To find the best King Arthur Sword replicas out there is like finding the holy grail of swords.
For there is no doubt that the legend of the mighty sword Excalibur and the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are the epitome of all medieval tales and stories of mythical swords that have inspired many generations down until the present day.
In this article, we will take a look at many different takes on what the elusive and definitive King Arthur Sword has been imagined to look like, explore the most plausible actual replicas of who King Arthur may have been and what kind of sword he would REALLY have had, and then finally look at how it has been portrayed in movies - and what the replicas of the movie swords are like..
In the end, there are more questions left than answers, for at all levels, it would seem that the true form of the King Arthur sword, is not that easy to pin down..
And thus, we begin our quest.,.
There are two origin stories for how the King Arthur sword came to be in his possession - either pulled from a stone or given to him by the mysterious 'lady of the lake'.
There are many debates about whether King Arthur was a British King who led a successful defense against Saxon invaders in the 6th century or if he was just a fictional character of ancient English folklore that came to prominence in the medieval period and inspired Knights and Squires to heroic deeds in the centuries that followed.
But the gist of the story as we all know is that the Welsh Wizard Merlin, knowing that in this dark time his country needed a hero, set the legendary blade Excalibur into a stone and proclaimed that the man who could free it would become King of England..
All the knights of the land and the biggest, brawniest men all took turns trying to pull this sword from its stone moorings, but so the story goes, the young and unassuming squire Arthur (who was, unbeknown to himself, was the son of the previous King, Uther Pendragon), worked up the courage to give it a try, the rest, is as they say 'history'..
But what history? What kind of Sword would the King Arthur Sword in the Stone legend actually have been?
We will answer that question in a moment, for the other origin story is set in the same era, and therefore the 'historical' King Arthur Sword would be of the same type..
It has been made famous recently - but many of us recall the Monty Python version of the tale of the Lady of the Lake - or as Arthur himself described it..
"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite*, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king."
As much as I would love to see the original replica of the sword from Monty Python's Holy Grail get made again (see the sidebar, there were actually licensed and very accurate replicas of the Black Knight Sword and the King Arthur Sword made by Windlass Steelcrafts, but they were discontinued in 2005) the actual Arthurian Legend of the Lady of the Lake and how King Arthur received Excalibur is actually quite mysterious..
In the 13th century, the Lady of the Lake had become a pivotal figure in the Arthurian mythos - and was a powerful enchantress who was of the faerie, a kind of nature spirit or inter-dimensional being that gave him the King Arthur Sword, mysteriously submerged with only arm holding the sword aloft, enchanted and bewitched Merlin, whom she loved, and raised the bravest of all the Knights of his round table, Lancelot after he was orphaned as a child.
The invasion of the Saxons occurred during the so called 'migration period' and so the true King Arthur Sword would have almost certainly been a contemporary sword of that era, unless it was an even more ancient blade.
Contemporary swords of the 6th century where in transition between the Roman Spatha, a long bladed single handed sword designed at first to be used from horseback and the earliest so called Viking swords that dominated up until the early medieval period.
Below are a couple of discontinued replicas of Migration period swords made by Windlass Steelcrafts.
(Click the pics for the old reviews)
The same company also had a limited release of what a historical Excalibur may well have looked like, based on the general schematics of migration period swords, but made ornate and interesting enough that it would stand out as the King Arthur sword, and not just another migration era blade..
The official blurb for this King Arthur Sword release went as follows:
“If King Arthur actually existed many historians place him as a war leader seeking to halt the invasion of the Saxons after the fall of Rome There are many indications that England did, after a time of much strife, have a brief period of peace and prosperity in what is now called "The Dark Ages". The functional Excalibur sword is of a type that was widely in use during this period and would be what a hard fighting warrior would prefer.”
Unfortunately, none of these swords - which retailed for around $200 each, were really all that good and were soon discontinued by Windlass, with no current affordable migration era sword replicas currently on the market.
But there is one more possibility. If Excalibur was an ancient faerie forged blade, it may well have come from a much earlier era, before even the Romans - and may well have then been a Celtic La Tene Sword - perhaps a variation of something like the 4th century BC Celtic Sword by Del Tin Armi Antiche of Italy,
There have certainly been some swords which even to this day seem to be made from steel using techniques well ahead of their time, but whose manufacture have been lost, such as the legendary Damascus swords made of Wootz steel and the blades some 400 years after the time of the Arthurian legend was supposed to have had its historical counterpoint such as the Ulfberht swords.
Indeed, the Del Tin replica is made of modern steel which would seem rather magical if it was brought back to 6th century England and would certainly be a plausible King Arthur Sword replica, as most other Celtic swords are much shorter leaf blades with slightly crude annotations..
The big problem with these historically plausible replicas of the King Arthur Sword is that they do not fit the actual tale very well, and hardly conjure up images of the Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the holy grail.
And nor where they of much interest to the people of the medieval era - they much preferred, like we do, something much more noble looking.. And as was common for medieval literature and art of the period, depictions of ancient stories were done in a contemporary medieval way..
The Tale of the King Arthur Sword represented as a contemporary medieval sword is not a new concept. Medieval manuscripts and artwork always depicted ancient past events using contemporary imagery, clothing, weapons and armor - which as it turns out have been helpful to historians to piece together what life and warfare was like in the medieval period.
