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Medieval England Mary Rose Longbow

The Mary Rose was a ship of war unlike any other that had been built before her. Not only was she fitted out with a battery of cannons, there were hundreds of other weapons on board for the crew and the soldiers that she carried to use against their enemies. As a newly built ship she was equipped with the latest in weapon technology which included cannons and guns, however she was packed with hundreds of more traditional weapons too, including 250 longbows along with around 8,000 arrows.

Mary Rose Longbows

When the wreck of the Mary Rose was discovered in the Solent many of her weapons were still intact, including 137 of the original 250 longbows. Until the salvage of these weapons from the Mary Rose, little was actually known about the design and power of these traditional weapons. The discoveries made as a result of raising the wreck of the Mary Rose has greatly improved our knowledge of the power, draw and range of the medieval longbow.

Medieval England Mary Rose Longbow

Facts about Mary Rose Longbows and Arrows

It was discovered that all of the longbows found on board the Mary Rose were hewn from a single bough of Yew. The yew was covered in an outer layer of sapwood which preserved the qualities and condition of the bow. It was discovered that there was no standard size for a longbow at that time, although many of the longbows on board measured 6ft 6 inches in length, they was found to be a range of weapons measuring from 6ft 1 inch to 6ft 11inches.

It has been suggested by medieval weaponry historians that the draw of the longbow would be between 65-70lbs. Arrows fired from such a weapon would have the ability to pierce armour at a distance of around 250 yards. A skilled arched would be able to fire between 10-12 arrows per minute from such a weapon, making it incredibly effective and lethal.

Medieval England Mary Rose Longbow

The longbows were strung with hemp which had been coated in glue to protect it from damage from moisture. The arrows fired from these weapons were 3ft long and called bodkins. Arrows with a long point were used against chain mail, while the shorted bodkins were for armour piercing.

Mary Rose Archers

The archers that served aboard the Mary Rose were highly trained and incredibly well skilled in the use of their bows. In 1363 the English Archery Law was passed which stated that men were obliged to practice their archery skills every Sunday. Training in the use of the longbow included learning a set of commands that would be issued during a battle, each command corresponding with an action carried out by the archer.

The men who served as archers on the ship would have needed to have considerable strength in order to draw the bow to its full range. This fact has been evidenced in the skeletal remains of 200 men found aboard the wreck, which all showed signs of strong muscle development in the shoulders.

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