Chief of Clan Fergusson - Schiavona
Place of Origin: Venice
This sword is from the armoury of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice and bears the remnants of the armoury mark (the Lion of St. Mark) on the upper bar of the hilt. It is an early armoury sword of standard quality, with a steel pommel and well executed hilt, classified by Ewart Oakeshott as Type 1.
The broadsword blade, with the Christogram IHS as the armourers mark is likely Venetian made. The forte of the blade bears the coat of arms for the Scottish Clan Fergusson of Glenshellish, Stra-Chur, Argyllshire and is dated 1611. It is this identification that makes this sword truly special and also indicates that the sword itself predates 1611.
The sword belonged to Iain Ciar McKerras, heritable Mair of Glenshellish, Stra-Chur, Chiefs of the earliest Clan Fergusson and close ally of the then Earl of Argyll. How he obtained a Venetian sword is unknown, but these swords were not unheard of in the highlands of the period and would have made a very exotic piece upon which to memorialize the family’s coat of arms and to be carried by the Chief of a Clan. In fact in 1611 King James the 1st & 6th of England and Scotland sold the title of Baronet as a means to raise funds. It is plausible that it was at this time that the Chief bought or was given this title by the Earl and that this was a newly minted Coat of Arms for this particular Fergusson Clan.
The sword passed down through many generations in the family of the “original” Chiefs of Clan Fergusson in Stra-Chur, Argyllshire and stayed in the family well after they had lost the title and sold the family estate of Glenshellish. The last of this family’s male line died at the Explorer’s club in Manhattan in 1961. It was almost certainly the last heir Seamus Fergusson, who having approven his line and Coat of Arms with the Court of Lord Lyon in 1940, had this sword cleaned and the Coat of Arms restored by re-chiselling many of the lines. It is very unfortunate from my point of view that he did nit leave the sword untouched, but he viewed it as a family heirloom and a prized possession as opposed to a collectible artifact. For additional information on this family and sword see link.