword of Windsor Metallurgy2

By this time, a small crowd had formed and we were all itching to see what was under the wrappings. So I unpeeled them, and there before my very eyes, was the Sword of Windsor. As the provenance suggested, it was in excavation condition (read: rusted to bits).

the Sword of Windsor The frame that it was attached to was clearly about 60 years old, and has various catalogue numbers and stickers attached to it.

Sword of Windsor back

So, some mysterious secret society had decided to send me an ancient sword. But didn’t require a signature on receipt? Very odd.

Sword of Windsor hiltThere were one or two clear problems with the sword as it stood. Firstly, the bone handle could not have survived 500 years in the ground. Secondly, the silver wire turk's head knot does not belong on a mediaeval sword. Thirdly, what is the likelihood of there being a surviving silver Windsor family crest on the pommel of a 15th century sword?

PommelShield Pommel side Pommel side 2

Given that it was shipped from Edinburgh, and that the “Honourable Heirs of Windsor Society” was “until 1994 the Honourable Sons of Windsor society” (I founded the Dawn Duellists Society in 1994), the most likely candidate were my friends in Edinburgh. But none of them have the skills to fake this. Also, the phone number on the shipment sheet was out by one digit. Exactly the same typo that appeared on a batch of business cards I had printed up about six years ago. So whoever sent this apparently had my old business card. All my friends have my number. Also, there are no names on the documents. But the seal has the Windsor crest on it, just like the sword.

I came to the conclusion that it was either real and to be taken at face value, or the most elaborate hoax in the history of antiques forgery. Fake the sword, yes, but the frame? The only people I know who could have faked it, are Lasse Mattila, and JT Pälikkö, old and dear friends. Lasse restores and conserves arms and armour for museums. JT is the best sword smith in the world (though he’d deny it). Both of these guys were at the party, and knew nothing about the sword.

So, something out of a Dan Brown book was happening live at my party. I was utterly baffled. It could not be true, yet this thing of beauty was right there. So I decided to email David Edge, to see what he had to say about the provenance. Before he could reply, I got this in my email:

Surprise! Lasse and JT had faked the whole thing, with help from David, and my wife, and my parents. That included making the seal stamp with the crest, for the wax seal on the letter, faking the pommel and crossguard, putting together the blade out of a bit of support structure from a statue that Lasse conserved about 12 years ago, making the frame and ageing it, faking the documents (that zeppelin strike in 1915 was very suspicious!), and even faking the box it all came in. The 1994 and the phone number errors were coincidences (they put the wrong number there to explain why the delivery was unannounced, but didn't know about the business cards). The whole thing never left Finland, all the shipping stuff was fake. They had thought I'd see through the whole thing in 10 seconds, and so had no plan for keeping the jape going. But what a jape!

And behind that pommel?

Back of pommel

Bastards. Sneaky, conniving, magnificent, bastards! With friends like these…

I am in awe.


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