The English Bastard sword is known as the épée bâtarde sword in France, it became popular at the end of the medieval period at the start of the 15th century.
It is difficult to categorise the Bastard sword but military historians seem settled on the fact that this sword was somewhere in between a short sword and a long sword, the bastard sword carries some uncertainty in regards to its origins and is often described as an irregular type sword.
Joseph Swetnam the historically famous fencing master described the bastard sword as being somewhere in between being an arming sword and a long sword. In historical documents, it has been described as being both a one-handed and two-handed sword by different chroniclers.
The bastard sword was probably known and recognised as a long sword or a big sword by medieval people as the name Bastard sword had not been invented to describe this type of sword until after the medieval period had ended.
A bastard sword could also have been described as a long sword, hand & half sword, or two-handed sword amongst other names that it probably had. Literally, all these names refer to the same thing, which is a long sword with a long handle used with one or two hands.
This also means that the bastard sword did not fit into the one-handed or two-handed sword category exactly because it could be used in either way, there were also variations of the bastard sword, some had longer handles than others and different adaptations were made on the hilt for example.
“The name Bastard sword is just a modern way to classify this type of sword, medieval people did not use the term bastard sword and all different types of swords were just known to them as “swords”.
A bastard sword had a long hilt; the hilt refers to the handle part of a sword including the crossguard, grip, and pommel.
The crossguard is the straight piece of metal just before the start of the blade, the grip is the part of the handle that you hold onto and the pommel is the part right at the bottom of the handle which is usually a rounded shape.
The long hilt 10-15 inches in length mainly distinguishes the bastard sword from other medieval swords. The bastard sword also had a long thin long blade that tapered into a point.
The bastard sword had a two-edged blade that tapered into a point and weighed around 5-8 pounds, it was usually around 40 to 48 inches in length.
The bastard sword was a favoured weapon of Medieval knights because of its lightness, reach and flexibility in combat situations, it could be used as a one-handed weapon, easily swapped from hand to hand, or used with a two-handed grip for maximum power.
Most medieval weapons such as axes, bows, and spears could be made by most craftsmen, however, making a sword like the bastard sword was an entirely different matter. It required very skilled craftsmen to make medieval swords such as the bastard sword.
Craftsmen who could make swords like the bastard sword would have specialised in making these types of medieval swords, they were called blade-smiths, swordsmiths, blacksmiths, or just smiths they were also known as a swordsman.
These skilled medieval Craftsmen would “Smith” the blade of a bastard sword, this took a lot of skill and years of training as the blade-smiths would carefully shape and temper the metal into shape, and the steel would be finely crafted.
Medieval swords like the bastard sword were created by molding the metal from scratch by heating and shaping it, they were not made as is often thought by shaping a cold piece of metal that had already been prepared.
In battle, the bastard sword would have been a good choice of weapon, it was better than a sword that was designed as a one-handed weapon as they were usually heavier which made it harder to get a firm grip. The bastard sword however gave you the choice of using one or two hands which gave a superior grip.
It is the flexibility that the bastard sword offered that made it such a good weapon to use, the bastard sword gave you superior reach, good control, and good power all in one weapon. The bastard sword also had a long tapering blade that was good for thrusting actions lansing out the sword at your enemy and you could easily switch between using the sword blade and the handle as weapons as shown in the image above.
Bastard swords could be used in a similar way to other medieval weapons such as staff or quarterstaff.
Although bastard swords are thought of as two-handed grip swords there are numerous examples from medieval history that show them being used effectively as one-handed swords in conjunction with a shield such as a buckler shield, which is basically a round-shaped medieval shield made of wood or metal.
If you actually used a bastard sword and compared it to other similar swords used in medieval times you will find that it is much lighter and easier to handle than most large medieval swords, in fact, it is a very pleasant sword to handle.
You can easily manoeuvre a bastard sword; it is easily transferred from one hand to the other it is easy to control you can thrust the bastard sword through the air and make exaggerated slashing motions without as much effort as other medieval swords of similar size.
A bastard sword can be used with one hand, although you can get more power into the movements of the sword with two hands. In addition, the long handle (the hilt) has a dual purpose as it gives a much better grip if you want to use two hands, and you can strike an opponent with the end of the handle.
You feel more in control when you use a bastard sword over many other medieval swords and there are more options available to you in the attack. The bastard sword is thinner and lighter than many other medieval swords and is good for thrusting in a lansing type motion at your opponent, in fact, If I was a medieval knight I think this would be my weapon of choice
A bastard sword can be described as a cutting, slicing, and thrusting weapon, it was capable of cutting off the limbs of an enemy easily in just one stroke. The bastard sword was used in close combat situations and because of its length, it gave you an advantage when used for cut and thrust actions.
Bastard swords had a long fairly thin blade that tapered into a point the hilt or handle of the sword would allow better grip and two hands could be used comfortably with the option of using one hand due to its lightness in weight.
Medieval knights trained to use a bastard and other medieval swords and weapons from a very early age and it would take many years for them to master the use of a medieval bastard sword weapon. Even though the bastard sword was lighter than many medieval swords, you also needed great strength to be able to use this weapon for any length of time.
Medieval knights would train regularly as part of their apprenticeship using a tool known as the Pell, this was a device that was specifically designed to help in the training of Medieval soldiers and knights. Many hours would be spent training to use the bastard sword and various strokes and advanced fighting techniques could be experimented with during Bastard sword training.
This allowed Medieval soldiers and knights to learn the skills required for cutting, thrusting and slicing, without the dangers of real combat that could lead to injury.