Lancastrian Sword Returns to Coventry

A ceremonial sword which was carried before the mayor of Coventry in royal processions during the Wars of the Roses is making a return to the city this summer.

Coventry was a Lancastrian town, loyal to Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, and was England’s fourth biggest city at the time. It was also briefly made the royal capital during Henry’s reign.

The sword was confiscated by Edward IV after his victory at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, since Coventry had remained loyal to the Lancastrian cause and closed its gates to him.

After that, the sword simply disappeared for centuries. When it finally resurfaced, it was lying in a Whitechapel rubbish tip in 1897. (Why do I never find rubbish tips full of good stuff?) The blade of the sword was gone but the hilt remained in good condition. It went through various owners, finally ending up in the Burrell Museum of Glasgow, which has now loaned it to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry until November 21, 2021.

The hilt still retains some patterned gilding and its pommel is heart-shaped. And is that a faint rose just below the insert roundel? Close inspection of the crossguard shows more faded gilding and engraving of roses, sunbursts or stars.

The decoration on the pommel of the Coventry Sword.
Edward IV is victorious and Barnet and punishes Coventry by taking its ceremonial sword.

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