Nursery Rhymes

The Longbow

Medieval life and Times

Definition of a Longbow
The Longbow weapon used in Medieval Times by an Archer, called a longbow man. The Longbow was a powerful wooden bow, that had a strong tension, was drawn by hand and usually 6-7 feet long.

Medieval Archer

The Medieval Longbow
The Medieval Longbow was used in England and Wales during the during the Medieval times. The Medieval Longbow, or English Medieval Longbow, as it is traditionally known in military history, was the battlefield weapon of choice for the Medieval English army.

Description of the Medieval Longbow
The following description of the Medieval Longbow provides basic facts and information about the weapon:

  • The Welsh were the first people in Britain to have and use longbows
  • Every Medieval Longbow was made to measure
  • The length of the Medieval Longbow therefore ranged considerably in size from 6 - 7 feet in length
  • The majority of Longbows were made from yew but ash, hazel and elm were also used
  • The bow stave was shaped into a D-section from a half cross section of a tree or branch
  • The wood of the Medieval Longbow was protected with a rub of "wax, resin, and fine tallow"
  • A skilled longbow man could release between 10 - 12 arrows per minute
  • The Medieval Longbow could also pierce the armor of a knight at ranges of more than 250 yards
  • The string of the Medieval Longbow was made from hemp as it was the strongest and least elastic fibre available. The string was then soaked in glue as some protection against moisture
  • The weapon was particularly effective against opponents wearing plate armor
  • Type or group of weapons - Ranged Weapon which caused a projectile to leave the soldier and  strike a target

Description of the Medieval Longbow Arrows

  • The arrow was a straight shaft with a sharp point on one end and measuring about 3 feet long
  • Long Bodkin were point arrows were used for piercing mail
  • Arrows called Short bodkins were used for piercing armor plate
  • Arrows called swallowtails were used to bring down horses

History - The 'English Medieval Longbow' was introduced by the Welsh
Although it is commonly referred to as the English Medieval Longbow it was in fact first used by the Welsh. The Welsh made use of the Medieval Longbow against the English,  repelling attempts by the English to attack Wales, prior to the Norman invasion of 1066. The English recognised the Welsh power with the Longbow and it was used to such effect in England that it was then referred to as the English Medieval Longbow.

The Power of the Medieval Longbow
The medieval knight had no protection against the arrows of the Medieval Longbow. The English gained great victories over the French at Crecy, Agincourt and Poitiers. The power of the Medieval Longbow was so great that at the Battle of Crecy, in 1346, the French army was decimated. It is estimated that nearly 2000 French knights and soldiers were killed by the Medieval Longbow arrows. The English lost just 50 men! The French Knights were not just mortified by their defeat but also because they had been defeated by common peasants.

History of the English Medieval Longbow
The English Archery Law of the 13th century ensured that English men would be come experts with the bow and arrow. In 1252 the 'Assize of Arms' ensured that all Englishmen were ordered, by law, that every man between the age of 15 to 60 years old should equip themselves with a bow and arrows. The Plantagenet King Edward III took this further and decreed the Archery Law in 1363 which commanded the obligatory practice of archery on Sundays and holidays! The Archery Law "forbade, on pain of death, all sport that took up time better spent on war training especially archery practise". King Henry I later proclaimed that an archer would be absolved of murder, if he killed a man during archery practise! The victories over the French at Crecy, Agincourt and Poitiers were directly due to the expertise of English archers and the Medieval Longbow. Skill in the use of the Medieval Longbow took considerable time. The English invested in the time required - the French did not. Up to this point the skills and weapons used by a Knight were deemed to be worth 10 ordinary soldiers - hence the French reaction to defeats by the common peasant.

Medieval Longbow Training
Skill in the use of Medieval weapons and understanding the strategy of Medieval Warfare was necessary and a played a vital part in Medieval life. The training required by an Archer to use the Medieval Longbow was extremely time consuming - it was necessary for them to become expert marksmen. Special places were assigned for the archery training called the Butts. Training in the use of the Medieval Longbow in England included much practised commands and motions which could be carried out automatically in battle

  • "Ready your bows!"
  • "Nock!"
  • "Mark!"
  • "Draw!"
  • "Loose!"

The cries of " Nock! Mark! Draw!" would have resounded across the English battlefields of the Middle Ages.

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