5. Napoleon’s Sword
In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte became the military and political leader of France after staging a coup d’état. Five years later the French Senate proclaimed him emperor. In the first decade of the 19th century Napoleon and the French Empire were engaged in conflict and war with every major European power. Ultimately, a series of victories gave the French a dominant position in continental Europe, but as history would later repeat itself, in 1812 the French began their invasion of Russia. The decision to invade Russia marked the turning point in the fortune of Napoleon. In 1814, the Sixth Coalition invaded France and Napoleon was captured and exiled to the island of Elba. He would escape, but ultimately died in confinement on the island of Saint Helena. Historians regard Napoleon as a military genius and a man who made strong contributions to the operational art of war.
On the battlefield Napoleon carried a pistol and a sword. He owned a large collection of arms and artillery. His weapons were one of a kind and included the best materials. In the summer of 2007, a gold-encrusted sword that once belonged to Napoleon was auctioned off in France for more than $6.4 million dollars. The sword was used by Napoleon in battle. In the early 1800s, Napoleon presented the weapon to his brother as a wedding gift. The sword was passed down from generation to generation, never leaving the Bonaparte family. In 1978, the sword was declared a national treasure in France and the winner of the auction was not identified.
4. Sword of Mercy
The Sword of Mercy is a famous weapon that once belonged to Edward the Confessor. Edward the Confessor was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England before the Norman Conquest of 1066. He ruled from 1042 to 1066 and his reign has been characterized by the crumbling disorganization of royal power in England. Shortly after Edward the Confessor’s death, the Normans began to expand into England, led by the infamous William the Conqueror.
The Sword of Mercy has a broken blade, which is cut off short and square. In 1236, the weapon was given the name curtana and has since been used for royal ceremonies. In ancient times it was a privilege to bear this sword before the king. It was considered a merciful gesture. The story surrounding the breaking of the weapon is unknown, but mythological history indicates that the tip was broken off by an angel to prevent a wrongful killing.
The Sword of Mercy is part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and is one of only five swords used during the coronation of the British monarch. The weapon is rare and is one of only a small number of swords to survive the reign of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell is known for ordering the melting down of ancient artifacts for scrap gold and metal. During the British coronation, the Sword of Mercy is wielded as the monarch bestows knighthood upon the recipient of honor.
Zulfiqar is the ancient sword of the Islamic leader Ali. Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661. By some historical accounts, Muhammad gave Zulfiqar to Ali at the Battle of Uhud. Muhammad admired Ali’s power and strength on the battlefield and wanted to present him with the cherished weapon. The sword is a symbol of the Islamic faith and is admired by millions of people.
Zulfiqar is a scimitar, which refers to a West Asian or South Asian sword with a curved blade. It is said that Ali used the sword at the Battle of the Trench, which is a famous siege attempt on the city of Medina. During the battle, Muhammad, Ali, and other Muslim defenders built trenches to protect Medina against the much larger confederate cavalry.
A few conflicting images of the famous scimitar sword exist. Some of them describe the weapon as having two parallel blades, emphasizing its mystical abilities and speed, while others portray Zulfiqar as a more traditionally-shaped scimitar. Some historical drawings depict the sword with a split, V-shaped blade. According to the Twelver Shia, the weapon survives today and is kept in the possession of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi. The weapon is part of the famous collection called al-Jafr.
Al-Jafr is a mystical Shia holy book. It is composed of two skin boxes that contain the most important artifacts from the time of Muhammad and Ali. The collection has been passed down over the generations, with each new Imam receiving it from his dying predecessor. The contents of Al-Jafr are quite impressive, but they are not made available for public viewing. One section of the book describes the Islamic rules, directives and matters surrounding wars, including a bag that contains the armor and weapons of Muhammad. Zulfiqar is said to sit among the priceless artifacts.
2. Honjo Masamune
Masamune was a Japanese swordsmith that is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest metallurgists. The exact dates for Masamune’s life are unknown, but it is believed that he worked from 1288–1328. Masamune’s weapons have reached legendary status over the centuries. He created swords known as tachi and daggers called tant?. The swords of Masamune have a strong reputation for superior beauty and quality. He rarely signed his works, so it can be hard to positively identify all his weapons.
The most famous of all Masamune swords is named Honjo Masamune. The Honjo Masamune is so important because it represented the Shogunate during the Edo period of Japan. The sword was passed down from one Shogun to another for generations. In 1939 the weapon was named a national treasure in Japan, but remained in the Kii branch of the Tokugawa family. The last known owner of Honjo Masamune was Tokugawa Iemasa. Apparently Tokugawa Iemasa gave the weapon and 14 other swords to a police station in Mejiro, Japan, in December of 1945.
Shortly thereafter in January 1946, the Mejiro police gave the swords to Sgt. Coldy Bimore (U.S. 7th Cavalry). Since that time, the Honjo Masamune has gone missing and the whereabouts of the sword remains a mystery. Honjo Masamune is one of the most important historical artifacts to disappear at the end of World War II.
Charlemagne is a man that was born circa 742. He is one of the greatest rulers in world history and became King of the Franks in 768. In 800 he was named Emperor of the Romans, a position that he held for the remainder of his life. In the Holy Roman Empire he was known as Charles I and was the first Holy Roman Emperor. During Charlemagne’s lifetime he expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire, which covered much of Western and Central Europe. Charlemagne is regarded as the founding father of both the French and German monarchies, as well as the father of Europe.
Joyeuse is the name of Charlemagne’s personal sword. Today, there are two swords attributed to Joyeuse. One is a saber that is kept in the Weltliche Schatzkammer in Vienna, while the other is housed at the Louvre in France. The blade on display at the Louvre claims to be partially built from Charlemagne’s original sword. The sword is made of parts from different centuries, so it can be hard to positively identify the weapon as Joyeuse. The hilt of the sword indicates a manufactory date around the time of Charlemagne. The heavily sculpted gold pommel is made in two halves and the long gold grip was once decorated with diamonds.
Charlemagne’s sword appears in many legends and historical documents. Bulfinch’s Mythology described Charlemagne using Joyeuse to behead the Saracen commander Corsuble as well as to knight his friend Ogier the Dane. After the death of Charlemagne, the sword was said to have been contrarily held by the Saint Denis Basilica and it was later taken to the Louvre after being carried at a Coronation processional for French kings.