Friday, February 06, 2015

An Archery Peerage

The London Archers continued to hold their yearly contests in. the month of September, in spite of the fact that henceforth there would be no use for the longbow in warfare. They formed a very fine corps, had they been of any use; meantime, the City has always loved a show, and a very fine show the Archers provided. Their captain was called the Duke of Shoreditch; the captains of the different Companies were called the Marquesses of Clerkenwell, Islington, Hoxton, and the Earl of Pancras, etc.; in the year 1583 they assembled at Merchant Taylors Hall to the number of 3000 all sumptuously apparelled, “nine hundred and forty-two having chains of gold about their necks.” They were escorted by whifflers and bowmen to the number of 4000, besides pages and footmen; and so marching through Broad Street, where the Duke of Shoreditch lived, they proceeded by Moorfields and Finsbury to Smithfield, where, after performing their evolutions, they shot at the target for glory.

Besant, Walter. 1904. London in the time of the Tudors. London: A. & C. Black p. 355

Here is a fuller account of the 1583 event from a contemporary. Besant has erred in describing the escorts as bowmen rather than bill-men.

I read this as the Elizabethan equivalent of a 21st century Superbowl halftime show. Behold the gaudy expensive excess, which we can well afford. The fact that we can afford it is part of the point. Are you not entertained?

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