French AN XIII Cuirassier Sabres Article
I felt the need to write this article about French Napoleonic
AN XI / XIII heavy cavalry swords because of the amount of false
/ misinformation out there on the subject, especially regarding
Waterloo captured swords. Part of the problem is the proliferation
of so-called experts on the subject, each with their own views and
agendas, where those views are too often selfish (they do not want
anyone else having a special sword) and / or simple intransigence
where they have stated something as fact and will never change their
tune, no matter how much evidence is against them, simply out of
I have exchanged information, observations and ideas with a number
of collectors of AN XI / XIII, museums and authors. I believe the
following clears up many of the cloudy or sometimes falsely stated
areas of these highly sought after Napoleonic French swords.
AN XI Vs. AN XIII
Roman numerals used by the French to indicate the years 1802 and
1804 (based on the revolutionary calendar). Regarding Cuirassier
sabres their meaning is easy. AN XI (1802) is when the famous Cuirassier
sabre used in the Peninsula War, the Russian Campaign and the 100
Days War (Waterloo) was introduced. AN XIII (1804) is when that
same sword was given an official model designation by the French.
It gets confusing because the French often today refer to the sabre
as the AN XI, while the British with their need to be official about
everything call them AN XIII’s; they are the same thing (though
the sword was improved over the years).
Some experts / authors such as Lhoste and Resek describe the AN
XI and AN XIII as different swords by pointing out the junction
of the hilt bars into the pommel (earlier sabres having only the
knuckebow join the pommel, later sabres having the knuckelbow and
a union of the three hilt bars join it; this was done to strenghen
the hilt) and a difference in blade and / or scabbard design. This
is an over-statement, like all swords the manufacturers improved
them as time went on. There are no separate AN XI and AN XIII models
(see books by Michel Petard), they are the same sword with improvements
being made from the originals as you would expect culminating in
the final official model in 1804.
But, if you are buying in the UK, the earlier swords are generally
referred to as An XI.
Spear Point Vs Clipped Point and Waterloo
This is in context to AN XIII sabres found outside France.
Some collectors and “experts” claim that a spear pointed
AN XIII sabre means the sword post-dates Waterloo when it was decommissioned
one way or another. This is based on a theory that the French did
not modify the original clipped points of AN XIII Cuirassier sabres
until after Waterloo; this is not true.
First, it is important to realize that all French heavy cavalry
trooper sabres of this era had clipped points when they were made
until 1855, except for special orders for spear points made according
to Michel Petard (famous French author) during the height of production;
the height of production for AN XIII’s was during the final
stages of Russian Campaign and just prior to the 100 Days War; 1814
to early 1815, before Waterloo. Most spear pointed AN XIII’s
however were not made that way, they were modified by the regiments
that used them. It is ironic how some collectors accept the British
modified their 1796 Pattern heavy cavalry sabres to spear points
prior to Waterloo in response to the superiority of the thrust (penetration)
capabilities of the spear pointed French AN XIII and yet somehow
claim the French did not have spear pointed blades when it comes
to pre-Waterloo French sabres!
You only have to look at the numbers / greater percentage of spear
pointed Vs original clipped pointed AN XIII’s that come onto
the market in the UK to realize the French had spear pointed most
of their AN XIII’s prior to waterloo. How else did all these
spear pointed AN XIII’s without post-Waterloo inspection marks
(when the fragile brass hilts or scabbards were replaced for example)
get to the UK? Are we to believe the British had an insatiable desire
to buy them from the French in 1822 when the hilt design was changed
or in 1855 when the model was replaced? How come many spear pointed
sabres can be found in Waterloo Exhibitions at Museums (e.g. the
Musee de Centre General Gerard at Ligny in Belgium). Please! The
vast majority of AN XIII’s in the UK are war trophies; either
battlefield pick-ups or confiscations after the event. Either way,
they nearly all are certain to be Waterloo or earlier era sabres.
