A brief clip here from the BBC4 programme The Mary Rose – A Timewatch Guide, the segment featuring the longbows and arrows pulled off the ship, and the testing of one of them to destruction. The actor Robert Hardy, later to play Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films, was part of this project as one of the country’s foremost longbow experts.
If you don’t know, the Mary Rose was a Tudor warship in the navy of King Henry VIII which sank off the coast of Britain in 1545. The well-preserved remains were raised off the seabed in 1982 in the greatest maritime archaeology project in history, and have been yielding up secrets ever since. As for the bows, here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
“A total of 250 longbows were carried on board, and 172 of these have so far been found, as well as almost 4000 arrows, bracers (arm guards) and other archery-related equipment... Longbow archery in Tudor England was mandatory for all able adult men, and despite the introduction of field artillery and handguns, they were used alongside new missile weapons in great quantities…There were several types of bows of various size and range. Lighter bows would have been used as “sniper” bows, while the heavier design could possibly have been used to shoot fire arrows.”
The warbows found on board were extremely heavy – up to 185lb in draw weight. Famously, the scientists managed to identify several likely archers among the hundred plus skeletons found on the wreck, based on their shoulder blades. Anyway, enjoy.
Am currently watching the BBC’s big-budget adaptation of Tudor epic Wolf Hall, resplendent in its complex plotting, full-service costuming, and dense candlelit dialogue.
This week’s episode featured some hot longbow action involving the leads, and incredibly… they got it right. Have a look:
Cromwell draws to his ear (pretty much) and doesn’t hold, and from the tension at full draw from both actors it even appears they are using real longbows, instead of the stick-with-a-bit-of-elastic of your average Robin Hood knockabout. Although: should they be wearing shooting gloves, in the 1500s? Perhaps someone can confirm.
Thanks to Rik, Butt Face, Bimble, Raven’s Eye, and Matthames over at A.I.
Great piece from The Londonist about archery practice in London in the good old days. If I want to shoot after work I have to head at least three miles north of the river. 450 years ago I could have strolled down the road with my longbow and got busy – in Tudor Englynde people shot at ‘standing pricks’ in the middle of the City. [Insert your own joke here]. I think they were just tall posts or marks to shoot at; people still do things like that today:
As for the ‘standing pricks’ bit, well I know that post-Chaucerian English was far, far bawdier and ruder at all levels of society than it is now (post Puritans / Victorians). Such a ‘hilarious’ comparison wouldn’t have seemed nearly as rude back then – witness the Shakespearean double-entrendres of a generation or so later.
London was of course a walled city in those days. You have to look long and hard for traces of the wall now, although the gate names on that map above such as ‘Moor Gate’ and ‘Byshoppesgate’ are still very much in use. The Londonist get a mild smack on the wrist for the oft-repeated assertion that the famous mandatory archery practice laws are still in force in the UK, when they were actually repealed a looong time ago.
‘Fynnesbury Fields’ only remains as Finsbury Square, near to Liverpool Street station.