Medieval archers ushered in a new era of missile warfare that ended the dominance of cavalry; sometimes, not even kings and commanders were spared.
by William Welsh
For nearly half a millennium, the crossbow and longbow served as the predominant missile weapons for field armies in Western Europe. As such, they would be responsible for not only the death of thousands of common men, but also for the death and wounding of some of the most familiar battlefield commanders of medieval warfare history:
On October 14, 1066, Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwineson was wounded in the eye during the final phase of the Battle of Hastings by an arrow shot high into the air by a Norman archer. Shortly thereafter, he was finished off by Norman cavalry.
During the first week of April 1196, English King Richard the Lionheart was scouting the walls of Châlus-Chabrol Castle in the Limousin region of France when he was struck in the shoulder by a bolt fired by a defender atop the castle walls. The wound subsequently became infected, and the king died before the end of the week.
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On March 29, 1461, the Earl of Clifford, who was directing Lancastrian forces in a skirmish that preceded the Battle of Towton in Yorkshire, England, removed his gorget to make himself more comfortable and was immediately struck by an arrow fired by a Yorkist longbowman.
At the Battle of Crécy on August 26, 1346, French King Philip VI was struck in the face by an arrow. Also in that year, Scottish King David II was struck by two arrow at the Battle of Neville’s Cross on October 17.
At the First Battle of St. Albans on May 22, 1455, English King Henry VI was hit in the neck by an arrow, but the wound would later not prove fatal.