A rare medieval sword, which had been given to the Mamluk rulers of Egypt and then looted from them by the same Crusader king, sold for £163,250 at auction this week, with an entire collection taking in bids over £ 1 million. Bonhams auction house in London held a sale of medieval and Viking swords, with many of them selling for six or seven times the expected price.
The crusader sword was estimated to sell for between £40,000 to £60,000. The Italian-made weapon was given as a gift to the Mamluk sultans of Egypt as part of a gift sealing a treaty. The sword was kept in Alexandria, but did not reside their long. Peter I launched the a crusade in 1362 against the Mamluks and his fleet captured Alexandria. They returned to Cyprus with immense amounts, including this sword.
David Williams, Head of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armor Department, says: “The fascination of this sword is that it has survived some six centuries having been gifted by a Christian King to a Muslim ruler and kept in the famed Alexandrian armory and then taken by force by Crusaders and returned to Europe. It is a remarkable survivor of the Crusader period.”
The sword has a flat tapering double-edged blade 92.5 cm. long and overall with the hilt 115.7cm. The weapon bears an inscription that reads: ‘Hubs Khazain al-Silah bi thughri al-Iskandariyya ayyam al-Sayfi Faris al [...d.]‘, ‘Donation to the armory in the frontier city of Alexandria in the days of al-Sayfi Faris al- [Muhammadi]. Amir Faris was an inspector in 840H, corresponding to 1436-7 AD. Only three other swords appear to be recorded inscribed in the name of the Amir Faris. One in a private charitable foundation, another in Leeds Castle, Kent and the other in the Military Museum at Istanbul.
The swords involved in the sale come from the late Danish collector E.A. Christensen, which included seven Viking swords dating from the 9th and tenth centuries when the Vikings were invading the British Isles on a regular basis. They ranged in pre-sale estimates from £2,000 to £8,000.
Lot 55, a Viking sword similar to one found in Ireland and estimated at £4,000 to £5,000, sold for a whopping £30,000.
A rare Viking sword from the 9th Century, found in 1887 in the mouth of the River Thieles, in Switzerland, (lot 57), estimated to sell for £6,000 to £8,000, made £27,500. Lot 54, found in the River Meuse in Belgium estimated to sell for £3,500 to £4,500 made £10,625.
See also our earlier report: Two dozen Viking and medieval swords up for auction