with the right hand, and holding it with the left hand. The user rests
both his feet against the bow, whilst he strains at the cord with the full
force of his arms. It has a semicircular groove which reaches down the
middle of the stock. The missiles, which are of various kinds, are placed
in the groove, and propelled along it by the released cord. When the cord
is released, the arrow leaves the groove with a force against which nothing
is proof. It not only penetrates a buckler, but also pierces the man and
his armour through and through.'
In course of time, the metal stirrup was fitted to the fore-end of the
stock of the crossbow, as a more convenient and powerful method of bending
the bow than the original one of resting the feet against the bow itself,
as in fig. 24. The stirrup was the same shape as, and was no doubt suggested
by the stirrup of a saddle. The crossbowman placed one foot (in the case
of the larger weapons both feet) in the stirrup of his crossbow, and in
this way held its stock tight to the ground, in order to resist the pull
of his hands on the bowstring, fig. 25, previous page.
In military records of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, I find
many allusions to bolts for crossbows of ' one foot' and bolts for those
of ' two feet.'1 From this it would appear that the bolts, or
the weapons for which the bolts were required, were respectively one foot
and two feet long. The explanation is, that the words ' one foot' and '
two feet' refer to the power of the crossbows, the lengths of which were,
of course, much more than one or two feet.
The larger crossbow of the period, known as ' Arbalista ad duos Pedes,'
could only be strung by the soldier inserting both his feet in its stirrup,
the stirrup being made wide enough for him to do this, so that he might
utilise his entire weight to resist the strain exerted by his arms when
bending his bow.
The smaller crossbow, known as ' Arbalista ad unum Pedem,' was lighter
and of less power. For this reason, sufficient resistance was obtained
by the man who used it placing one foot in its stirrup when he stretched
its bow-string, the stirrup being duly shaped to this end.
Bolts for crossbows of ' two feet' referred, therefore, to the heavier
missiles that were shot from the larger weapon, and bolts for crossbows
of ' one foot' referred to the lighter shafts intended for the less powerful
When a crossbowman bent his bow with his hands alone, as in the case
of the weaker weapons, he wore a leathern guard on each hand to
1 October 20, 1301. The king wishing to strengthen
the town of Linlithgow, commands the Treasurer and Barons to send there
six crossbows a tour with 2,000 quarrels, also twelve crossbows of two
feet and 3,000 quarrels, and 5,000 quarrels for crossbows of one foot.
- From Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, No. 1250, Edward I.
In 1328, Edward III. orders the Sheriffs of London to supply for the defence
of the Channel Islands ' a hundred arcubalisti ad Pedem, and twenty arcubalisti
ad Troll' (Rymer's Fcedera, iv. 367).