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Home > Articles > The Royal Company of Archers > Part 1 of 2
The Royal Company of Archers
by Charles Lowe
The Graphic, August 9, 1902, page 184.
Part 1 of 2

The Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, who are the Sovereign's immediate bodyguard, or "nearest guard," in England, have their counterpart in the Royal Company of Archers, who have the same high duties and privileges in Scotland; and at the Coronation of Edward VII. their noble commander, called Captain-General—to whom George IV. presented a gold stick, thus constituting his company part of the Royal household—will take his place immediately behind the Gold Stick of England, who, as Colonel of the Life Guards, is, on all ceremonial occasions, nearest the Sovereign's own person. The Kings of France, commencing with Louis XI., had a regular bodyguard of Scottish Archers, as readers of "Quentin Durward" do not require to be reminded; but when the King of Scotland adopted the same kinds of personal protection is lost, like so many other things, among the dust and mist of antiquity. In Scotland the bow, as an offensive arm, was never so popular or so effective a weapon as it always was in the hands of the English, for the reason, as has been shrewdly pointed out by a learned and acute student of national character, that it was against the temperament of the Scots to play at long bowls in battle, and that they had little patience with goose-winged arrows while carrying swords and spears wherewith to get home at once upon their opponents. Be that as it may, the practice of archery in the North was enforced by legislation, forming at once a popular pastime and a warlike pursuit—decus et tutamen in armis; and curiously enough the oldest toxophilite association in the kingdom is now a Scottish one—the Royal Company of Archers, who form the King's Bodyguard for Scotland.

Captain-General 1715-1720
From a Picture in the possession of Mr. Henry G. Watson
      

1. Old Musselburgh Arrow, 1603-1712
2. Peebles Silver Arrow
3. Selkirk Silver Arrow
4. Musselburgh Arrow, 1713

This proud Corporation claims a very ancient origin, its' members being pleased to think that their predecessors even hedged around the person of their King at Flodden Field; but, as a matter of posiĀ­tive fact, their records do not carry the curious investigator back beyond the year 1676, which, after all, gives them considerably more than two centuries of continuous existence. At the instance of their Captain-General, the Earl of Cromarty, the Archers pro­cured from Queen Anne a fresh charter renewing all their former rights and privileges, and conferring others, all of which were to be held of the Crown for the reddendo of a pair of barbed arrows—a service which was duly performed to George IV. when he visited Edinburgh in 1822, and which was also repeatedly rendered to Queen Victoria. When her late Majesty's uncle landed at Leith— with Sir Walter Scott for his Champion-in-Chief—his carriage was at once surrounded by the Archers, representing all the best families of Scotland—for a man had to be of "gentle bluid" and upbringing, like Dugald Dalgetty, to get into their ranks—and escorted him, at a foot-pace, to Holyrood; while, at the ensuing receptions held by His Majesty, they lined the staircase and presence-chamber, thus performing the same duties at Holyrood Palace as the Gentlemen-at-Arms do at St. James's—hence the King's presentation to their Captain-General of a gold stick. In 1842, when the Queen herself visited Edinburgh, the Archers were again to the front, just as in 1860 they once more turned out in all their verdant bravery with baldrics and Balmoral bonnets, under their Captain-General, the Duke of Buccleuch, to guarantee the safety of Her Majesty's sacred person on the occasion of the grand Volunteer Review in the Queen's Park, as they did on a similar occasion in 1882, amid weather that could only be described as terrible.

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