1902 Encyclopedia > Archery > Archery in Tudor and Stuart England

(Part 2)



In 1485 Henry VII Instituted the yeomen of the guard, who were then all archers, and in the 19th year of his reign the use of the cross-bow was forbidden by Act of Parliament, because the long bow had been of so much greater benefit to the nation. In this reign archery occupied an important position in the fashionable pastimes of the kingdom, and upon the occasion of the marriage of Henry with the Princess Elizabeth it formed a great feature among the nuptial festivities, the king himself joining in the shooting with heartiness and glee.

Several Acts were passed in the reign of Henry VIII for the encouragement and promotion of archery; one ordered that butts should be erected and kept in repair in all townships, and that the inhabitants should practise shooting at them on holidays. The same Act directed that every able-bodied man, not being an ecclesiastic or a judge, should practice shooting with the long bow; and the guardians and employers of youth were ordered to bring up the boys in their charge to the practice of archery, neglect being punishable by fine. In this reign the practise of archery was strongly advocated from the pulpit by Bishop Latimer; and so jealous were the English of rival nations competing with them, that aliens were forbidden to use the long bow. The English victory at the battle of Flodden Field was due to the skill and courage of the archers. Edward VI devoted much of his time to the practice of archery as an amusement, and his Journal, in which are many allusions to his successes and disappointments at matches, is still preserved in the British Museum.

Archery continued to be an object of attention and solicitude with the Legislature during the reign of Elizabeth, and the price of bows was again regulated by statute; also, bowyers were commanded to keep in hand always a sufficient stock of bows. Charles I issued commissions to prevent the enclosure of fields near London, so "as to interrupt the necessary and profitable exercise of shooting with bows and arrows," and also for the restoration of all shooting-marks that had been already removed. And the earl of Essex, at the beginning of the civil war, raised a company of archers for the defence of the king. In the time of Charles II archery was a highly fashionable and popular recreation with all classes of society, and the "Merrie Monarch" used frequently to take part with the ladies and gentlemen of his court in toxophilite meetings. Queen Catherine also showed deep interest in the fascinating pastime, and in the year 1676 she presented a silver badge to the "Marshal of the Fraternity of Archers." Both the king and queen frequently reviewed the numerous associations of archers then existent. In the spring of 1682 a grand fete was given by the London Artillery Company at the Artillery Grounds, at which there were present upwards of 1,000 archers, and it is said that the gala outshone anything of its kind that had previously been seen in England.

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