The Sword of Mercy (Curtana): A Deep Guide about History

The Sword of Mercy (Curtana): A Deep Guide about History and Coronation Ceremony

Introduction Sword of Mercy (Curtana) and Guide about Sword of Mercy

Curtana, also known as the Sword of Mercy, and this sword used by British kings and queens. It is part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. In the procession, it carries one of three swords alongside two Swords of Justice, representing kingly virtues. The sword is unique because its tip is blunt and squared off, symbolizing mercy. This special design signifies that the ruler should show mercy and compassion. Each sword carries its own symbolic meaning, with Curtana specifically symbolizing the role of the king or queen in showing mercy. Three swords symbolizing different aspects of justice and power are carried in the coronation procession.

Description Sword of Mercy (Curtana)

Description Sword of Mercy (Curtana)

The sword is 96.5 cm (38 inches) long and 19 cm (7.5 inches) wide at the handle. The tip of the steel blade is missing about 2.5 cm (1 inch). The Sword of Mercy baled has a decorative mark known as the “running wolf,” which comes from Passau, a town in Lower Bavaria, Germany. The Sword of Mercy hilt, or handle, is made of gilt-iron, and the grip is wooden, and also wrapped in with wire that is helpful to carry easily. It comes with a leather sheath, covered in deep red velvet and decorated with gold embroidery. Since the 17th century, people have replaced the sheath many times, with the latest version being made in 1937.

The Curtana, another sword, has a squared tip. During ceremonies, it accompanies two other swords with pointed tips. The Curtana previously featured a jagged, broken-looking tip, but craftsmen later squared it off. The other two swords’ tips distinguish them: the Sword of Temporal Justice boasts a sharp point, while the Sword of Spiritual Justice has a more rounded one.

History Sword of Mercy (Curtana)

History of The Sword of Mercy in the Coronation Ceremony

There are several swords matching this description. Scholars believe the original sword might have been the unnamed regalia sword, thought to be the sword of Tristan, a possibly fictional character created by a bard. Some debate suggests it could also be the sword of Edward the Confessor. Additionally, craftsmen made a later copy of Curtana in the 17th century.

Angevin Dynasty
A 20th-century image shows Curtana with a ragged tip, based on a 1661 catalog by Sir Edward Walker. The name Curtana or Curtein (from Latin “Curtus,” meaning short) first appears in records of Queen Eleanor of Provence’s coronation in 1236. The “Red Book of the Exchequer” lists “Curtana” as one of the three swords used in coronation services. The 13th-century monk Matthew Paris calls it “Curtein” and identifies it as the “Sword of Edward the Confessor.”

St. Edward’s Sword
The idea that Curtana is St. Edward’s sword is incorrect. Previously, there were items claimed to be St. Edward the Confessor’s regalia, but no sword was included. The chalice and paten of St. Edward were first mentioned during Eleanor’s coronation. Promoting Edward the Confessor’s legacy had political motives, as his mother was Norman, and he spent years in Normandy.

Ogier’s Sword

The name Curtana likely comes from the sword Cortain in the Carolingian cycle literature. The Oxford English Dictionary (1893) suggested this, and other commentators agree. Matthew Paris and his circle may have read the “Chevalerie Ogier” (c. 1192–1200) and borrowed Ogier’s sword name. In the poem, Ogier adventures in England and marries the English king’s daughter.

What is the Sword of Mercy myth?

The Sword of Mercy myth is about Curtana, one of the swords used in coronation ceremonies. At first, it was called the “Sword of Justice” during Henry IV’s time. But later, people started to see its blunt edge as a symbol of mercy instead. That’s why it’s now known as the Sword of Mercy.

Tristram’s Sword

Curtana may also be the same as “Tristram’s sword,” recorded in Angevin dynasty records. In 1207, King John listed two swords, including “Tristram’s sword,” which had a broken tip. Tristan’s sword broke in combat with Morholt, with the tip lodged in Morholt’s skull. Roger Sherman Loomis believed this was the sword later called Curtana. Martin Aurell suggested that Henry II symbolically gave “Tristram’s sword” to his son John during his knighthood ceremony, connecting it to Cornwall and Ireland.

The “Prose Tristan” (begun 1230–1235, expanded after 1240) recounts how Ogier the Dane received Tristan’s broken sword, which he further shortened and named “Cortain.” Loomis used this as evidence to support his theory that the prose writer knew of Curtana being depicted as Tristan’s sword, although this connection was forgotten during Henry III’s reign. Ditmas found Loomis’s theory appealing but disagreed on some points.

Dating the Sword

The original sword’s date is uncertain, with varied opinions. Matthew Paris identified it as Edward the Confessor’s sword, though some, like James Planché, accepted this, while others, like E.M.R. Ditmas, doubted it. St. Edward’s effects were removed from his grave and kept as regalia, but no sword was included.

The Sword of Mercy in the Coronation Ceremony

The Sword of Mercy in the Coronation Ceremony

Significance in the Ceremony:
During the coronation, the Sword of Mercy holds immense significance. Typically, the monarch receives it as a symbol emphasizing mercy and compassion in their rule, reflecting their temperament. This moment marks the monarch’s commitment to just and fair governance. In the coronation procession, three swords carry symbolic representations of justice and power.
Modern Day Relevance:
Despite its ceremonial nature, the Sword of Mercy remains a vital part of coronation traditions. Its continued use underscores the enduring importance of mercy and compassion in governance. Additionally, it holds a prominent place within the Crown Jewels collection, serving as a tangible link to centuries of British monarchy and tradition.

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