Curved, single-fullered sabre blade with spear point, 35¼ inches in length (~89.6cm), 40¼ inches overall (~102.3cm). Three-bar steel hilt with quillon and thumb guard, steel backstrap and oval pommel. Grip of pressed black leather over ribbed wood. Black leather washer. Plain steel scabbard with two hanging rings.
This sword’s backstrap is unusual, lacking the riveted ‘ear’ pieces extending over the grip that one would expect to find. A small variation like this may indicate that this was a sword for an NCO, or possibly a Yeomanry officer – see The British Cavalry Sword by Martyn, p.100-102.
The last model of sword produced specifically for the light cavalry, the 1821 Pattern was designed by the prominent London sword cutler John Prosser, Sword Cutler in ordinary to King George IV. His design was approved by the newly crowned king apparently without the knowledge of the military authorities, probably due to their long-standing relationship: when he was the Prince of Wales, George had commissioned a number of swords from Prosser, including a series for the officers of the 10th Hussars, his pet cavalry regiment, in 1808. George was fascinated by military pomp, and had a significant personal collection of diverse uniforms and weaponry. He was almost solely responsible for introducing Hussar regiments to the British Army, and more generally for incorporating European ideas of light cavalry tactics, dress and equipment.
Prosser’s work had always been high-quality and innovative: he invented the ‘quill-point’ blade in 1818 and produced many custom officer’s swords and presentation pieces. In designing the new light cavalry sword he needed to replace the venerable 1796 Pattern, a broad, strongly curved cutting sword with a simple stirrup hilt. The 1821 was instead only slightly curved, with a narrower blade intended for both cutting and thrusting, and its three-bar hilt offered more protection for the hand. Prosser may have taken note of what modifications his customers had been asking for – examples exist of 1796 officer’s swords with added side bars to protect the hand, as well as 1796 blades reprofiled to give a sharper point for thrusting. The ‘cut and thrust’ blade selected for the 1821 patterns would remain the core of the British cavalry sword until 1908, reused again and again with only very minor modifications.
At 34 years, the 1821 Pattern had the longest active service life of any British cavalry trooper’s sword. An almost identical copy of it was used by the Portuguese cavalry – see
It was officially superseded just before the Crimean War by the 1853 Pattern, which was the first ‘universal’ cavalry trooper’s sword, carried by both light and heavy units. But due to the short production run of this new type before war broke out, some cavalry regiments went into the Crimean War still carrying their 1821 Patterns and they remained in active use until 1855.
The blade has been previously cleaned and is quite bright, but has some marks from the polishing. Some patina and a small amount of light pitting remains in the fullers. The hilt and scabbard have speckled patination. The grip leather is somewhat fragile due to age and has some cuts and holes. The scabbard is missing one screw from the throat piece. It has a few dents and one hole through the metal on both sides near the chape. There are no visible marker’s or unit markings.
£425 including UK postage - see the Blackthorn Antiques website for purchase, for details on postage elsewhere and for more antique arms not shown on Gunstar.
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