Anecdotes of Archery
Part 12 of 34
In 1403 was the battle of Shrewfbury, the beft, fought, and the moft defperate that England had ever feen: The Archers on both fides did terrible execution. And here the PRINCE OF WALES, afterwards HENRY V. was wounded in the face by an arrow.
The French depended chiefly on their men at arms, and the Scots on their pikemen; but the ranks of both were often thinned and thrown into diforder, by flights of arrows, before they could reach their enemies. Of this there are numberlefs inftances, and none where it is more evident than in the battle of Agincourt: Some of the particulars of which, though well known, may not be unacceptable to fome of our readers.
On the morning of Friday, the memorable 25th Of October, A. D 1415, the Englifh and French armies were ranged in order of battle, each in three lines, with bodies of cavalry on each wing.
The CONSTABLE D'ALBERT, who commanded the French army, fell into the fnare that was laid for him, by drawing up his army in the plain between two woods. This deprived him in a great meafure of the advantage he fhould have derived from the prodigious fuperiority of his numbers; obliged him to make his lines unneceffarily deep, about thirty men in file ; to crowd his troops, particularly his cavalry, fo clofe together, that they could hardly move or ufe their arms; and, in a word, was the chief caufe of all the difafters that followed.
The firft line of the French army, which con-fitted of eighty thoufand men-at-arms on foot, mixed with four thoufand Archers, and five hundred men at-arms, mounted on each wing, was commanded by the CONSTABLE D'ALBERT, the DUKES OF ORLEANS and BOURBON, and many other nobles; the DUKES OF ALENÇON, BRABANT, BAR, &c. conducted the fecond line; and the EARLS OF MARLE, DAMARTINE, FAUCONBERG, &c. were at the head of the third line. The King of England employed various arts to fupply his defect of numbers. He placed two hundred of his beft Archers in ambufh, in a low meadow, on the flank, of the firft line of the French. His own firft line confuted wholly of Archers, four in file; each of whom, befides his bow and arrows, had a battle-ax, a fword, and a ftake pointed with iron at both ends, which he fixed before him in the ground, the point inclining outwards, to protect him from cavalry; which was a new invention, and had a happy effect.
That he might not be encumbered, he difmiffed all his prifoners on their word of honour to fur-render themfelves at Calais, if he obtained the victory,—and lodged all his baggage in the village of Agincourt, in his rear, under a flender guard. The command of the firft line was, at his earneft requeft, committed to EDWARD Duke of York, affifted by the LORDS BEAUMONT, WILLOUGHBY, and FANHOPE; the fecond was conducted by the KING, with his youngeft brother HUMPHRY DUKE of GLOUCESTER, the EARLS of OXFORD, MARSHAL, and SUFFOLK; and the third was led by the DUKE of EXETER, the King's uncle.
The lines being formed, the king, in fhining armour, with a crown of gold, adorned with precious ftones, on his helmet, mounted on a fine white horfe, rode along them, and addreffed each corps with a cheerful countenance and animating fpeeches. To inflame their refentment againft their enemies, he told them, that the French had determined to cut off three fingers of the right-hand of every prifoner; and, to roufe their love of honour, he declared, that every foldier in that army who behaved well, fhould from thenceforth be deemed a gentleman, and entitled to bear coat-armour.
When the two armies were drawn up in this manner, they ftood a confiderable time gazing at one another in folemn filence. But the King dreading that the French would difcover the danger of their fituation and decline a battle, commanded the charge to be founded about ten o'clock in the forenoon. At that inftant the firft line of the Englifh kneeled down and kiffed the ground; and then ftarting up, difcharged a flight of arrows, which did great execution among the crowded ranks of the French. Immediately after, upon a fignal being given, the Archers in ambufh arofe, and difcharged their arrows on the flank of the French line, and threw it into fome diforder. The battle now became general, and raged with uncommon fury. The Englifh Archers having expended all their arrows, threw away their bows, and rufhing forward, made dreadful havoc with their fwords and battle-axes. The firft line of the enemy was, by thefe means, defeated; its leaders being either killed or taken prifoners.
The fecond line commanded by the DUKE D'ALENÇON, (who had made a vow to kill or take the King of England, or to perifh in the attempt) now advanced to the charge, and was encountered by the fecond line of the Englifh, conducted by the King. This conflict was more clofe and furious than the former—The DUKE of GLOUCESTER, wounded and unhorfed, was protected by his royal brother till he was carried off the field—The DUKE D'ALENÇON forced his way to the King, and affaulted him with great fury ; but that prince brought him to the ground, where he was inftantly defpatched. Difcourged by this difafter, the fecond line made no more refiftance, and the third fled without (hiking a blow; yielding a complete and glorious victory to the Englifh, after a violent ftruggle of three hours duration.
The King, after returning to England, fenfible of the very great ufe and importance of his Archers, directs the fheriffs. of counties to collect fix wing-feathers from every goofe, for the purpofe of improving arrows; which were to be paid for by the King. It appears that thefe fix feathers fhould confift of the fecond, third, and fourth of each wing.
JAMES I. of Scotland, who had feen and admired the dexterity of the Englifh Archers, and who was hirnfelf an excellent Archer, endeavoured to revive the exercife of Archery amongft his own fubjects, by whom it had been too much neglected. With this view he ridiculed their aukward manner of handling their bows, in his humourous Poem of Chriftis Kirk of the Grene  , and procured the following law to be made in his firft parliament. (A. D. 1424.)
"That all men might bufk them to be
" Archares fra tha be 12 yeres of age, and that
" at ilk tenne punds worth of land there be made
" bow markes, and fpeciallie near paroche kirks,
" quhair upen halie day is men tray cum and at
" the leift fchute thryfe about, and have ufage
" of Archarie; and whafa ufis not Archarie,
" the Laird of the land fall rais of him a wed-
" der; and giff the Laird raifis not the faid
" pane, the King's Shiref or his Minifters fhall
" rais it to the King."
But the untimely death of that excellent Prince, which happened in the year 1437, prevented the execution of this law.