Bastard Sword

It is difficult to look back at medieval history and see the word bastard sword being mentioned in any historic books of the time, it is widely accepted that the bastard sword originated in England & France in medieval times.

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 and a 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".

Description | Bastard Sword

There is a lot of confusion that surrounds the names of long swords like the bastard sword; this is because of several reasons.

The first reason is that there were many different interpretations of the same or similar types of long sword and different groups of people would have different names for very similar swords.

This is further complicated when we take a world view as different countries would have different names and interpretations of the same and similar designed swords.

Indeed it is thought that the name bastard sword comes from the French word Épée Bâtarde which was used to describe a hand and a half sword and a long sword by the French.

Medieval people however just thought of swords as being swords they really had no particular names for different swords at that time.

You could even debate that what determined whether you were actually using a long sword or a bastard sword, was who you were and you’re fighting style, as it was so difficult to differentiate between a long sword and a bastard sword in many cases.

How were Bastard sword made

Most medieval weapons such as axes, bows and spears could be made by most craftsmen, however making a sword like the bastard sword was at 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 sword, they were called blade-smiths and 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, the steel would be finely crafted.

Medieval swords like the bastard sword were created by moulding 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.

Who used bastard swords

The bastard sword was the 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.

Knights Fight With Bastard Swords

Two Medieval Knights in Close combat fight with Bastard Swords

Advantages of a bastard sword

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.

Using a Bastard Sword

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 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

Fighting techniques | bastard sword

In Medieval battle the bastard sword would have been a very good choice of weapon, it was better than a sword that was designed as a one-handed weapon as they were usually heavier and you could not get as good a grip.

The bastard sword however offered you the choice of using one or two hands and gave a much superior grip.

It is the flexibility that the bastard sword offered the 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 Lancing out the sword at your enemy and you could easily switch between using the sword blade and handle as weapons.

Bastard swords could be used in a similar way to other medieval weapons such as a 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 Medieval shield such as a buckler shield, which is a basically a round shaped medieval shield made of wood or metal.

Parts of a bastard sword

A bastard sword had a long hilt; the hilt refers to the handle part of a sword including the cross guard, grip and pommel.

The cross guard 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 which tapered into a point and weighed around 5-8 pounds, it was usually around 40 to 48 inches in length.

Description of a bastard sword

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.

Bastard sword training

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.

Bastard Sword Facts

  • The term bastard sword is a modern classification of a type of medieval long sword
  • The bastard sword is thought to have originated in England and France
  • The bastard sword name is thought to have originated from the French word Épée bâtarde
  • Bastard swords were thought to be a favoured weapon of medieval knights
  • Bastard swords had a long hilt (handle) which could be gripped comfortably with two hands
  • The bastard sword could be used comfortably with one or two hands
  • The bastard sword is generally grouped together with the long sword and the hand and a half sword
  • Medieval people did not use terms such as bastard sword to describe their swords
  • Skilled craftsmen called bladesmiths created mediaeval swords from scratch
  • Bastard swords we used for cutting, thrusting and slicing actions against an opponent
  • Bastard swords blades were 40 to 48 inches in total length
  • Battle sword hilts or handles were usually around 10 to 15 inches in length
  • Medieval bastard swords were 5-8lb in weight – lighter than many other mediaeval swords
  • Knights and other soldiers used bastard swords in close combat flights
  • Bastard swords were flexible and easy to use in fighting situations
  • Bastard swords blades and handles could both be used as aggressive weapons
  • Medieval knights and soldiers used the Pell to help them train to use a bastard sword
  • The bastard sword hilt consisted of a cross guard, grip and pommel


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