The Huntress Queen Elizabeth
My first memory of Queen Elizabeth was as a small child when she came out to the downs (where I taught the children of aristocrats) to practice archery. Her skills as an archer was a state secret since she was not supposed to be a practiced archer. That way every English person was thought to be a born expert archer without any training so nobody dared to invade England.
Her self discipline and devotion was such that she came out to the downs for 130 early mornings in a row one spring and summer before sunlight to practice. She shot in between torches that were placed on each side of the targets. (We did not know she was very near sighted.)
She was there every single day without missing a single one for her archery practice and that really impressed us horse people more than anything. No aristocrat or Royal had ever kept even 20 appointments in a row with us at the downs.
Because it was such a secret* and though we did not understand the word 'secret', the three of us little girls were told to always stay away from that part of the isolated downs while she was practicing her archery. Of course we were there nearly every morning.
She decided early on that she had to either learn how to shoot bow and arrow or else raise and pay a standing army of 50,000 archers to defend England by using the revolutionary English Long Bow. It was later said her archery was worth more than 150,000 archers. All these numbers are just drivel as was the Aristocrats of mainland Europe's lack of consideration for their own peasants that made Queen Elizabeth's plan work.
What mattered to the officers/knights were those long bows and as few as 1,000 English archers armed with them. Normally the armies used short bows and they just killed each other.**
Those arrows would bounce off the son's of the aristocrats who would be the knights that would be wearing armor. The English long bows were very powerful and could penetrate any of the armor that they would be wearing.
I think you can easily see the wisdom in Queen Elizabeth's demonstrating the English Long bow for all the Aristocrats of Europe. Next was to establish 'the fact that all English people were natural archers' by becoming an expert and then pretending it was nothing.
However, she was near sighted, it was said from too much study as a child but no matter what the cause she had to keep her nearsightedness a secret as it was thought to be a symptom of a weak will.
A brown deer was a blur but when running it stood out against a still back ground of brown or black forest. I guess glasses had not yet been invented and near sightedness was considered a genetic defect.
So she also used moving targets for her archery practice and got really good at it. She used my uncle dressed in a very heavy coat with armor underneath it for practice. The arrow was a standard one but it had a steel crossbar near the point so it would not go too deep. I still recall picking up one of her arrows by the point and it cut into me deep. Everyone of us got cut picking those up by the wrong end before we learned not to touch that end of her arrows. She stored them at the downs. If I am not mistaken she had a medical blade company make the tips. She was not fooling around. She used my uncle(s) for a target until one of them got cut in the arm.***
So we made a target with wood sides and put it on one of the ponies. Then my uncle lead him across the field as she shot at him.
Her archery practice was a complete state secret. That is why she came out to the downs before dawn to practice. Then she would often sail and join other royalty in hunts overseas. Her practicing was kept a complete secret so that she could impress other Europeans with the fact that all the English are natural archers. She would say 'everybody in England is a much better shot than I am'. Half of Europe dismissed the possibility of invading England after it became established that we were a nation of archers. We also invented the long bow so it was not all bs.
Practically everyone else in the world trained using short bows and on stationary targets without torches.
In the typical hunts nobody even tried to hit a deer after it had been 'spooked' and was running. She would defer to the other archers when the deer was still. If they missed or frightened it, she would then shoot it as it ran away. If she was in a good place when the deer started running she could hit and kill it over half the time.
That kind of shooting messed with everybody's head. Then to totally mess with them she would thank them all and say how grateful she was they were around since the men in England are so much better shots than she is and with their 200 pound pull bows they always get the deer at 250 meters and besides even if they missed she couldn't hit a deer while it was running away at much over 120 meters.
She noticed that when an important man would miss at a stationary shot of a deer and she would nail it as it ran away then the man would never again be the same person inside. She once set in motion a plan to do this very thing to the ruler of part of Hungary who was a nasty man who like to torture little people for fun. It took her three years and four hunts with that sob to get him into that exact position during a hunt and she 'brought down both beasts with one arrow', three if you include his Hapsburg wife.
The statement about the men in England is based on her fathers abilities as an archer.
In France, her father King Henry VIII once showed his skill with a long bow by hitting three out of three marks at 220 meters at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 (pictured above).
If you were English and you wanted to become an Ambassador you had better be a good archer or not even think about applying for the job.
There was a lighter side to the archery practice of the queen.
One I can only recall part of but it was so strange that I need to include it here and not wait for the full memory to come up.
After the queen left one day from her archery practice one of the very small children brought in a huge jewel. It was as big as my thumb. I swear that in today's money it would be worth over 1,000 quid. It had fallen off her dress during her practice and we were horrified. There was no question about returning it since we were loyal subjects of the Queen.
Except how? The queen would not make an issue of it. Maybe she would even give us some recognition of service as well as some fresh meat which always came with it. She practiced archery before she went overseas to join in hunts with other royalty and we did not know if she had left yet. Should we wait until she returned to the downs in order to practice but that might not be for months? If we took it to the castle the guards might not get it to the queen and then we would be held responsible for it. If the guards kept the jewel themselves they might pull out our tongues as a warning not to tell anyone. Even if they were honest like us they might just throw us in prison until they got information from the queen overseas. To look like they did something in the mean time they might torture us to make sure we were telling the truth.
It was a horrible situation to be caught in and there was no easy way out if someone made trouble for us or stole the jewel.
So my aunt took it back outside and had the girl show her where she found it. She put it right where the girl said she had found it and left an uncle to guard it. Then she had all the other men run away so they couldn't be caught. She knew our men would tell everything and her archery instructor taught the queen lots more than archery. She was young then and he was as handsome as a man could be but that is another story and I am not certain if I should tell it or not. The virgin queen?
