1509 - 2009 Fraternity of Saint George 500th Anniversary March
How it all began
In 1509 King Henry VIII started to make annual payments to a small company of Archers called the Fraternity of St. George. These payments were made every 23rd April to encourage their practise of the Longbow. In 1537 King Henry VIII formalized these arrangements, granting a Charter in the name of the Fraternity and Guild of Saint George later known as the Honourable Artillery Company of London. The word artillery comes from the French “Arc tirer”, to pull or draw the bow. The longbow was indeed Europe's medieval artillery. The King's Bowman in France were called “Artilleurs du Roy.”
From the early 1500’s the Archers of the Fraternity practised the longbow in the Finsbury fields, Moorfields and Spitalfields just North of London Wall. South of the Thames they shot in the fields of Southwark. They regularly organised tournaments in which many thousands of archers presented themselves.
Shooting in the Longbow was greatly encouraged by the Sovereigns of England for obvious politico/strategic reasons.
King Edward III enjoined upon the Sheriffs of London the general proclamation to learn and practise the art of shooting with bows and arrows. King Edward IV passed a statute limiting the price of Longbows. King Richard II passed an Act commanding all servants to exercise themselves at all times of leisure and on all holidays. Henry VII did the same. Henry VIII passed an act for the maintenance of archers and concerning the import of adequate numbers of bow staves into the realm.
By far the most important aspect of the Longbow men's training from a military standpoint was the ability to keep a good length over any range. Consequently shooting at a fixed target was considered of less importance than roving, i.e. going across country shooting at marks of unknown and varying distances. Through this exercise Longbow men acquired a good judgement of terrain and became redoubtable all-round archers, good at keeping the length. The distances, the type of shooting and the scoring method are still the basis of shooting today when shoots of the Fraternity of Saint George are carried on in the grounds of great houses and country pastures.
There were a great many marks set out permanently in the fields North of London Wall. The last of the marks called “Scarlet” was removed in 1881 to the Honourable Artillery Company in whom the ownership of the marks was vested.