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The Royal Company of Archers is a ceremonial unit that serves as the Sovereign's Bodyguard in Scotlandmarker, a role it has performed since 1822 and the reign of King George IV, when the company provided a personal bodyguard to the King on his visit to Scotland. It is currently known as the Queen's Bodyguard For Scotland, and is located at Edinburgh.


The company was formed in 1676 as a private archery club, which it still is today.

In Scotland, a muster, or military rendezvous, called a weapan-shawing was held twice or more often in the year. In the respective counties, people were summoned to it upon a premonition of twenty days, by the sheriff and other civil, magistrates. They, in conjunction with commissioners appointed by the King, superintended this body of militia, divided it into companies, and appointed their captains. Those in all stations were obliged to bear their part in this rendezvous, and to appear equipped in military array, conforming to their rank. The Lords and Barons were required to give up, to the civil magistrates and King's commissioners, a list of the followers who attended them in this muster, and of the weapons with which they were accoutered. The commissioners were ordered to make up a roll of the whole, to be laid before the King.

Upon the old laws of wapinschaw (weapon-shawing), a plan seems to have been formed by the Scottish Jacobite Party, for instituting, under a pretext of sports and recreation, a military corps, which, as occasion offered, might assemble under authority of law. A society for encouraging and exercising archery had already been formed; had, upon their application, acquired, the patronage of the Scottish Privy Council, and got from them a prize, to be shot for by the company. They consisted of noblemen and gentlemen of distinction. The Marquis of Athole was their Captain-General in 1670; and they held frequent meetings during the reign of the royal brothers. For some time after the Revolution, no traces of this company are to be discovered. But, upon the accession of Queen Anne, and death of the Marquis of Athole, they appointed the celebrated Sir George Mackenzie, then Lord Tarbat, and Secretary of State, and afterwards Earl of Cromarty, their Captain-General. Having made choice of a leader of such approved fidelity, and powerful interest, the opportunity was laid hold of, to obtain from Queen Anne a charter under the Great Seal of Scotland, erecting them into a corporation by Letters Patent, dated the 31 December 1713 into a Royal Company; reviving and ratifying, in their behalf, the old laws and acts of Parliament in favour of archery; giving them power to admit members, to make choice of a President and Council, to appoint their commanding officers, and to meet and go forth under their officers conduct in military form in manner of weapon-shawing as often as they should think convenient, and prohibiting the civil magistrate from giving them any interruption. These rights and privilege's they were appointed to possess after the mode of feudal tenure, and to hold them in blanch fee (reddendo) of Her Majesty, and her successors, paying therefore an annual acknowledgement a pair of barbed arrows. These rights and privileged it received its charter from Queen Anne in 1704. In return for being endowed with "perpetual access to all public butts, plains and pasturages legally allotted for shooting arrows", the Royal Company is required to present to the Sovereign three barbed arrows on request.

The first such weapon-shawing was held on the 14 June 1714 with Marquis of Athole was their Captain-General though now in his 80s, and Earl of Wemyss as Lieutenant-General at the head of about 50 archers. On that occasion they shot a silver arrow at Leithmarker presented to them by the City of Edinburghmarker. Next year the company doubled in number and was led by David Wemyss, 4th Earl of Wemyss after the passing of the Marquis of Athole.

After the first Jacobite rising in 1715 no parade was held for nine years, but were resumed under James Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton on 4 August 1724 at Musselburghmarker. However, after 1734 public parades were discontinued until after the Napoleonic Wars.

Duties and traditions

The tradition of shooting the silver The Musselburgh Arrow pre-dates the creation of the company to that, known as the small arrow presented by the City of Musselburghmarker in 1603, and follows in the traditions of other burghs of Scotland. A new, large, arrow was presented in 1713. The victor of the shooting retains the arrow for a year, and on handing it over to the next victor appends a medal to the arrow with an engraved personal motto, all of which are held by the Company. 103 such medals were held by the Company by 1816.

Since 1677 there has also been a competition for The Royal (Queen's) Prize for which £20 is awarded on the condition that the winner contributes to the Company silver plate to the value of money received from the Crown.

Another prize is the Prize of the Goose competed for since 1703. The method adopted for shooting for the prize of the Goose is by inserting a small glass globe of about an inch in diameter in the centre of the butt-mark, which is a circular piece of cardboard, four inches in diameter. The competitor whose arrow first breaks this globe is declared " Captain of the Goose " for the year. The prize consists of a medal, one of two which were presented to the Company in 1793 by Major Spens. They were made from fifty " pagodas," being part of the money actually paid by Tippu Sultan to the allies at the Sreerangapattanam Treaty of 1792.

The Edinburgh Arrow was presented by the City of Edinburgh in 1709, and the medals appended to it are in gold. The winner was at one time entitled to a prize of five pounds Sterling from the City, but this fell into abeyance after 1716. The 'Edinburgh Arrow' is an annual competition, known as the Sovereign's Prize since 28 July 1822 when it was competed for at the nearby Bruntsfield Linksmarker. It is the rule of the prize "1. That the said Silver Arrow be shot for at the rovers in Leith Links, upon the second Monday of June yearly, at ten of the clock in the forenoon if the day be favourable; and if not, that the shooting be adjourned to the next fair Monday." 16 June 2009 marked the 300th anniversary of the first competition for The Edinburgh Arrow.

By 1820s the arrows were also presented by the cities of Peeblesmarker, Selkirkmarker and Stirlingmarker, while a prize by the Earl of Hopetoun commemorating the 1822 visit by the King is also competed for.

The three arrows are now depicted on one of the standards. Until the institution of the third prize only a pair of arrows were presented to the Sovereign on demand, this now increased to three.

The third prize is The Silver Punch bowl and Ladle presented to the company in 1720, and likewise had medals appended to it by its winner.The Bowl made to the value of £20, and the bill for its construction and the engraving on it came to £22, 13s. 9d. sterling. It had inscribed on one side the common seal of the Company, and on the opposite side the reverse of the seal; and between those, on one side a Saint Andrew, and on the other the following inscription: "Edinburgh, 20th June 1720. — The Councill of the Royall Company of Archers, viz., Mr David Drummond, Praeses, Thomas Kincaid, John Nairn, James Ross, Robert Lowis, John Lowis, John Carnegy, George Drummond, Tresr., William Murray and James Lowis, clerks, ordered this piece of plate to be furnished out of the stock of the Company, and to be shot for as ane annual pryze. at rovers by the said Company, as the Councill for the time shall appoint"

All the prizes are shot for over a distance of 180 yards with two targets or 'clouts' as the aiming mark, one located at each end of the range.
The Royal Company of Archers outside Edinburgh Castle

The main duties of the company are now ceremonial, and since 1822 appointment as the Sovereign's 'Body Guard in Scotland' for George IV's visit to Edinburgh, include attending the Sovereign at various functions during the annual Royal Visit to Scotland, including the Order of the Thistle investitures at The High Kirk of Edinburghmarker (St Giles Cathedral), the Royal Garden Party and the Ceremony of the Keys at the Palace of Holyroodhousemarker and the presentation of new colours to Scottish regiments. At the Holyrood-house they provide corridor guard of honour.

The Company arrives at the Holyrood-house by march at noon, preceded by their pipes and drums band, and holding the unstrung bows in their right hands. Initially they occupy the colonnades of the façade.

The Company has a march, the Archer's March composed by Allan Ramsay, which was played on special occasions.

Sound, sound the music, sound it,

Let hills and dales rebound it,

Let hills and dales rebound it

In praise of Archery.

Used as a Game it pleases,

The mind to joy it raises,

And throws off all diseases

Of lazy luxury.

Now, now our care beguiling,

When all the year looks smiling,

When all the year looks smiling

With healthful harmony.

The sun in glory glowing,

With morning dew bestowing

Sweet fragrance, life, and growing

To flowers and every tree.

Tis now the archers royal,

An hearty band and loyal,

An hearty band and loyal,

That in just thought agree,

Appear in ancient bravery,

Despising all base knavery,

Which tends to bring in slavery,

Souls worthy to live free.

Sound, sound the music, sound it,

Fill up the glass and round wi't,

Fill up the glass and round wi't,

Health and Prosperity

To our great chief and officers,

To our president and counsellors,

To all who like their brave forbears

Delight in Archery.


The Royal Company of Archers has its base in Edinburgh at Archers' Hallmarker commenced on 15 August 1776, and completed by Alexander Laing in 1777, now in Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh. The Hall was extended in 1900 by A.F. Balfour Paul, and recently refurbished. The Hall consists of a hall, forty feet by twenty-four, and eighteen feet high; two rooms of eighteen by nineteen, besides kitchen, cellars, lobby, and other apartments. The ground behind the house is laid out into a bowling-green, known as The Meadows, maintained by the Edinburgh Bowling Club. The Hall serves as a venue for various dinners and meetings of the company.

The affairs of this company are managed by a President and six counsellors, who are chosen annually by the whole membership. The Council is vested with the power of receiving or rejecting candidates for admission, and of appointing the company's officers, civil and military.

The structure of the organisation is divided between officers (including a Secretary, currently David Younger) and members. By seniority the officers comprise one Captain-General, four Captains, four Lieutenants, four Ensigns and twelve Brigadiers.

From the starting membership of 50 the number of the corps exceeded five hundred by 1930s, and the Captain-General, who is always a peer, it the Gold Stick for Scotland. In effect the size of the membership is more that of a cadre light infantry battalion in low (reduced) establishment of thee companies than a company, and would equate more to the British Army regiment.

Every officer of the Archers is of the rank of a general, and the privates of the corps rank at Court as colonels.
Dr Nathaniel Spens in the uniform of 1793, the year he won the Royal Prize.
He was a President of the Council for many years, winner of the prize of the The Edinburgh Arrow, the Sword of Dalhousie, and had a Spens Prize instituted in his honour in 1834.
In 2009 the holders of offices and ranks as part of The Queen's Household in Scotland are:
  • Captain-General and Gold Stick for Scotland, Maj. Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, Bt., KCVO
  • President of the Council and Silver Stick for Scotland, The Earl of Airlie, KT, GCVO, PC
  • Adjutant, Brig. The Hon. S. H. R. H Monro, CBE, ADC
  • Secretary, Capt. J. D. B. Younger
  • Treasurer, J.M. Haldane of Gleneagles
  • Surgeon, Major W.M. Warrack
  • Chaplain, The Very Rev W.J. Morris, KCVO, DD
  • Captains, The Earl of Airlie, KT, GCVO, PC; The Earl of Elgin - Kincardine, KT, Col. G.R. Simpson, DSO, LVO, TD; Major Sir David Butter, KCVO, MC.
  • Lieutenants, The Earl of Minto, OBE; Major-Gen Sir John Swinton, KCVO, OBE; Gen Sir Michael Gow, GCB; Major the Hon Sir Lachlan Maclean of Duart - Morvern, Bt, CVO.
  • Ensigns, Viscount Younger of Leckie, KT, KCVO, TD, PC; Captain G.W. Burnet, LVO; The Duke of Montrose; Lt-Gen Sir Norman Arthur, KCB.
  • Brigadiers, The Hon Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, TD; The Lord Nickson, KBE; Major the Lord Glenarthur; The Earl of Dalkeith, KBE; Major R.Y. Henderson, TD; Col. H.F.O. Bewsher, LVO, OBE; The Earl of Dalhousie; Brigadier C.D.M. Ritchie, CBE; Brigadier the Hon S.H.R.H. Monro, CBE, ADC; Major Sir Michael Strang Steel, Bt, CBE; Captain the Hon G.E.I. Maitland Carew; General Sir Jeremy Mackenzie, GCB, OBE; Rear Adm A.M. Gregory, OBE.

Members of the Royal Company must be Scots or have strong Scottish connections. Membership is by election; the present membership totals around 530, with the active list of 400 who pay an annual £25 for membership.

Company standards

One of the current standards of the Royal Company of Archers
The Company has two standards. The first of these bears on one side Mars and Cupid encircled in a wreath of thistles, with this motto: In peace and war. On the other, a yew tree, with two men dressed and equipped as archers, encircled as the former motto: Dal gloria vires (Glory Gives Strength). The other standard displays on one side, a lion rampant gules, on a field, or encircled with a wreath; on the top, a thistle and crown, motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (no one provokes me with impunity). On the other, St Andrew on the cross on field argent; at the top, a crown, motto: Dulce pro patria periculum (danger is sweet for one's country).

The three arrows on the standard were added after introduction of a third place winner in the competition since 1720.


A reproduction of what the original uniform may have looked like in 1704.
The Royal Company of Archers have the distinction of being the first military body of troops in the service of the British Crown who adopted tartan as a part of their uniform.

The original uniform of the corps appears to have been a "shooting" dress, consisting of a tartan, lined with white, trimmed with green and white ribbons; a white sash, with green tossels; and a blue bonnet, with a St. Andrew's cross, a tartan coat, with knee-breeches and white vest; and a "common uniform," the coat of which was "a green lapelled frock." Tartan was fashionable at the time as an expression of anti-Union and pro-Jacobite sentiment and many of the Company were known Jacobites.

From 1713 to 1746 a red tartan sett was used for uniform, but it has not been satisfactorily settled as to what sett of tartan this was, though it was intended to be patterned on that worn by Prince Charles Edward Stuart. After 36 following the Battle of Cullodenmarker the Act of Proscription passed by Parliament which “proscribed or banned the making or wearing of Tartan cloths" was repealed, and from 1783 tartans were worn again. However, in 1789 the red tartan sett was discarded for the Black Watch one. In 1734 the headgear worn by the corps was a flat bonnet, ornamented with green and white feathers.Until 1823 (and possibly later) the Royal Company of Archers still wore tartan.

Late in the 19th century when the Queen Victoria opened the Glasgow Exhibition, Her Majesty's Scottish Bodyguard wore their dark green tunics (formerly of the "Black Watch" tartan), with black braid facings and a narrow stripe of crimson velvet in the centre; shoulder wings and gauntleted cuffs similarly trimmed; dark green trousers with black and crimson stripe; a bow case worn as a sash, adorned with two arrows forming a St. Andrew's cross surmounted by a crown; a black leather waist-belt with richly chased gold clasp; a short, gilt-headed Roman sword, like an English bandsman's; Highland bonnet with thistle and one or more eagle feathers.

Their uniform until the Second World War, however has been a Court dress of green with gold embroidery, and cocked hat with a plume of dark cock's feathers.The officers' dress has gold embroidery, and their rank is indicated by two or, in the case of the captain, three, feathers being worn in the bonnet.The corps shooting dress is a dark-green tunic with crimson facings, shoulder-wings and gauntleted cuffs and dark-green trousers trimmed with black and crimson, a bow-case worn as a sash, of the same colour as the coat, black waistbelt with sword, Highland cap with thistle ornament and one or more eagle feathers, and a hunting knife.The weapon worn with this uniform is the sword.


An able officer and veteran of the Napoleonic wars, John Hope, 4th Earl of Hopetoun reinvigorated the Royal Company of Archers and helped to steer it towards the role it occupies now since the 1822 visit by King George IV to Edinburgh.

Notable members

Over the years the Company members have included soldiers, scientists, lawyers and politicians.


The Company forms a part of The Queen's Household in Scotland.

Archers' Hall is a Category B listed building, i.e. "buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered" in compliance with Scotland's Town and Country Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

External links


  1. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.272
  2. Charles-Simon Favart, The Waverley anecdotes: Illustrative of the incidents, characters, and scenery, described in the novels and romances of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Volume 1, London, 1833, p.364
  3. In 1511, Henry VIII confirmed previous laws against illegal games in favour of archery
  4. Frank Adam, Thomas Innes, The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, 1934, p.330
  5. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.273
  6. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.275
  7. The Gentleman's magazine, Volume 102, Part 1, p.421
  8. Charles Lowe, The Graphic, The Royal Company of Archers, 9 August 1902, p.184
  9. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.329 [1]
  10. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.313 [2]
  11. Robert Huish, The public and private life of His late...Majesty, George the Third, London, 1821, p.495
  12. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.315 [3]
  13. Sir Walter Scott delivered the arrow into the hands of the Royal Company of Archers in 1818
  14. John Britton, Modern Athens, displayed in a series of views, or, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth century, London, 1829, p.17
  15. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, pp.274
  16. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, pp.273-274
  17. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.322 [4]
  18. Edinburgh Guide, Edinburgh Events, 16 June 2009
  19. Andrew Kippis, William Godwin, The New annual register, or General repository of history, politics, arts, sciences and literature for year 1822, London, 1823, p.161
  20. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.274
  21. Frank Adam, Thomas Innes, The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, 1934, p.331
  22. See for example reorganisation of Light Infantry in 1992
  23. Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, The Army in 1906: A Policy and a Vindication, p.57
  24. The Royal Household in Scotland
  25. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.273-274
  26. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.274
  27. Charles Lowe, The Royal Company of Archers, The Graphic, 9 August 1902, p.184

  • J. Balfour Paul, Lyon King of Arms, Scottish Archery (Chapter XIII), in Duke of Beaufort, ed., The Badminton Library of sports an pastimes, C.J. Longman and Col. H. Walrond, 1894.

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