Ewart Oakeshott, 25 May,1916- Sept 30,2002
With the passing of Ewart Oakeshott a great scholar and teacher has left us. He influenced innumerable people all over the world with his work. We feel it is important to recognize his great contribution and hear about his impact on those of us who remain behind to carry on in his example. Below are reminiscences of how deeply Ewart touched so many of us.
On the Death of Ewart Oakeshott- October 2, 2002
He spoke to us
I fumble through
Christian Henry Tobler
Some of my favorite memories of Ewart are from spending evenings in his sitting room, in over stuffed chairs, sipping whiskeys and talking about swords.
One evening especially stands out in my mind. I had just arrived and was ensconced in my chair; drink in hand, when I noticed a “new arrival” on the wall across from me. Such moments were often mixed- sometimes an “old friend” had been traded or sold to make room for the new sword.
In this case a 14th C cut and thrust sword (sometimes referred to as the Black Prince sword) was gone and in its place was a lovely 15th C sword, very like the sword of Henry V., Ewart told me this was one of “those Castillon Swords” dredged from the River Dordogne in the 70’s. So while he told me the story of how he had seen it years before and, finally, its arrival in his hands, I took it down from the wall and became better acquainted with it.
The thrill of handling such a fine sword, studying it, getting to know its feel, examining the details of its construction will stay with me always. Whenever I handle a sword I’ll think of that evening, and many others like it, spent with Ewart talking about swords.
I will miss him. Christopher Poor
“Mr. Oakeshott was probably the person who single-handedly has done more to contribute to the spreading of the real knowledge of the medieval sword to the general public. Collectors and
researchers have lost a mentor and a beacon of knowledge and humanity.
His efforts in the field he so much loved sowed the seed of the urge for knowledge in many of us.
On the occasion of our first visit with Ewart Oakeshott and his lovely wife, Sybil Marshall, we had just sat down to lunch in their elegant dining room when I saw that he was serving the quiche using a Bronze-Age dagger. As he served, Ewart explained how he had acquired the dagger in the 1950s, for a few shillings, and that he considered it perfect for serving quiches and gateaux. The quiche was, not surprisingly, exceptionally delicious.
This incident epitomizes Ewart Oakeshott’s attitude toward the swords, daggers, and armours he loved, studied, and collected throughout his long, fruitful lifetime. He was never content to allow a piece to sit on a shelf and remain an idle curio; instead, he believed that a weapon deserved to be held and used, “cuddled and loved.” The profoundly human insights he derived from this credo and practice have bridged the millennia from the Bronze Age to the twenty-first century and illuminated weapons scholarship for generations.
“The sword world is very small and we have lost our father. What path he now treads, I know not, but I know what has been left behind is not him. The essence, spirit, soul has gone beyond this ritual, begun a stately dance in another sphere, one in time I too shall dance.” Susan
I am saddened by this news, as are all the others who have posted here. The sword world has suffered an irreparable loss with the passing of this great man, a humble and gentle man with a great heart and love, and joy, for the subject he pursued his whole life.
He lived a long and good life. He enlightened us all. What better epitaph can there be for such a man? I can only pray that I live as well as he did — strong in knowledge, tempered by humility, and always willing to share.
Godspeed, Ewart Oakeshott. I hope to meet you yet. D Wilson
We want to express our condolences and sorrow by the loss of the great sword’s master E. Oakeshott. Thanks for your teaching Ewart.
From the swords department of the Army Museum of Madrid
Adolfo Bernalte Sanchez
May I take this opportunity to join with others in remembering Ewart.
I first became professionally involved with arms and armour in 1983 and very soon found myself in communication with Ewart on various matters, particularly medieval swords. He encouraged me in my work from the start and I first met Ewart in early 1985, at the second Park Lane arms fair, London.
We continued to correspond through phone and letter and I first visited him at Ely in the late 80’s. Together with my wife, we were wined and dined and, like many entertained by Ewart and Sybil, were made most welcome. The sweet, or rather the serving of it, will always be memorable: the cheesecake was divvied out by Ewart using a Bronze-age dagger. This of course, although not unusual to him was a first for me, went totally against any museum training and was wonderful to behold!
The other occasion that I will not forget, along with those others lucky enough to attend, was his 75th birthday party held ‘on ye feast of ye Seven Virgins’ (as the invitation put it) in 1991. Surrounded by friends and colleagues we celebrated his life and work and of course the publication of his Records of the medieval sword.
Like many who are interested in this field it is to Ewart that I owe at least some, if not a great deal of, inspiration. Earlier this year I met with Ewart at the Park Lane arms fair. As we sat and chatted over a whisky, and fate decided that this would be the last occasion we would do this, I told him that I had only recently recalled the fact that the first book on the subject of arms and armour I ever picked up was one of his. As a teenage schoolboy, sitting in the Much Wenlock public library deep in the heart of rural Shropshire, I pulled a book off a shelf and began reading about A Knight and his Weapons… The same, or a similar, scenario probably happened to many reading this.
Even when ill he retained his warmth and sense of humour. During his recent illness when telling me of his regular blood transfusions I made the all too obvious joke about him being a vampire and seeking out virgins blood. His response was to comment on how difficult it was to find virgins blood in Ely!
He was enthusiastic when told of my appointment here at the Royal Armouries last year and it was only on 27 September that I gave a public gallery talk using, for the first time, two of his medieval swords presently on loan here. The public were able to heft these weapons and quite obviously thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even though we did not slice up any cheesecake.
Ewart will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, either personally or through his works, and our sympathy and thoughts are with Sybil and family. Robert C Woosnam-Savage