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sword with gilt hilt and guard

Sword of George Keate Esq. given to him in 1777 by his old friend the Chevalière d’Éon. Object no: IX.2034A

Object number: IX.2034 A
Object name: Sword
Object Title: Presentation sword
Brief description: With a copper alloy boat-shell hilt and inscribed blade

Physical description

This sword has a gilt copper-alloy boat-shell hilt. The pommel is ovoid with a long tang button and moulded stand. The knuckle bow and straight quillons are of lozenge section and flare at the terminals, the rear quillon retaining its lozenge shape and the fore quillon, extending from the lower edge of the knuckle guard, emerges in square section. The top of the knuckle guard is screwed to the side of the pommel. The boat-shell hilt has a heart-shaped stool, which is plain on the inside with an embossed central section, and a shell-shaped motif at the rear. There is a large groove at the tapered front end of the hilt, through which the fore quillon passes. The underside of the hilt is decorated with pierced scale work. The grip is wooden and wrapped in silver wire. The sword retains a blade leather washer.

The straight blade is double edged and tapers to a spear point. At the forte is a wide, shallow, central fuller. Approximately 160 mm from the hilt the fuller is replaced by a wide flat plane with bevelled edges. The blade is engraved with the maker’s mark and two different decorative motifs on each side. It is also inlaid on the outside with an inscription in gold.

Two views of the sword's gilt hilt showing pierced decoration on the outside and smooth on the inside

Stool has decorative piercing on the outside but is smooth on the inside. Inscriptions are seen on both sides of the blade.

Materials

Techniques

Dimensions

Inscriptions

Gilt inlaid inscription

Original: ‘Donne par la Chevalïere d’Eon à son ancïen Ami Geo: Keate Esquïre. 1777’
Translation: Given by the knightess of Eon to her old friend George Keate Esquire. 1777

Detail of sword blade with inscription "Donne par la Chevalïere d'Eon à son ancïen Ami Geo: Keate Esquïre. 1777"

Inscription translates as “Given by the knightess of Eon to her old friend George Keate Esquire. 1777”

Production

Dates

Place

Acquisition

Purchased from an individual in 1980.

Provenance

Unknown

Notes

The blade maker, Lourenco Carvalho, was active as a lance and sword maker in Lisbon in the 1640s. This sword may have been constructed in its current form in 1777, corresponding to the inscription. The hilt appears to be a Norman type 113 hilt, in use from around 1720, and similar to the British 1796 Heavy Cavalry Officer’s Dress sword of the late 18th and early 19th century. The presentation sword has the addition of decorative shell piercings under the hilt, similar to other surviving examples made by English cutlers Bland, and Bland and Foster. However, these other examples are later than 1777, for example, see object number RCIN 61379 currently in the Royal Collection, dated 1780-87.

The sword was presented by the Chevalière d’Éon to George Keate, most likely the writer and poet (1729 – 1797), and friend of Voltaire.

Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810), also known as the Chevalier d’Éon, and as the Chevalière d’Éon, was a French soldier, diplomat, and spy. D’Éon worked for both Louis XV and Louis XVI, serving in Russia and joining Louis XV’s, private league of diplomats known as the ‘secret du roi’. D’Éon was awarded the Order of Saint Louis, and the title ‘Chevalier’, in 1763.

D’Éon visited London as part of the French embassy and published secret correspondence which revealed corruption within the French government. D’Éon eventually settled in London, living openly as a woman, and establishing a highly successful career in fencing.

Bibliography

Addressing a group at a trans workshop
Kit Heyam delivering an Interactive history game about la Chevalière d’Éon’s life.

Hidden Histories

As part of Leeds 2023 Hidden Histories pilot project, we worked with historian Kit Heyam, and artist and researcher Luna Morgana to facilitate a session with the local trans community to review the Chevalière d’Éon Sword through a different lens.

Read Hidden Histories: reviewing ‘The Chevalière d’Éon Sword’ with our trans community and discover more about the session with the group from Trans Leeds and Non-Binary Leeds and the “zine” that they created inspired by the Chevalière d’Éon Sword.