Though the extended weapon of longbow precedes the medieval Englishman by over 3,500 years (with the first known specimen dating from 2665 BC), it was the renowned longbowman of the middle ages who made a mark in the tactical side of affairs when it came to famous military encounters. And while Sluys (1340), Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415) proved the prowess of the English longbowman, there was certainly more to the scope of being a dedicated archer in a military world dominated by heavily armored knights and men-at-arms. So without further ado, let us check out ten interesting facts that you should know about the English longbowman.
1) Not all English archers were ‘English’
The common misconception about the English longbowman actually pertains to his categorization as being solely ‘English’. Now while the tactical aptitude of the longbowman flourished after the 14th century, the origins of archery-based warfare in Britain had a far older tradition. To that end, during the late 11th century Anglo-Norman invasions of Wales, the Welshmen gave a good account of themselves in archery against their well-armored foes. Interestingly enough, the Normans were probably inspired by such a tactical acumen of the natives. And given their penchant for adaptability, the bow was raised to being a prestigious weapon after the Norman conquest of England. Practicality (obviously) played its role alongside ceremonious affairs – with the bow achieving its ‘prestige’ solely due to its sheer effectiveness in the hand of specialized archers who defended northern England from the encroaches of the lightly-armored Scots.
As the result, the English armies continued to employ Welshmen as dedicated archers. But even more antithetically, the English also employed Frenchmen in their ranks. Now from the historical perspective, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. That is because by 13th-14th century, the English Plantegenet monarchs continued to hold vast tracts of land and settlements in continental France. So many French people from these parts (like the Gascons and French-Normans) often viewed the English as their overlords, and thus served in their armies (including archery divisions) without compunction.