Rare sword belonging to Robert the Bruce to go on display

It is an imposing weapon which, according to legend, was once owned by the father figure of Scottish independence, and was even used to confer an unofficial honour upon the nation's bard.

The sword, said to have been owned by Robert the Bruce, will go on display in Edinburgh later this month. Picture: TSPL
The sword, said to have been owned by Robert the Bruce, will go on display in Edinburgh later this month. Picture: TSPL

Now, a double-handed broadsword said to have been owned by Robert the Bruce is set go on public display in the capital.

The early 14th century Sword of State, which has been treasured by the Bruce family for centuries, will be the centrepiece of a new exhibition devoted to Bruce and his descendents.

The weapon, which is rarely exhibited in public, is thought to have been used by the King of Scots, although it remains unclear whether he ever wielded it in battle.

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    The historic sword, which weighs eight pounds and has a 44 inch long blade and bog oak handle, was later kept in Clackmannan Tower, where in 1787, it is said to have touched another towering figure in Scottish history.

    That year, Lady Katherine Bruce, the widow of Henry Bruce, the last of the male line, reportedly used the sword to perform a knighting ceremony on a visiting poet by the name Robert Burns.

    Within a few years, however, the mansion and tower at Clackmannan were abandoned, and the sword was taken for safekeeping to Broomhall House, the Bruce family seat near Dunfermline and home of the Earl of Elgin.

    Later this month, it will feature in Treasures from Broomhall House and the Bruce Family, a new exhibition being held at Bonhams in Edinburgh.

    Lord Charles Bruce, the current earl’s son, said he could not remember a time when the sword had gone on public display in Scotland.

    He described it as a “very cherished” possession which, much like the Bruce family, has a storied history.

    “The sword was a gift from David II, the surviving son of King Robert,” he explained. “His marriages did not produce an heir and realising that the Bruce dynasty would come to an end, he presented his father’s sword to his first cousin, Thomas Bruce of Clackmannan.

    “The sword was kept at Clackmannan Tower for 14 generations until 1791 when it passed by descent to the Earls of Elgin and Kincardine.”

    Lord Charles said that although the blade does not show much in the way of evidence of having been used in the heat of battle, it could not be ruled out.

    “It could easily have been,” he added. “It is the finest tempered steel and beautifully balanced. It would certainly have been a weapon of choice to fight with.”

    Other items being shown at the exhibition, which takes runs from 22 to 27 January, include a suit in the Bruce tartan from around 1760, which was worn by James Bruce of Kinnaird, who discovered the source of the Blue Nile in 1770

    Charles Graham-Campbell, managing director in Scotland for Bonhams, said: “It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be hosting these treasures from Broomhall House belonging to the Bruce family.

    “This is a great opportunity for people to see important and wonderful artefacts from our nation’s history that are rarely on public display.”