Naturally as the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table was told in the medieval period, the King Arthur Sword was not envisaged as an earlier migration era sword or a Celtic La Tene sword, but rather a contemporary Knightly sword, either a one handed arming sword or a Longsword of some description depending on the era the tale was being re-told.
Most of the time the King Arthur sword replicas made with a medieval theme are based on a discontinued decorative design by Denix, but as usual with their swords it is a decorative replica only..
This particular design is copied by many nameless sword makers in Pakistan and China and sold for a third of the $99 price tag of the official Denix sword, but almost always are also at least 3 to 5 times lower in overall quality.
But as you probably already know, at SBG we don't usually have a lot of time for purely decorative wall hangers - we only really respect functional swords that are at least as good as the historical originals they are based on - and the King Arthur Sword is no exception.
And while it is their own design to some degree, the concept of the sword and its main features came from one relatively modern rendition of Excalibur that to many people defines what this sword is all about - and that is the classic King Arthur Sword design seen in the 1981 John Boormans movie, Excalibur..
No other movie about the King Arthur Sword Excalibur before or since has seemingly inspired people as much as the John Boorman take on this old English tale, and so it is not surprising that to date, the very best replicas of it have all been based on this medieval design..
The sword itself was actually inspired by a real 11th century Scottish medieval sword made in 1072 and owned to the present day by the Lindsay family of the Macsen ap MacGhille Fhionntaig clan - and it is said that Boorman saw the sword in a 1937 painting and instantly decided this was the King Arthur sword for his movie.
Since then, quite a few companies have made replicas at varying levels of authenticity. The most Authentic, the Albion Discerner Sword and two more by Legacy Arms/Generation 2 and Darksword Armory respectively.
While we do not yet have a review of the Albion Discerner, this $2200 sword was made after extensively examining and measuring the original Lindsay sword that started it all, and is considered to be the most faithful replica - though the price tag and the wait time (which exceeds a year at this point) does put a lot of people off.
But as it was a direct copy of the original Lindsay sword, for true connoisseurs only the Discerner or a custom build will do.. Such as the one made by Adam Savage from Mythbusters who made a replica of the Boorman King Arthur Sword as part of his 'one day builds' series..
Just for references, the sword that he purchased to base his design on was the Darksword Armory Excalibur, reviewed above.
There is no doubt that the King Arthur Sword that has captured the imagination of sword enthusiasts and sword makers more than any other is the replica of the John Boorman Excalibur. The movie itself is consistently praised as a cult classic: in an article on tor.com here they list the top 10 King Arthur themed movies and Boormans is at #3, with only Monty Pythons 'Holy Grail' (#2) and the 1967 classic 'Camelot' (#1) ahead of it..
Out of all the others, only 2 have had a licensed replica made - the
2004 movie 'King Arthur" which was based on the story of the 6th century
historical figure we mentioned much earlier, and the 2017 movie "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" both had/have replicas made from them, though the fantasy Spatha like sword of the 2004 vaguely historical movie made replicas not of the King Arthur Sword but of the twin back mounted (and very unhistorical) swords of Lancelot.
The replica of the 2017 King Arthur Sword from the movie is, unfortunately, made of stainless steel and at $240 for a wall hanger it can only really be recommended to die hard fans of the 2017 movie - for a functional one, the only way forward would be to have it custom made..
But not all replicas of the mighty Excalibur need be inspired by film - nor should they be. For as we have seen, it has no clear form and there is not a historical Excalibur to base it on, so it could in theory, be anything (at least, as far as we are aware - there is a sword in the stone in Italy that was said to have been put there by a medieval Knight who renounced warfare in the 12th century and became a monk, or the sword of 'Queen Matilda' which was found by a little girl in the lake near the location of the mythical Camelot)
I would like to think that everyone has their own version of the perfect Excalibur or Caliburn Sword (another, older name for Excalibur) - for example, Australian custom sword maker Brendon Olszowy from Fable Blades.com has made another great replica of the Boorman Excalibur sword for a customer..
However, there are some designs that while they are not Excaliburs or Caliburns - they look the part..
While for some the only way to have their dream Excalibur come true is by commissioning a custom sword order, there is one new sword that has recently hit the scene that is both imaginative, original - not based on any movie - but looks extremely promising, and that is the new Excalibur Sword by Windlass Steelcrafts.
There is not yet a review of this amazing looking fantasy piece - and for under $300 for a functional sword with this level of detail - it really seems to be quite a bargain, especially as in recent years the quality of Windlass Steelcrafts swords is getting better and better..
I thought at the time I bought it that I had found my own ideal King Arthur Sword in the Generation 2 Excalibur Sword.
But today when I look back on it, while I still think this is an awesome sword - my own quest for my own personal Excalibur, the holy grail of swords, continues..
Maybe it is the Monty Python one - and maybe I can find a way to work with Windlass Steelcrafts to bring it back again well over a decade after it was discontinued. Maybe it is a custom piece. Maybe it is the new one by Windlass..
And maybe it is the same for you..
The Quest is ongoing. I wish you luck in finding yours...
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