The Oakeshott Type XI sword was a cavalry sword used by the rising knightly class of the 12th century.
While most extant versions of this sword can be firmly traced to the 12th century, which was the century when knighthood first became a true social rank, there are numerous sources that suggest that proto-XI's were developed and may have actually been in use as early as the 10th century.
This should come as no real surprise, as the institution of knighthood was firmly established by the 10th century, and so it is quite possible that this sword type rose in prominence alongside importance of the mounted knight.
But whenever they were first developed, Oakeshott Type XI swords were the cutting edge of sword technology of the 12th century, and extremely effective when combined with the cavalry tactics that dominated this period in medieval history - used and revered by the Knightly orders that formed during the first crusade such as the Knights Hospitallers, Templars, the Order of St Lazarus and the Teutonic Knights.
While there are many similarities with Type Xa and XI swords, which were primary for foot-soldiers, but certainly can and were used from horseback, the main differences is that most Type XI have a more slender, usually longer blade and a relatively smaller handle, giving it a distinct, if subtle, point of difference. In practical terms, the thinner blade tends to be more flexible than type Xa and is not particularly effective in the thrust by comparison. However, as the extra reach was used to effect when swiping at footsoldiers from horseback, thrusting techniques were not really called for. Especially as most soldiers of the era were only lightly armored, with maille, gambeson, helmet and shield at best..
Probably the most famous and well known example of a Type XI sword is a ceremonial presentation blade that is commonly refereed to as known as 'the Sword of St Maurice'.
As the historical sword of St Maurice is the most common example of this type, it should come as no surprise that it most replicas of Type XI swords are based on this particular sword.
However, there are others that, through accident or design, are also good representations of this early medieval cavalry sword - including one of my favorites of all time, the Windlass European Sword pictured above and described below.
MyArmory has an excellent in depth article on Type XI swords here which explains their history and lists some high end reproductions and images of actual antiques.
And of course, you can - and should - read more about these swords and all the others in the Oakeshott Typology in his book, Records of the Medieval Sword
I hope this information on Oakeshott Type XI swords has been helpful. To return to Oakeshott Typology Made Easy from Oakeshott Type XI Swords, click here