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The Battle of Crecy had first demonstrated the immense superiority of archers over mounted knights in battle. It became necessary to insist that Englishmen should be fully and properly trained in the use of the bow and arrow, if this superiority was to be maintained. The youths of London appear to have been addicted at this time to more exciting and less serviceable sports than the old exercise of archery, and Edward III.’s letter is at once a reprimand and an instruction.
The King to the Sheriffs of London, greeting.
Because the people of our realm, as well of good quality as mean, have commonly in their sports before these times exercised the skill of shooting arrows; whence it is well known, that honour and profit have accrued to our whole realm, and to us, by the help of God, no small assistance in 52 our warlike acts; and now the said skill being, as it were, wholly laid aside, the same people please themselves in hurling of stones and wood and iron; and some in hand-ball, foot-ball, bandy-ball, and in Cambuck, or Cock fighting; and some also apply themselves to other dishonest games, and less profitable or useful: whereby the said realm is likely, in a short time, to become destitute of archers.
We, willing to apply a seasonable remedy to this, command you, that in places in the foresaid City, as well within the liberties as without, where you shall see it expedient, you cause public proclamation to be made, that every one of the said City, strong in body, at leisure times on holidays, use in their recreations bows and arrows, or pellets, or bolts, and learn and exercise the art of shooting; forbidding all and singular on our behalf, that they do not after any manner apply themselves ot the throwing of stones, wood, iron, hand-ball, foot-ball, bandy-ball, cambuck, or cock-fighting, nor such other vain plays, which have no profit in them, or concern themselves therein, under pain of imprisonment.
Witness the King at Westminster, the twelfth day of June (1365).