Battle of Agincourt Joke

English Bowmen at AgincourtI just picked up a historical novel on the Battle of Agincourt, a famous medieval battle where English archers, all commoners and plow boys, defeated the aristocratic French knights in  shining armor, ending the great era of knighthood and military chivalry.  It was the subject of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

During the battle, the French were so incensed by the English disregard of the gentlemanly rules of warfare, they vowed to cut off a particular body part of any English archer they captured.  What was that body part?

Thinking . . .


Thinking . . .


Answer: Not what you thought.  It was their middle finger, crucial in pulling back the bow string.

The story continues:  The English longbow was made from yew wood, a wood that is particularly tough and supple.  Archery, in those early days, was called “plucking the yew.”

When the French threatened to cut off the archers’ middle fingers, the archers taunted them back, wagging their raised middle finger and shouting, “Pluck yew, pluck yew!”

The aristocratic French ridiculed the archer’s peasant status by shouting back, “Muddy pluckers, muddy pluckers!”  All of that shouting got really nasty.

Because the arrows were fletched with feathers, the taunt of the English archers was called “giving the bird,” and has been a symbol of defiance ever since.

You didn’t know that?


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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