Colichemarde

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Colichemarde smallsword with a silver guard, 18th century. The abrupt narrowing of the blade, the defining feature of the colichemarde, is visible. Vevey historical museum.

Colichemarde is a type of small sword (often written 'smallsword') blade that was popular from the late 17th century to the middle 18th century.

Overview[edit]

The small sword is considered to be a descendant of the "transition rapier", which itself evolved from the rapier due to the demand for a lighter sword better suited to parrying. The shape of a colichemarde blade features a wide forte, which abruptly tapers to a much narrower form at a point varying between a fifth to a third of the blade length from the hilt. The blade cross section was most often triangular and hollow-ground. This configuration combines good parrying characteristics, due to the wide blade forte, with the good maneuverablity and thrusting characteristics imparted by the narrow blade foible. Its lighter weight, shorter length and superior balance, compared to the rapier, allowed faster and more accurate movement of the blade. This enabled the fencer to achieve a more precisely targeted thrust on an adversary.[1]

The point where the blade of a sword joins the tang was a recognised weak point. The tang was often made of malleable iron and forge-welded to the steel of the blade. A wider blade at this point of transition, such as is seen in the colichemarde, may have been viewed as offering a stronger union.

Brief history[edit]

Two views of the same weapon.

The colichemarde blade configuration is widely thought to have been an invention of Graf von Königsmark, due to the similarity in pronunciation of their names.[2] However, the first blades of this type date from before the Count's lifetime. The colichemarde first appeared about 1680 and was popular during the next 40 years at the royal European courts. It was especially popular with the officers of the French and Indian War period. George Washington was presented with one during his inauguration.[3] The widespread misapprehension that the colichemarde quickly ceased to be produced after 1720 dates to the opinion given by Sir Richard Burton in his "The Book of the Sword" dating to 1884.[4] However, many securely dated colichemarde swords from as late as the 1770s can be found in collections.[5]

This sword appeared at about the same time as the foil. However the foil was created for practicing fencing at court, while the colichemarde was created for dueling. It made frequent appearances in the duels of New Orleans.[6] A descendant of the colichemarde is the épée, a modern fencing weapon.

With the appearance of the pocket pistol as a self-defence weapon, the colichemardes found an even more extensive use in dueling.[clarification needed]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Burton, R.F. (1884 - reprinted 2009) The Book of the Sword, Cosimo Classics, New York. p. 135
  2. ^ Peterson, Harold L. (1956). Arms and Armor in Colonial America 1526-1783. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Company. p. 76. 
  3. ^ Peterson, Harold L. (1956). Arms and Armor in Colonial America 1526-1783. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Company. p. 270. 
  4. ^ Burton, R.F. (1884 - reprinted 2009) The Book of the Sword, Cosimo Classics, New York. p. 135
  5. ^ Peterson, H.L. (1965) The American Sword 1775-1945, Ray Riling Arms Books, Philadelphia. pp. 300, 303
  6. ^ "Dueling Oak | New Orleans Historical". New Orleans Historical. Retrieved 2016-06-03.