DESCRIPTION: Here is one of the finest French swords of the mid-18th century that we have ever had the pleasure of obtaining. The sword has certain features that would indicate actual ownership by the historically illustrious Maurice, Count de Saxe (October 28, 1696-November 20, 1750). He was a simple soldier who at the age of 12 served in the army of the great Prince Eugene of Savoy at the sieges of Tournai and Mon, and also at the Battle of Malplaquet.
Upon the cessation of one of the battles and having displayed a courage so impetuous that Prince Eugene admonished him not to confuse rashness with valor!
He then served with Peter the Great against the Swedes. History records that Maurice was the illegitimate son of Augustus II the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony. In manhood, Maurice bore a strong resemblance to his father, both physically and in his indubitable resolve and warlike values. His grasp was so powerful that he could bend a horseshoe with his hands and at the end of his life, his energy and endurance were scarcely affected by the illnesses his many excesses had caused him. After serving in a campaign against the Ottoman Empire in 1717, he went to Paris to study and in 1720 obtained a commission as maréchal de camp-major general. He was chosen Duke in 1726. At the outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession, Saxe served under Marshal the Duke of Berwick and obtained the rank of lieutenant general, and in the War of the Austrian Succession he took command of an army division sent to invade Austria in 1741, and on November 19, surprised Prague during the night and seized it before the garrison was ever aware of the presence of the enemy. This was the coup de main (surprise attack) that made him famous throughout Europe. Saxe’s exploits were always bold and daring and in many situations as above he covered himself with glory.
On March 26, 1743, his merits were rewarded by promotion to Marshal of France. From this time on he became one of the greatest generals of the age. In 1794, he was chosen to command the 10,000 men of the French invasion of Britain on behalf of the famed Bonnie Prince Charlie who assembled at Dunkirk, but did not proceed more than a few miles out of the harbor before being wrecked by disastrous storms. Had this tragedy not occurred and with the leadership of this great warrior history probably would have been quite different. In the following year, Saxe, with 65,000 men, besieged Tournai and inflicted a severe defeat on the army of the Duke of Cumberland at the great Battle of Fontenoy. In recognition of this brilliant achievement, King Louis of France conferred upon him for life the Chateau de Chambord and in April 1746, he was naturalized as a French subject after many more successful battles and wars after capturing Maastricht in 1748. The title once held by Turenne and Villars, “Marshal General of the King’s Camps and Armies” was revived for him but on November 20, 1750, he died at his Chambord castle “of a putrid fever.” Saxe wrote a remarkable book on the art of war where cavalry tactics were central to the writings.
The Volontaires de Saxe (Also known as Volontaires du Maréchal de Saxe)
These soldiers were an elite unit of cavalry troops recruited by the marshal himself to guard the Chateau de Chambord, his residence. This unit had formerly fought in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and in the Seven Years War (1756-1763). The unit was his security watch, but one and all were his much-favored personal friends.
Here is a magnificent sword of the mid-18th century. Although beautifully, constructed it is no dandy’s court sword. It is made for use in combat situations if needed. It is a strong and sturdy weapon indeed. Frills? Yes, (after all, it is French!) but sturdy for sure and deadly formidable. It is in fact richly decorated in the artistic themes of the age. The décor bespeaks imperial power and majesty and it is supposed that it was created by a master bladesmith. The sword is of very significant great length considering the usual short length of the other swords of the period. It measures 40 inches from the pommel to the tip of the blade. The blade is pierced all along about a nine-inch section of its length. The piercing is done four at a time in each instance and the holes are surrounded by gilded design. Other designs in beautiful gilding are also evident. The elegant grip is carved from possibly rhino horn or even more likely fine ebony and has beautiful beaded silver wire and gold wire fitted into some of the grooves that swirl down the grip. The “D” guard and cross guards are very decorative and certainly in the spirit of the age. The pommel has the crown of Saxony and the Saxon crest in a shield on both sides. Where the “D” guard meets the pommel is a little horse head that might under different circumstances look out of place, but in this instance it is clearly congruous to the century and to the preference of the marshal and his elite guard as well, with horses and cavalry always aforethought. In the cup guard as you look down into it can be seen a symbol with wings and lightning bolts that emerge from the central figure. The configuration looks much like the designs that are depicted on the war shields of the ancient Roman legions. In the Roman empire the lightning bolt represented the weapon of the mighty god, Jupiter. That pattern was used by the legions up to the third century; today it is still seen on buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, especially on federal court buildings. It was a symbol of imperial power and majesty and of course that leaves us with the obvious fact that this symbol would be emblazoned upon the sword of a Grand Marshal of France, who was the Paladin of King Louis XV of France, and a hero in his own right. Was the sword the marshal’s own weapon, or was it from the commander of his Volontaires de Saxe? Indeed, it was one of these if only by obvious extrapolation. In any case, this is one of the finest 18th-century swords we have ever seen.