This civic sword was sent to the Mayor of Waterford by King Edward IV in 1462 along with two maces.
On official occasions it was carried in procession in front of the mayor. The sword symbolised the fact that the mayor’s authority within the city came directly from the king.
Edward IV would have been very familiar with Waterford. It was in Waterford that his father - Richard the Duke of York - plotted to invade England and overthrow King Henry VI.
During the reign of Edward IV it was decreed that a royal mint be established in Waterford in Reginald’s Tower.
Edward IV came to the throne in 1461 having deposed Henry VI. This ushered in a period of political instability and civil war in England which became known as the Wars of the Roses. In 1461 the city of Waterford was also in crisis. That year the city was attacked by the Powers of County Waterford and their Gaelic allies the O'Driscolls from County Cork. Following the attack the city asked for help from the new king hoping that he would remember the welcome and support his late father received from the city.
However, Edward IV even if he could raise the resources would not have attempted to come to Waterford’s assistance for his enemy the former Henry VI, his very capable wife the former queen and their son were still at large. Yet Edward did remember just how loyal Waterford was to his father and also how central the city was to the maintenance of royal power in Ireland. So instead of sending Waterford simple words of encouragement he sent not just the usual charter confirming all the city's rights and privileges but also a very finely-decorated bearing sword and two silver maces.
Edward IV was trying to play a holding game in Ireland until such time as he had the resources to pay real attention to the country. The gifts helped Edward to secure the continued loyalty of the city. Two years later the Irish Parliament meeting in Waterford decided for the first time in history to mint coins by the authority of the parliament. The coins emblazoned with an image of King Edward IV were minted in Reginald 's Tower. Prior to this all coinage in medieval Ireland was issued by order of the king. It is clear that this independent action by the Irish Parliament had been encouraged by Richard Duke of York, the new king's father while he was in Ireland as governor.
The civic sword of Edward IV obviously raised the status of the mayoralty of Waterford. In 1481, Waterford's most famous medieval mayor James Rice together with his friend John Collyn, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, initiated a new civic ceremony. The details of this ceremony are recorded in the Great Parchment Book of Waterford. It was performed each year, on the Monday after the feast of the Exhaltation of the Holy Cross when all the council shall attend at the chapel of Jesus beside Christ Church Cathedreal to hear Mass of the Holy Ghost. Following Mass, the council was to process solemnly to the Guildhall with the sword bearer holding aloft the civic sword and then elect the mayor and bailiffs for the following year. This civic ceremony was a direct copy of that begun in London in 1406 by that city's most celebrated mayor - Dick Whittington.
These gifts of King Edward IV - sword, maces (the oldest in Ireland) and charter are today over 550 years later on display in the Medieval Museum. Likewise two of the many hundreds of coins minted in Reginald's Tower in 1463 are today on display there. These objects underline for us the fact that the history of medieval Waterford is inextricably linked to the fortunes, or indeed misfortunes of the English monarchs.