How the Longbow Ended Knights in Shining Armor
When we hear the term “knight in shining armor,” we think of a gallant medieval soldier sporting a silvery suit of armor, probably with a damsel in one hand and a sword in the other. And when we hear the word “warrior,” we think of men and women wielding swords and shields while bellowing battle cries.
When the longbow was introduced to the battlefield, it quickly became the preferred weapon. For example, the Welsh army used it in battle in the 14th century. But the first recorded use of the longbow dates to 633 A.D. Scientist and author Dan Koboldt wrote, “An arrow shot by a Welsh longbow killed Edwin, the son of the king of Northumberland.”
The Daily Beast also discussed the longbow’s use in the Hundred Years’ War: “The weapon first came into play when Edward’s grandfather finally crushed the Welsh people as an independent entity and wrapped them into what was becoming ‘Britain.’ Because of the topography of Wales, and to some degree their own subculture, the Welsh had always focused on more lightly armed and armored soldiery. Theirs was a way of war that focused on hit-and-run, and when pressed, to pull back into their mountainous central retreats. Central to this centuries-long military evolution by the Welsh (prior to Edward Longshanks finally crushing them at the end of the 1200s) was the use of bows and spears. For them, therefore, bigger bows meant longer range and the ability to beat the more heavily armored English upon occasion.”
Koboldt also reported that longbows could deliver six arrows per minute at ranges of 300 to 400 yards. “They were also relatively easy to make. Modern bowyers can build a longbow in about 10 to 20 hours.”
During the Battle of Crecy, the French were no match against the longbow’s range and accuracy. The Daily Beast wrote: “The Welsh longbow became the most feared tool of war. By the time Edward III came to the throne, the technology had spread and would continue to spread, across more and more of England. But the best of them were, still, the Welsh longbowmen with their 6-foot long war bows which had a ‘pull’ weight of 120, 140, or even 170 pounds. That is a serious weapon.”
Which was better, armor or arrows? Koboldt wrote: “Though it’s a matter of debate among historians, many believe a bodkin (broadhead) would have difficulty penetrating solid armor, especially high-quality plate armor covered with a gambeson (a sort of cloth worn on the outside to protect against projectiles). Against non-mithril chainmail, however, a longbow with bodkin arrows was likely very deadly. Especially at close range (<50 yards).”
While “knights in shining armor” were protected by their armor, their weapons lacked the mobility and range of a longbow.
A Fox News station in Phoenix recently interviewed members of the Mounted Archery Association, who demonstrated horseback archery while showing off their beautiful animals. The group’s president, Diana Troyk, said they offer lessons on basic shooting styles and a machine for training. The group paints this picture in its “About Us” description:
“What could be more exhilarating than cantering your glorious steed, wind in your face as you fly, lifting above the ground, instinctively one with your horse. THWACK! The musical sound as your arrow hits the target. Your life may never be the same.”
Talk about feeling like a Plains Indian of yesteryear! The group’s website lists its various locations, membership fees, and different archery styles.
Montreal Archery Tag
Montreal is enjoying its first archery tag room. Combat d’Archers is a new venue for “combat archery.” The facilities feature a practice area and an indoor arena in which friends can battle each other in good old-fashioned duels.
MTL Blog, a blog that features Montreal’s happenings, describes the game: “Otherwise known as ‘archery dodgeball’ or ‘archery paintball,’ combat archery is pretty much a fusion of tag with a bow-and-arrow.” In other words, it features all the intensity of paintball, but without the large red welts. For folks who prefer stationary games, the group has a Ping Pong table, Foosball table and a WiiU.
“Basically, you’re equipped with a bow and foam-tipped arrow, and you then make it your mission to eliminate all other players in the game by nailing them with an airborne projectile,” the site reports. If you’re wondering how watching the movie “Brave” 100 times would ever pay off, there’s your answer.