Telling an AN XIII battlefield pick-up
The signs for a battlefield pick-up, a sabre taken from a fallen
or injured French Cuirassier are;
a) Some form of damage from being used or having fallen.
b) The lack of / or having a mismatched scabbard; not always but
most battlefield pick-ups would be An XIII sabres out of their scabbards,
as the trooper who held them would most likely have had his sword
drawn when he was injured or felled, and because he would likely
have ridden or been dragged away by his horse so as to separate
the two. A mismatched (different serial number) sword to scabbard
is a very good indication it was a fallen sword shortly after matched
to another trooper's scabbard.
c) Waterloo trophies will not have post-1815 French inspection marks
When trying to determine if an AN XIII lost its scabbard at Waterloo
or at a later date, check the blade condition with the leather grip
condition as these both are prone to decay by dampness. If the blade
is in very good order but the grip is very poor, if you do not have
a scabbard it is likely because the thing rusted away. If the blade
and the grip are commensurate with being exposed to the air around
them for a very long time, then it is almost certainly a Waterloo
war trophy. As I said, some battlefield pick-ups would have involved
having the original or another nearby scabbard.
Next, check the hilt and scabbard if you have one for post-Waterloo
French inspector stamps. Some, although not all of these are listed
Inspection Marks - remember Versailles had its own stamps and
that many hilts were made in Versailles; I have a reference book
of these. Also, these swords were made by mostly Parisian sword
/ blade makers and are inavariable marked to the blade "AP"
("Atelier de precision") with a licteur (note: most people
believe "AP" meant Arsenal Paris, but that is not true;
just another belief made "fact"). If nothing is post-Waterloo,
the sabre is unlikely to have been carried after the battle, heightening
the likelihood it was a war trophy carried home by a British soldier.
Some people point to a B under crown in a pointed shield poinçon
and state this to be the mark of inspector Balaran (Klingenthal
inspector from 1834 to 1836) seen on some hilts and scabbard throats,
and falsely cite this as proof these sabres are post-Waterloo;
But the B is not the chubby B Star of Balaran in a shield with
It is clearly the B Crown of the unknown (unnamed) inspector of
the time (1814) at the private side of Klingenthal, Coulaux;
You see, during the time of maximum production need just before
the 100 Days War (Waterloo), private arms makers such as Coulaux
were sequestered in to help. Part of the effort was to return older
swords to service, so you will see the old rack numbers struck out
(as above) with a new number and inspection mark; an inspection
mark dating the sword's reissue to 1814 / 1815.
Below, in fact, is the poinçon of Balaran (1834 to 1836)
(note, it is much larger than the B crown poinçon example
above). You will find some true Balaran poinçons An XIII's;
these are swords that stayed in French service and therefore are
not Waterloo battle pick ups. So, determining what is and what is
niot a Balaran poinçon on many swords is very, very important.
Below is true Balaran poinçon, so the sword was in French
service long after Waterloo, and is almost certain not to have been
at that battle.
To make matters worse / confusion greater, I have found another,
skinnier B under star stamp on several An XIII's (see below). The
below example shows this unknown / different, possibly a Coulaux
inspection stamp against a weapon number of 1550, where the blade
was dated January 1815. Because of this fact (the blade date), and
where existing serviceable hilts receiving new blades (because of
battle damage to the blade) entailed the old hilt getting additional
newer rack numbers & poinçons (with the old rack numbers
crossed out), this hilt is almost certainly original to the blade
and thereby of approximately the same date due to there being only
one rack number.
NB; it is a rarer event for existing serviceable blades with damaged
hilts to receive new hilts (which would result in a single later
hilt / rack number / poinçon), as the blades tended to suffer
damage first and foremost in battle of course.
Because the B under star poinçon below (note also: with a
speckled / egg shell type effect background) is much skinnier than
the 100% definite (chubby) Balaran poinçon, my judgment is
that it could not be for Balaran, as he was only inspecting during
1834 to 1836 (a time of relatively low French sword production),
and so many variations for one inspector simply does not make sense
or hold true. There certainly is nothing in the small number of
reference books I have seen to indicate he did have a number of
different poinçon stamp styles. But the jury is officially
still out on that one, as I have nothing else to back up what seems
Just to underline / substantiate and possibly confuse more what
I am saying, here is a definite Balaran poinçon (see the
stamp and letter are both chubbier, and the B is slightly at an
angle) on an An XIII;
And I believe this above rare example is the reason some collectors
feel that all B under star or crown poinçons mean post-1815.
You see, to confuse matters further, for some unknown reason, there
were a few An XIII's made / kept in service long after the sword
model was officially superceded / replaced, and the above example
is from the hilt of just such a later An XIII. I have not seen many
of these, but they do exist. Unfortunately the blade of this one
was apparently rubbed down and then electroplated, so the date inscription
and poinçons could not be seen (this may also mean that there
were no poinçons / date inscription, so the blade could also
In addition, I have also seen pre-Waterloo dated rehilted An XIII
blades and even complete original swords with a definite later (chubby)
Balaran poinçon, which showed some swords apparently stayed
unmodified (the blades were not removed and rehilted into later
model hilts) and in service for many years.
Just to confuse matters more, the An XIII sword example below has
a September 1814 dated blade but with a hilt with a single rack
number (more than implying the hilt was a replacement) and two poinçons;
one appears to be a cross between the unknown skinny B under crown
/ star and Balaran chubby B under star poinçon, and a C under
star which is undoubtedly a (Captain inspector) Colliot de la Hattais
poinçon which dates to 1832). The C Star stamps indicates
the B Star stamp is not for Balaran, because Colliot de la Hattais
was the inspector before Balaran, and I can think of no likely reason
why both Colliot de la Hattais and Balaran would inspect and stamp
the same An XIII.
As you can see on all three of the above examples, there are other
markings that could be old, rubbed out poinçons, but I do
not believe so, as I have inspected each and there is no apparent
reduction of the original hilt. And the official French method for
giving a hilt a new rack number was to simply strike out the old.
To make things easy / simpler, I would summarize;
B under Crown skinny poinçon = definitely pre-Waterloo
B under Star skinny poinçon = 99.99% likely pre-Waterloo
B under Star medium poinçon = very unlikely to be pre-Waterloo
B under Star chubby poinçon = 1834 to 1836
And we should expect very few An XIII's that remained in service
with the French to have survived, to explain the fairly large number
of these swords that are in the UK (some collectors say these An
XIII's were likely bought by British tourists in France in the 1960's
and 1970's, which is about as ludicrous and funny as it gets, not
least as the French tend to hold onto such things and would probably
not lightly sell them to an English tourist)!
Why did so few An XIII's remain in French service (for British tourists
to one day buy as souvenirs of their holiday to France)? Because
the French changed their hilt design in 1816, and I have encountered
several An XIII blades in the 1816M hilt, which means the French
(who were strapped for cash after so many wars) rehilted usable
blades into the new style hilts. The idea that many An XIII's stayed
in use to 1834 - 1836 becomes even less likely when you consider
the French changed their heavy cavalry sword model again in 1822
(for a slightly curved blade). Maybe some An XIII's were kept in
service for nostalgia. It is even possible original An XIII blades
were rehilted into 1816M hilts and then rehilted again into stored
An XIII hilts when the straight bladed 1816M was replaced by the
slightly curved 1822M Cavalry of the Line swords!
I buy swords from both the UK and France, and I see nothing to presume
many An XIII's continued intact / original in service after the
1816M. I have seen very few post-Waterloo An XIII's (dated early
1816 to the blade spine). Post-Waterloo, pre-1816M An XIII's are
incredibly rare, as they did not need to make many. I believe that
probably all but a tiny few serviceable An XIII's had their blades
removed and rehilted in 1816. I do not believe it possible that
any An XIII's remained in true service past 1822. In my opinion,
if you buy an An XIII from the UK, it is a Waterloo battle / 100
Days War trophy. If you buy one in France, it is one that was spirited
away from service in 1816 or before. I think some of those in the
UK were probably bought in france at some stage, but not that many.
So, if a AN XIII comes from the UK, I believe you are 95% sure the
sword came from Waterloo or shortly thereafter. And that the blade
date and poinçons will confirm it one way or another.
The so called 1816 scabbard (AKA Mark 3 Scabbard)
This is another aspect often used to try and deny an AN XIII having
been a Waterloo war trophy. In 1816 the French approved the Mk 3
/ 1816 scabbard for AN XIII Cuirassier sabres, so every sabre with
one of these Mk. 3’s is claimed by some to show it is a post-Waterloo
acquisition; nonsense! Just like the AN XI (1802) Vs AN XIII (1804)
sabre scenario / explanation, the MK 3 scabbards too were made ahead
of the model date, in this case before Waterloo. The French would
introduce a new piece of equipment and it would become official
at a later date; the reverse of what happened with British patterns.
Mk. 3 scabbards were made from 1814 and you can find examples of
these on sabres in Museums known to have come from Waterloo, such
as the Musee de Centre General Gerard in Belgium. We have handled
several examples where the blade spine is dated pre-Waterloo, the
hilt has only one serial number (so it can be dated to the same
date as the blade) and where the serial number on its Mk 3 scabbard
is the same; thus proving beyond all reasonable doubt Mk 3 scabbards
were made before Waterloo as well as after.
Mk. 1, Mk. 2 and Mk. 3 scabbards.
Mark 1 scabbards were too flimsy, so they were replaced. Mark 2
scabbards were too heavy (often made of iron) and were replaced.
Mark 2 scabbards had lyre shaped chapes. Mark 3 scabbards have guitar
shaped chapes. Some people claim the Mk. 3 scabbard was introduced
to accommodate the spear point blades; nonsense. Spear points for
French Cuirassier blades were not regulated (ordinarily made that
way) until 1855; spear pointed blades are mostly in service modifications
made by regiments. You can tell this is true by putting an original
unmodified clip pointed 97 cm bladed sabre into a Mk. 3 scabbard;
it fits perfectly.
The number of grip ring binding turns.
One of the useful ways of spotting fake / reproduction AN XIII’s
is the number of ring turns for the grips twisted wire bindings.
Most authentic AN XIII’s have around 11 turns. The most common
reproductions have 15 or 16. But, some authentic AN XIII’s
do have more turns, 15 or 16, though these are in the minority.
It seems the reason for an authentic AN XIII to have 15 or 16 turns
is a) that it is an early sabre with the original grip, b) that
the hilt has been re-griped according to later preference, c) that
the sabre was help by a dragoon, not a cuirassier or d) that the
sabre was issued to Dutch / Belgium Cuirassiers when those countries
were part of the French Republic.
How to spot fake AN XIII’s
This mostly relates to AN XIII sabres with blades marked to Klingenthal
1) Blades with October 1813 dates to the spine are most often fakes.
In any event, check the date on the blade’s spine with the
little round inspection marks (poinçons) on the forte / ricasso
Inspection Marks - If they do not agree with each other, the
blade is not authentic.
2) Some reproductions do not have a lower ferrule where the grip
meets the front guard; almost every authentic AN XIII has a lower
ferrule though please note, very early production versions and those
made for Dutch / Belgium Cuirassiers may not (though the majority
3) The junction of the guard with the pommel is often wrong with
reproductions; both the knucklebow and a union of the 3 hilt bars
should join the pommel, unless the sabre was made in 1802 or 1803.
4) The quality of the poinçons, in particular the wreathed
B of Bick is often poorly done on reproductions; also many reproductions
only have two not the correct three poinçons.
5) Reproductions generally have pigskin made to look like leather
grips; check the colour and quality.
6) Reproductions often have thinner ring wire binding gauges; make
sure the twisted wire is thick like it should be.
Check known reproduction wholesaler sites such as Military
Heritage AKA the Discriminating General, WorldWide
Arms and Stromlo
Swords to compare.
I have seen other earlier reproductions with "Mfure
Impale du Klingenthal" to the spine (there
should be more after, either Coulaux / Coulaux frères or
the month and year), no poinçons, and thin vinyl over this
grip twist twine (with no twisted grip wire).
Bear in mind most but not all An XIII blades were made in Klingenthal
- so some authentic blades (such as Atelier de precision blades)
will have totally different markings.