Friday, August 7, 2020

Royal Toxophilites

When I was researching for the post on Regent’s Park a couple of weeks ago, I ran across a mention that had me drooling to do discover more (lovely, lovely research!). The tantalizing tidbit?

Prinny was a member of the Toxophilite Society.

I had known the Prince Regent practiced the manly arts when he was a young man and lent his patronage to a few, but I hadn’t realized he was such an archery enthusiast. It wasn’t news to the incomparable Emily Hendrickson, one of the beloved authors of early Regency romance and an avid historian. She references the matter in her Lord Nick’s Folly.

Now, Marissa told you about toxophilia or the love of archery a while ago. The Toxophilite Society was formed by Sir Ashton Lever in 1781. When the man who would become George IV added his patronage in 1787, it became the Royal Toxophilite Society. The prince also lent his patronage to the Royal British Bowmen and the Royal Kentish Bowmen. He not only shot in competition from time to time, but he also awarded the prizes at various competitions. In one case, he had a portrait painted of himself by John Russel with an English longbow in the colors of the Royal Kentish Bowmen and gave away the portrait as a prize. It is now hung in Buckingham Palace. The picture is apparently copyrighted, but you can see aversion here

Other local archery societies sprang up around the country with general meetings beginning in 1789, but each set up its own rules. Prinny is credited with standardizing the lengths of the various shooting competitions: 100 yards, 80 yards, and 60 yards. At least one Victorian-era source claims only a handful of archers ever hit the innermost ring of the target (called the bullseye later in the century) at 100 yards.

Prinny is also said to have laid out the rules for the rings and colors painted on targets. The middle circle was painted with real gold and was worth 9 points if your arrow hit it, followed by red (7 points), white (5), black (3), and then white again (1).

Today, membership in the Royal Toxophilite Society is by invitation only. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend this piece by a lady historian and archer. 

And you don’t need an invitation or Prinny’s patronage to read it. 😊


Evelyn said...

I think I have always felt an aversion to Toxophilia one way or another and that depiction of George IV sealed the deal. Must not have had a hairdresser. ugh.

Regina Scott said...

Or a hairdresser with "original" taste, Evelyn. :-)