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Medieval Warfare: The Longbow

The Medieval Longbow

The Medieval Longbow

The longbow dominated medieval warfare and came on the scene around 1280, when Edward I invaded Wales, yet the longbow has been around since pre-neolithic times.

The longbow measured six feet in length, and made from the yew tree.  In times of yew shortages, ash, elm or wych elm were also used.

The arrow was a straight shaft, measuring three feet in length, with a sharp point at one end.  Arrows were made out of ash, oak or birch.

Long Bodkin arrows were used for piercing mail armour.
Short Bodkin arrows were used for piercing armour plate.
Swallowtail arrows were used to bring down horses.

Description of the Longbow:

  • The Welsh were the first people in Britain to have and use the longbow.
  • Every medieval longbow was made to measure.
  • The length of the longbow therefore ranged from six to seven 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 longbow was protected with a rub of “wax, resin and fine tallow.”
  • A skilled longbowman could release 10-12 arrows per minute.
  • The longbow could pierce the armour of a knight at ranges of more than 250 yards.
  • The string of the 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 armour.

The medieval knight had no protection against the arrows of the longbow.  They were responsible for many victories over the French, during the Hundred Years War.

The 13th century “English Archery Law,” stated that English men would become experts in the use of the bow and arrow.

In 1252, the “Assize of Arms” passed a law, that every man aged between 15 and 60, had to equip themselves with a bow and arrows.

King Edward III created the “archery Law” of 1363 which commanded the practice of archery on Sundays and holidays.

King Henry I proclaimed that an archer would be absolved of murder, if he killed a man during archery practice.

(Image) Medieval Longbow: realmofhistory


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