This next thing that I am going to tell you is something she stated to numerous people slightly differently. There was a Earl or Baron who traveled about a thousand miles from near Austria to marry her but he demanded assurance from her doctors that she was a virgin.
The thing was that she did not want to marry him. So she told him, 'If I wanted to prove anything to you or anyone like you, then I can prove anything I want by my subjects including my doctors, and if I was to provid proof by them of anything it would be of what a complete ass you are'.
It was a triple hit. What she said was very true. Everyone of us faithful subjects including her doctors would lie for her and to protect her from the likes of that man and at the same time it was a warning that he was under surveillance and to avoid her subjects as he was leaving the castle and returning to his ship since we, her loyal subjects knew by that very statement that it was OK to hunt him down.
Wait a second, she wasn't finished with him at all. This next part was just in case he did not understand or he chose to ignore her statement.
Then she said: 'If a woman wants to remain unmarried in England that is her decision, it's not the same as in (mainland) Europe. And if that woman is the queen then she can decree the meaning of the word 'virgin' in her own kingdom. So be gone.'
The guards escorted him from the palace to his ship in total disgrace.
Back to the story. My aunt went to the castle [however it may have been the tower] and got some of the officers in the queens guards to come to retrieve the jewel. She walked back with them but made sure everyone she met knew about the jewel. One of the children stood watch as she came with the guards. Then the child ran and told the last uncle, so he ran away too. I stood guard for a couple minutes. The guards came and one picked it up and wondered if it was a trick and looked around at me and started counting the witnesses to his picking it up and there was about 20 and several left so he would be arrested if he stole it. There was a whole entourage that walked all the way back to the castle.
Earlier my aunt had one of the men get a parson that knew the queen. He met my aunt and the guards when they were headed back. She made the parson see the jewel so the guards would have to include him in the 'tongue pulling' if they stole the gem.
*Of course the three of us little girls always snuck up as close as possible to watch the queen practice just like we were not supposed to.
One time we were hiding in the barn and watching her practice archery out the opening when one of the men with her and she had a very handsome archery instructor at the time (which she did not just practice archery with) who must have seen our three little heads peeking over the hay and so he mentioned it to her. She slowly turned around and studied the barn and of course we ducked our heads and didn't look up for the longest time which was about 20 seconds.
When we finally peeked again she started turning very slowly away and back to her archery. As she drew back her bow we felt relaxed and let ourselves breath again. Suddenly the Queen of England turned and pointed the arrow straight at us like she was going to shoot us! We ran away screaming in three different directions.
For days the small girl who was only four (while I was a grown up six years old) would cry every time she thought about it so we had to keep talking to her all the time or else she would start to cry again. I was sure she would have told everything if the queen had sent guards to take us to the tower for a session of torture.
After two days the little girl stopped crying except when we looked at her because that would remind her and she would cry again. Then I remembered that the men with Queen Elizabeth were laughing as we ran away so it was not going to end up with us being tortured to death in the tower. However the little girl kept crying for another three days whenever we looked at her.
**In the play I wrote called 'A Midsummers Night Dream' it appears that Robin says in Act 3 Scene 2, 'I go, I go, looke how I goe, Swifter then arrow from the Tartars bowe'. It's a pity but it is wrong. It doesn't make sense as a sentence and it is certainly not true. The English long bow shot the fastest arrow by almost twice the speed of a short tarters bow but the tarters were trained to fire in groups. Their arrows were fired unaimed at about 20 a minute vs 6 a minute that were accurately aimed from the English long bow. Thirty amateur tarters could fire 600 arrows a minute and that total is as fast as a modern machine gun.
That kind of shooting was for killing massed infantry at 50-100 meters and not for heavily armored knights at 100 meters or more. The officers of the armies of Europe were from the ruling class and they rarely wanted their men to be the best archers or use the long bow since they might get shot by their own men who often hated them more than they hated the foreign peasants they were shooting at.
The English officers trusted their men because the English class/caste system, at that time, was the best in the world and that included India. It's basis was the establishment of the wives as aristocrats in their own right with lots of equality. That near equality gave a wisdom to the husbands. This was unique in Europe. Lords and Ladies became almost one word and were often spoken together.
So England made their archers veritable 'snipers' with high powered long bows. Some of these archers were actually able to fire accurately out to 250 meters or more.
Someone changed the sentence in that play after I wrote it and it should be changed from I go, I go, looke how I goe, Swifter then arrow from the Tartars bowe'. to read. 'I go, I go, looke how I goe, Swifter than arrows from Tartars bowes.'
*** Queen Elizabeth made ten times an issue out my uncles injury than he or anyone else did. It wasn't deep but infections could easily take over and kill a person since antibiotics had not been invented. We were not worried about that cause us horse people knew how to keep infections away before anybody else did. Mainly urine was used. Mares urine was very antiseptic and would kill just about every infection. Do you think that is disgusting? Wait until you see this. You have probably used Murine Eye Drops haven't you? Murine is an acronym for mares urine and that is just what it contained.
In the 1800's it came in the pictured little 3 inch bottle that were single dose vials. It used to be called 'Murine Eye Remedy' because it would cure conjunctivitis and other eye diseases. Murine is an acronym for mares urine. Have you been putting that stuff in your eyes? Now that's something we can both agree is totally disgusting. It may not have any mare's urine in it these days but I don't know, do you? You can pull it out of your medicine cabinet and throw it away but still you have put horse pee in your eyes.
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