Pearl Sword of UK

Pearl Sword of UK

Pearl Sword of UK

One of five City of London swords, tradition holds that the sword was given to the City Corporation by Queen Elizabeth I when the Royal Exchange opened in 1571.

It takes its name from its pearl-encrusted scabbard – there’s said to be 2,500 of them sewn onto it – and was traditionally used in celebrations. These include a ceremony which takes place when the reigning monarch comes in State to the City.

Pearl-Sword2Seen during last year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the ceremony involves the Lord Mayor taking the sword from the Sword-Bearer and offering it hilt-first to the monarch to touch – a symbol of the monarch’s authority over the city. It is then borne aloft in front of the monarch by the Lord Mayor.

Interestingly, the tradition of the monarch touching the sword hilt is said to date from the reign of King Charles I when the king entered the City in 1641 and just touched the sword given to him and handed it back to the Lord Mayor. Prior to that, the sword was handed over to the sovereign for the during the visit.

The City’s other four swords include the State Sword, the Mourning Sword, the Old Bailey Sword and Mansion House Justice Room Sword.


According to tradition, the Pearl Sword was presented to the Corporation of London by Elizabeth I of England in 1571 on the occasion of her opening of the Royal Exchange. There are approximately 2,500 pearls on the sword's scabbard, from which it gets its name. In his footnote to the Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wheatley quotes Hope as saying that it is a "fine sword said to have been
given to the City by Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of the opening of the Royal Exchange in 1570" but continues: "There is, however, no mention of such a gift in the City records, neither do Stow nor other old writers notice it. The sword is certainly of sixteenth century date, and is very possibly that bought in 1554, if it be not that "verye goodly sworde" given by Sir Ralph Warren in 1545."

Its blade is 3 ft (0.91 m) long and 1+3⁄4 in (4.4 cm) wide, and it has a 10+3⁄4 in (27 cm) hilt. It weighs 4 lb 6+3⁄4 oz (2.01 kg) without the scabbard. The first 20+1⁄2 in (52 cm) of the blade have been blued and etched with images of fruit, trophies of arms, a quiver of arrows, the City arms and a ship at sail. Its scabbard dates back to at least 1808.

When the King visits the City in State, he is ceremonially welcomed at Temple Bar, its boundary with Westminster, by the Lord Mayor of London, who offers HM the hilt of the Pearl Sword to touch. Before 1641, the monarch would take the sword for the duration of their visit, but in 1641 Charles I was offered it and immediately returned it to the Lord Mayor, a practice that was then carried on. The ceremony as a whole dates back to 1215 and the royal charter allowing direct election of the Mayor (now Lord Mayor). A similar ceremonial surrendering of the local Sword of State (a sword granted by royal gift or authorised by royal charter) is performed on royal visits to certain other cities, including York.


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