The Archery Jig

Merida the Archer, in Disney's film Brave (2012)

Archery Day

May 8

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Today's Musings, History & Folklore

The Archery Jig

A person who participates in archery is typically called an archer or a bowman, and a person who is fond of or an expert at archery is sometimes called a toxophilite.

Archery and bow-hunting goes back to approximately 10000 B.C. in the later Paleolithic or early Mesolithic periods and used consistently in both hunting, sport, and warfare until 

the development of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare.


In England and Wales, for example, the government tried to enforce practice with the longbow until the end of the 16th century.

A late 18th century revival in recreational archery, however, resulted in the creation of hundreds of elite societies, with both men and women competing in the sport.   Interestingly, one of these societies, became the Royal Company of Archers, with a distinctive tartan uniform.  And while popular at first, later became looked upon with suspicion as having pro-Jacobite sympathies (see below).

After the Napoleonic Wars, the sport became increasingly popular among all classes, and it was framed as a nostalgic reimagining of the preindustrial rural Britain. Particularly influential was Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel, Ivanhoe that depicted the heroic character Lockseley (a Robin Hood character) winning an archery tournament.


From the National Army Museum website:

The Royal Company of Archers were raised in 1676 as a private archery club. The following year the Scottish Privy Council in Edinburgh granted the fledgling organisation the right to style itself the Royal Company of Archers.

In 1704 the company petitioned Queen Anne for a royal charter, which enabled them to assemble under the old dispensation of wapinschaw (or ‘weapon-showing’) without interference from the civil magistrates.

In effect, this charter gave the hundred men of the Royal Company of Archers the status of a paramilitary force. This was not a problem while Anne, the last representative of the Stuart royal family, remained on the British throne, as the Royal Company was loyal to the Scottish House of Stuart.

But in 1714 when the Hanoverian dynasty succeeded to the crown and the claims of the exiled Roman Catholic branch of the Stuart family were disregarded, the loyalty of the Royal Company of Archers to the Government could not be taken for granted.

It did not help that about this time the Royal Company adopted tartan attire, which was popularly interpreted as showing pro-Stuart, or Jacobite, sympathies!



For more on the interesting history of the Royal Company of Archers, click the painting showing the uniform c. 1790, from James Balfour Paul’s ‘History of the Royal Company of Archers’ (1875).

The Archery Jig
The Archery Jig

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