Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1415 English archer
Subject: longbow archer
Culture: English
Setting: France/Britain 15thc


Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Royal Armouries Museum > War Gallery
​"Missile troops of the 15th century  The tactics of the Hundred Years War continued in use in England throughout the 15th century -- pitched battles were fought between large bodies of longbowmen.
    "Some of these bowmen rode to battle and were equipped with body armour and helmets.  On the battlefield formations of archers were strengthened by dismounted men-at-arms equipped with complete armour of plate, and by increasing numbers of infantry billmen, who wore less body armour."  ...


* Boutell 1907 p134-135
"We may now consider the military equipment of archers in their palmy days.
    "Their proper weapon, the bow, to which they owed their reputation, by right first claims our attention.  Amongst the archers of England it was exclusively the great bow, five feet in length, and formed of yew, which at a range of at least 240 yards discharged a strong arrow, sharp and barbed.  The shafts of these arrows were provided, near their base, with feathers, or with strips of leather.  They were carried, not in such a quiver as appears in antique statues of Apollo or Diana, but bound together in a sheaf, and so suspended from the waist-belt.  When in the act of commencing battle, the archer shook out his sheaf of arrows and placed them under his left foot, their points outwards; and thus he had only to stoop down in order to take them one by one in his hand as they were required.  'A first-rate English archer,' says Prince Louis Napoleon, 'who in a single minute was unable to draw and discharge his bow twelve times with a range of 240 yards, and who in these twelve shots once missed his man, was very lightly esteemed.'  It is doubtful whether, at so great a distance, an arrow could have struck its mark with sufficient force to penetrate a knight's surcoat and hauberk of mail; but it would kill his horse, which was not yet provided with defensive armour ...."

* Pitt Rivers Museum online > Replica longbow (1893.65.1)
​The longbow's distinctive qualities - its size, great range (up to 300 metres) and power - are often attributed as the cause of English victories during the Hundred Years War at Crecy (1346) and Agincourt (1415). However, recent historical interpretations appear to suggest that the bow's effectiveness was just as dependent on the organisation, skills and strength of the men using it. Like all self bows, the draw weight of the longbow increases exponentially as one draws the string back, until reaching its full draw, at a maximum of 75-80 lbs. This is way beyond the abilities of most inexperienced archers to achieve and hold, and Elizabethan observers often bemoaned the lack of practice and skill of England's Tudor bowmen in comparison to their forebears 200 years earlier. However, there is evidence that the Mary Rose archers had trained since childhood since many of the soldier skeletons found had thicker bones in the right arm and a deformed right shoulder joint.
    "The origin of the English longbow has been much debated - some argue that it was actually a Welsh weapon, first recorded in military use in Gwent in South Wales in the 12th century. Adding weight to this is the fact that the Bayeux Tapestry, chronicling evens leading upto the Norman Invasion of England in 1066, shows neither Anglo-Saxons nor Normans carrying bows more than four feet long. Set against this theory is archaeological fact. Neolithic grave goods excavated at Meare Heath in Somerset included a longbow of yew, fully two metres in length and very similar in form to the medieval longbow, albeit somewhat wider and flatter across the belly. This bow was radiocarbon-dated to 2600 BC. It seems, therefore, that the longbow was a British weapon long before either England or Wales existed."

* Dowen/Hurst 2020 p62 caption
"Widely associated with England's victories over France during the Hundred Years War, the longbow ... had developed into a potent symbol of the nation's military greatness."