The Claymore – Blade of Scotland
Written by: Hamish
Published: 18th August 2017
The claymore was a unique weapon found solely among the clansmen of Scotland. Developed in the early Renaissance, the claymore was created during a dynamic transition in military armament. Swordsmanship was greatly affected by the evolution of military technology; as a result, several new sword designs were developed in an attempt to adapt the weapon for modern combat. In some areas, such as Germany and Switzerland, swordsmiths began to fashion longer blades; these “greatswords” required the use of both hands to be used effectively. The claymore was an example of these two-handed swords.
On average, the claymore had a forty-two inch blade and thirteen inch grip, making the total length of the weapon fifty-five inches. Due to its mass, the claymore weighed over five pounds; to carry the abnormally large blade, Scottish clansmen would often use a shoulder sheath to carry their claymores on their backs. The hilt of the claymore had a downswept guard, with the prongs of the crossguard pointing towards the blade. Furthermore, some hilts contained two concave plates for additional protection; this became known as the “clamshell hilt” due to its resemblance of an open clam.
In contrast to the smaller swords of the Renaissance, the claymore sacrificed speed in favor of power and reach; this is because the claymore was intended to combat specific weapons. The claymore’s preferred opponents were weapons of long distance, such as pole arms or other greatswords. Smaller swords had a definite advantage in dexterity against spears and pikes, but lacked the ability to penetrate the defense of the longer ranged weapons. The claymore, on the other hand, had immense cutting power due to its size and gave the wielder an advantage of distance. In battle, this combination made the claymore a devastating weapon in the close quarters of hand to hand combat; a highlander armed with a claymore could easily hack through an enemy formation. For example, in 1689, the Scottish clans loyal to King James VII fought the government troops of King William of Orange at Battle of Killiecrankie. After being harassed by musket fire, the highlanders charged into close combat with their claymores. The battle ended in a pyrrhic victory for the Scottish, but the prowess of the claymore was demonstrated in gory detail. Witnesses of the carnage gave gruesome depictions of the smashed and decapitated bodies that littered the battlefield.
However, after Battle of Killiecrankie the claymore never again was able to demonstrate its ability. The musket had become dominant on the battlefield, and outclassed in the age of gunpowder, swordsmanship became obsolete. However, although the sword no longer played a pivotal role in military tactics, the claymore remained as a symbol of Scottish pride. If you would also like to own a symbolic piece of Scotland and display your Scottish pride, consider getting a Scottish souvenir plot with Highland Titles and becoming a lord, laird or lady.