For other uses, see Claymore (disambiguation).
The "Chieftain" by Albion Swords, a reproduction of a two-handed claymore Medival Swords (Oakeshott XIIIa, ca. Medeival Swords AD 1500.
Claymore is a term used to describe two distinct types of Scottish swords.
- 1 Name
- 2 Two-handed Medeval Swords (Highland) claymore
- 3 Basket-hilted Mediveal Swords "claymore"
- 4 See also
- 5 External Medieal Swords links
The name claymore is thought to be from claidheamh mòr—a Gaelic term meaning "big sword". However, another theory suggests it comes from claidheamh da lamh, literally "two-hand sword." Claidheamh is ultimately cognate with Latin gladius. As such the use of the term 'claymore' for the two-handed sword is considered debatable.
Two-handed (Highland) claymore
The two-handed claymore was a large sword used in the Medieval period. It was used in the constant clan warfare and border fights with the English from circa 1300 to 1700.
The last known battle in which it is considered to have been used in a significant number is Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. It was somewhat smaller than other two-handed swords of the era. The two-handed claymore seems to be an offshoot of Early Scottish medieval swords which had developed a distinctive style of a cross-hilt with downsloping arms that ended in spatulate swellings. The spatulate swellings were frequently made in a quatrefoil design.
The average claymore ran about 55 inches (1.4 m) in overall length, with a 13-inch (33 cm) grip, 42-inch (1.07 m) blade, and a weight of approximately 5.5 lb (2.5 kg), the blades are most similar to the type XIIIa, using the Oakeshott typology. Fairly uniform in style, the sword was set with a wheel pommel often capped by a crescent-shaped nut and a guard with straight, down-sloping arms ending in quatrefoils and langets running down the center of the blade from the guard. Another common style of two-handed claymore (though lesser known today) was the "clamshell hilted" claymore. It had a crossguard that consisted of two downward-curving arms and two large, round, concave plates that protected the foregrip. It was so named because the round guards resembled an open clam.
There seems to be evidence of both the two handed sword and the basket hilt being referred to as “claymore”. For this matter we paraphrase the research of renowned sword historian, Claude Blair. The first instance we see a written usage of this word is after the beginning of the 1715 rising—and coming into much wider use during the ’45. During this time, two handed swords were not used so it had to be referring to the basket-hilt sword. The aforementioned document states that men were armed with rifles, pistols, dirk, targe (shield) and “a sturdy claymore by his side”. There is a later document (July 11th, 1747) describing the Prince’s escape through the Highlands following Culloden that uses the term ‘broadsword’ and ‘claymore’ synonymously. Again, it is obvious that the swords in use at this time are the basket hit variety. This later sword was a much shorter, one-handed sword popular with Scottish troops and some English officers from the 18th century onwards, even seeing limited combat during World War II; a modern "claymore" was carried in World War II by Lt. Col. Jack Churchill DSO, MC & BAR. The basket was designed to protect the hand in combat. The Scottish basket-hilt sword is often distinguished from others by the velvet liner inside the basket (often in red), and also sometimes by additional decorative tassels on the hilt or pommel. This latter form of "claymore" (unrelated to the first) can be seen in some forms of what is now considered highland traditional dance (which correspondingly stems from the Victorian English Aristocracy's preocupation and romanticism of the Highlands of Scotland) as well as on the dress uniforms of British Army regiments drawn from the region.
- Two-handed Claymore
- Clamshell Claymore
- Basket-hilted Claymore
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