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Female Poacher Saves King Henry VIII

Updated on November 7, 2013

The King Hunts

One of Henry V!!!'s major recreations was hunting. It got him into the fresh air, away from the crowds who followed the King almost everywhere, was always interesting, and it allowed the King to exercise horsemanship. Many of the London Parks were originally the King's private hunting grounds. Other land owners enjoyed hunting, and discouraged poachers by hanging them.

Sometimes Henry and his current lady hunted together, with only a few attendants. They could picnic and enjoy the outdoors.

A Curious Incident

In Alison Weir's "Henry VIII King and Court" there is an interesting passage about an incident in July 1528.

"Whilst hunting in nearby Sutton Chase, the King tracked down a rare boar, but it turned viciously on him and his life was saved only by the timely intervention of a local girl who, being fortuitously nearby with her bow and arrow, shot the beast dead."

A "chase" was a private park for hunting. So what was a local girl doing in the park? And why was she there with a bow and arrow capable of killing a savage boar?

She was obviously a good shot, and strong enough to draw a longbow. It was the longbow that won Crecy and Agincourt for the English. It took years of practice to become an excellent shot with a longbow. In many parts of England it was compulsory for all males to practice with the longbow every Sunday. And many localities had to provide hundreds or thousands of arrows each year, which were stored in the Royal armories including the Tower of London.



Alison Weir - Excellent Books

Commoner Saves King

Described as "a local girl", she was obviously not anyone important. One would expect a young man who saved the life of a King to be enriched and possibly knighted. For a young woman the feat is even more extraordinary.

For a young woman to carry a longbow is surprising. For a young woman to be good with the longbow is very surprising. But what was a young woman and her longbow doing in a private hunting ground?

From the lack of fuss or reward, one suspects she was a poacher, and not a lass out for a lonely stroll. Lets face it, going for a walk with a longbow could lead to accusation of poaching. She was lucky not to be hanged.

Historical Significance

At the time, Ann Boleyn was playing hard to get. Henry's application for nullity from Queen Katherine was under consideration by the Pope, but until the Pope approved it the couple were still married. Mary was the only legitimate heir. Elizabeth and Edward were not thought of. The only other possible heir was Henry's illegitimate son the Duke of Richmond.

The Reformation had not yet happened in England, so our schism with the Catholic Church need not have happened. Mary or her illegitimate half brother would have become monarch. Assuming it to be Mary, then Queen Katherine would have been Regent. The history of Europe would have been different.

And name of the young woman who changed the face of history is not known.


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    • Charles James profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles James 

      7 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      In England so far as I am aware the longbow was standard. It may be that there was a shorter longbow for boys to train on, which a girl could have used. I have not heard of a female archer this early.

      The short answer is that I do not know.

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Damned comment program timed me out!

      I was saying that...from Odysseus of Ithaca to Native American Indians, shorter bows were used quite effectively.

      It would seem unlikely that a furtive poacher would use a weapon as cumbersome and noticeable as a longbow while hunting in forest or field.

      If you come upon any arcane info on such matters I'd love to hear it.

      Meanwhile, thanks for another fine piece of writing.

      CP

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      What an interesting historical tidbit! Thanks for sharing.

      I wonder, with longbows spanning 5 feet or more in length, if shorter bows would have been used for archery activities other than tournaments and warfare. Throughout history more compact bows have served archers well, from Ode

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 

      7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Well that is new on me and like you say, something that could have changed the course of history!

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