On the Englifh Long-Bow.
Part 7 of 12
There are other ftatutes which are calculated to fix the price of Bows, the regulations in which are the following.
During the reign of Edward III. a painted Bow fold for one and fix-pence, and a white or unpainted one for a fhilling. By 24. Edward IV. 4. Bows of Yew were to be fold for three and four-pence. By 33. Henry VIII. 9. no Bowyer was to fell to a perfon between feven and fourteen years of age, any Bow for more than one fhilling, and was to have Bows of all prices, from fix-pence a piece to a fhilling, for perfons of that age. And no Bowyer was to fell any Elk-yew Bow, for more than three fhillings and four-pence.
By 8. Eliz. 10. Bows of foreign Yew were to be fold at the price of fix fhillings and eight-pence. A fecond fort at three fhillings and four-pence, and a third kind at two fhillings.
Arrows in the time of Edward III. were fold at one fhilling and two-pence per fheaf, (each fheaf confifting of twenty four) if they had fharpened points, but if blunt headed, they were only one fhilling per fheaf. The iron from which the beft points were made, is faid to have been that of anchor hooks.
From feveral ftatutes which have been made for the encouragement and enforcement of the practice of Archery, as well as from the complaints of our old hiftorians of the negligence of people in exercifing, it is reafonable to fuppofe that Archers were not then fo expert as in more early periods. I fhould imagine from the victories in the time of Edward III. and from the encomiums paffed on the Bowmen of thofe days, that Archery in that reign, was in its higheft perfection. We are taught to believe, that the battle of Crecy, was the chef d'oeuvre of the Long-bow, but it does not add to the honour of our Archers, when we hear that all the Bow-ftrings of the Genoefe Arbalefters, were fpoiled by rain before the battle commenced. However, the fkill of king Edward's bowmen is undoubted, as there were other victoriesbefides that of Crecy, in which the Archers fufficiently proved their excellence. Hollinfhead, who wrote in the fixteenth century, laments the decay of Archery in his time, and praifes Edward's bowmen in the following curious manner. "In times paft," fays he, "the chief force of England confifted in their Long-bows. But now we have in a manner generally given over that kind of artillery, and for Long-bows indeed, do practife to fhoot compafs for our paftime. Cutes, the Frenchman, and Rutters, deriding our new Archery in refpect to their croflets, will not let in open fkirmifh, if any leifure ferve to turn up their tails and cry, fhoote Englifhmen; and all becaufe our ftrong fhooting is decayed and laid in bed. But if fome of our Englifhmen now lived, that ferved King Edward III. the breech of fuch a varlet fhould have been nailed to his bum with an Arrow, and another feathered in his bowels." &c.159
Having traced the Bow in England to the period in which it almoft ceafed to be a military weapon in our army, I fhall now digrefs a moment to view the ftate of Archery in France.
The Bow has not always been a warlike weapon in France. Procopius fays, that in the expedition of the Franks under Theodebert (A. D. 538) the troops were armed with a fword, fhield, and hatchet, or rather battle-axe; they had neither Bow nor Lance. This is likewife obferved by Gibbon, who I prefume derived his information from the fame fource, though there is no reference to his authority at this part.160 There are paffages, however, in the Salic Law, quoted by Father Daniel, which feem to difagree with the words of Procopius. In chapter xx. de vulneribus, it ordains a penalty of fixty-two pence in gold, to be required from any one who fhould wound another with a poifoned Arrow.161 And in chapter xxxii. (de debilitatibus) it affigns a pecuniary fine for any one, who fhould maim the fecond finger of another, ufed in drawing the Bow.162 But notwithftanding thefe paffages involve the idea of the exiftence of Archery, yet it is fuppofed the Bow was an inftrument of the chace, not of war; and P. Daniel remarks, that it was fometimes ufed in fieges, and in entrenchments, but not in the field of battle.
In the end of the fixth century, however, Archery appears to have been ufed163 and a law of Charlemagne, made in the ninth century, directs that thofe armed with clubs, fhould difcontinue them, and fhoot the Bow.164
During the intermediate reigns to that of Lewis XI. Archers were employed in the French armies ; but about the year 1480, this king difmiffed that part of his troops, and in their place procured Swifs infantry.165