An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath

[Based on the Bayeux Tapestry]
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128 & 129.      NORMAN ARCHERS

128 shows the famous Norman haircut, shaved high at the back and sides and giving a beret effect. It was this hair style which prompted the rumour that William had brought an army of priests to England! Most were cleanshaven but some wore moustache or beard.

His trousered garment may represent a tunic split for riding, except that in the Tapestry, where it is almost exclusive to the Normans, many of the figures dressed thus are clearly infantry. Others wear normal tunics, sometimes with the skirt pulled up at the sides and tucked through the belt. Most would be bareheaded, though 128a shows a brightly coloured cloth or leather cap that could be worn. In the Tapestry both Normans and Saxons wear tunics and leggings in all 8 original colours in which it was embroidered, these being red, ochre, yellow, 2 shades of blue, turquoise, and 2 greens.

Quivers are shown hanging either from the waist-belt, or from a strap across the right shoulder or round the neck. Secondary armament consisted of a sword.

129 is the only armoured archer shown in the Tapestry, perhaps an officer or mercenary, or even a dismounted knight. He carries several arrows ready in his left hand, probably as an aid to rapid firing. Similar heavy-armed archers appear in a few other sources. Wace records Norman archers wearing leather and quilted armour, which seems generally more likely.

Recent tests indicate that during this period an arrow could penetrate mail at 50 yards range. It should be noted in passing that the tactic of shooting arrows into the air to fall on the Saxons' heads ascribed to the Normans at Hastings is in fact only recorded in 3 non-contemporary sources, written over the middle 50 years of the 12th century.

Next: 130. FRENCH CROSSBOWMAN in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath