Crossbowmen were much encouraged by Richard I. (1189-1199) in his army,
and were employed by this king in his crusade in Palestine, and in his
wars with France. Richard I. probably in great measure re-introduced the
crossbow and caused it to become a common arm in warfare, as for a number
of years previous to his reign it had suffered in popularity owing to the
papal decrees against its use. Brompton1 wrote of Richard I.
: ' Truly this kind of shooting, already laid aside, which is called crossbow
shooting, was revived by him, when he became so skilful in its management
that he killed many people with his own hand.'
Both ' Le Breton'2- and 'Guiart'3 attribute the
re-introduction of the crossbow, as a popular weapon in warfare, to Richard
Commenting on the death of Richard, Le Breton writes : ' Thus perished
by the crossbow, which the English account dishonourable, King Richard,
who first introduced the crossbow into France.'
After the death of Richard I., King John and Henry III. employed considerable
numbers of mercenary crossbowmen in their armies, both mounted and on foot.
At the second battle of Lincoln, 1217, in the civil war of 1215-1217, the
relieving force sent to Lincoln consisted of 400 knights, a number of foot-sergeants,
and 317 crossbowmen.
At the battle of Taillebourg, 1242, when Henry III. was defeated by
Louis IX., the former had in his army 700 crossbowmen. Shortly after the
death of Henry III., in 1272, the longbow came to the front in England,
and for this reason the crossbow gradually became less popular with English
soldiers and commanders, and continued to decline in favour as the powers
of the longbow were realised.
When Henry V. led his army of some 30,000 men from England, in August
1415, he had rather less than 100 crossbowmen among his forces. At the
battle of Agincourt, October 25, 1415, he had only about 8,000 troops at
his disposal, owing to disease, and also to having left a garrison at Harfleur.
Among these 8,000 men, there were but 38 crossbowmen, as recorded in Rymer's
muster-roll of the army of Henry V.4
Crossbows, it may be said, were in very common use in warfare on
1 John Brompton, monk of Jervaulx, abbot in
1437. His chronicle records events from 588 to 1198.
2 Guillaume le Breton, Bishop of Tours, French
chronicler, born about 1170, died 1230, wrote chronicles of the history
of France in the thirteenth century, and, in 1224, the prose poem La Philippide.
3 Guillaume Guiart, French chronicler and soldier,
wrote a history of France in verse, recording events from 1165 to 1306.
He was born about 1290.
4 T. Rymer - historian, born 1641, died 1713.
He was the son of Ralph Rymer, Lord of the Manor of Brafferton, Yorkshire.