Trafalgar period Royal Navy swords are rare. Rarer still are those for midshipmen.
This high quality, non-regulation midshipman’s fighting sword dates between 1796 and 1810. In 1805, the Royal Navy adopted its first regulation pattern sword, with a straight, single edged blade, requiring all officers and midshipmen to adhere to the new regulation. It may have taken several years for this order to be fully adopted as it would have taken time for the order to reach all ships and for the officers to purchase new swords.
This sword was in service for the Napoleonic Wars and Britain’s most famous naval battle – the Battle of Trafalgar, which took place on the 21st October 1805.
France had already suffered a dramatic defeat at the hands of Nelson and the Royal Navy in 1798 at the Battle of the Nile (also known as the Battle of Aboukir Bay), fought from the 1-3rd August. Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805 ended Napoleon’s plans for an invasion of Britain, as it resulted in the almost complete destruction of France’s naval fleet.
The 500mm curved blade has a broad single fuller beneath a flat spine. The 7.15mm thick spine becomes a double edge for the final 150mm of the blade, before terminating in a spear point. The blade is service sharpened and retains its fighting edges.
The 28mm wide blade is hand engraved with a foliate motif. The blade is in fair to good condition for its 200 plus years of age and naval service. There is an all-over pale, mottled patina and pitting at the point. The blade remains strong and is firm in the hilt.
The hilt is 110mm in length. The brass guard and back strap retain their original gilding and the shagreen grip is in good condition with the strands of copper wire intact and tight. The grip is 90mm long. The gilded languets are engraved with a fouled anchor motif, typical of the Georgian period.
This is a very rare and fine example of a Georgian midshipman’s fighting sword from the Napoleonic Wars, in which the Royal Navy played a pivotal role.