The Curtana in one of the 3 original swords used in the coronation of British monarchs, 5 swords are in use today. Also referred to as Cortana or the Sword of Mercy, the Curtana was first used in 1236 for the coronation of Eleanor of Province, wife and queen of Henry III and in every coronation since. A sword of this age is rare as it survived the reign of Oliver Cromwell who ordered all ancient artifacts be melted for their gold and metal.
The end of the Sword of Mercy, which was once pointed, is now blunt and squared. The edged tip is said to symbolize mercy but legend states that before Henry III owned the sword, it was once wielded by Tristan, the legendary hero from Arthurian legend, who was responsible for the broken tip.
The story of the Curtana and Tristan starts in Cornwall where he was a knight and nephew to King Mark. King Goram of Ireland sent a Duke, Morholt, to King Mark demanding tributes. Morholt’s sister was Queen Isolde of Ireland, wife of King Goram and mother to Princess Isolde. Tristan decided to challenge Morholt in combat where Tristan struck a deadly blow into his enemy’s head, breaking the tip of his sword off in the wound. Princess Isolde would later find the shard of the sword in her uncle’s head after Tristan brought the body of Morholt back to King Goram.
Tristan and Princess Isolde later became lovers after Tristan was forced to ask Queen Isolde to heal the wound he received from Morholt when he learned that the sword that wounded him was poisoned.
Another connection in history with the Curtana comes from a knight of Charlemagne’s, Ogier the Dane. Ogier carrier a sword named Cortana that had an inscription on it which read “My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal”. The legend comes from the 13th century poem “Chevalerie d’Ogier de Danemarche” where Ogier received the sword from Tristan but in this poem the sword is completely in tact, it was Ogier himself who removed the end of the sword naming it cortaine, meaning short or curt.
There is one other, less known story that states the Curtana was not named until 1236 when it was used for Eleanor of Province’s coronation. To carry the sword before a king was considered a merciful gesture before it became the property of the royal family. Legend claims that the tip was broken off by an angel so that the owner would not wrongfully kill another.
This impressive sword of that is now a part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom has a blade of steel with an inlay of copper and a wire bound grip. The blade itself is 31.75 inches long and 1 inch wide, a typical size for a blade of its time. The sword is older than all the stories that have been told as experts have dated the sword to have been crafted in the 11th century . Modern modifications may make the sword seem less ancient than it is, such as a scabbard that is covered in velvet which is embroidered with gold thread.