Was King Charles a Double Armed Man?

The short answer: yes.

The long answer: A known sporting archer, in 1637 Charles was coached in archery by the two Williams Nead. William the elder was also a member of the Artillery Company and inventor of the device that enabled the pike to have a bow attached. I imagine it amounted to not much more than a quick few postures of pike drill and a few arrows loosed in that jolly, enthusiastic, approving manner Royalty seems to have.

An archer in Finsbury Fields, though/claimed/alleged to be Charles I. From Gervase Markham’s The Art of Archerie (1634).
Note the long bracer that extends above the elbow.

The event of Charles exercising as a double armed man has been recorded in the petition on William Nead to commence training the Trained Bands with bow and pike.

1637 May 19 148. Petition of William Nead, archer, and William Nead, his son, to the Council. Petitioner William Nead the elder, being an ancient archer and practitioner in the exercise of arms, and finding recorded renowned victories obtained by the use of the bow, and observing that the pikemen stand but as a mark for the enemy’s shot, petitioner therefore by long practice with an invention has produced a way to fasten the bow to the pike, whereby every pike-man is enabled to offend the enemy far off or near at hand, which warlike service by petitioner was presented to the King, who gave direction that it should be exercised in the Artillery Garden of London. Petitioner also presented the same to a committee of Parliament in the first year of his Majesty’s reign, by whom it was debated and approved. It was also presented to the council of war, and performed before his Majesty by 300 of the Artillery Company in St. James’s Park, and since his Majesty, in person, has exercised the same, and declared his approbation thereof in a proclamation wherein he has commanded the general exercise thereof. For the advancement thereof divers lord lieutenants have directed letters to their deputy lieutenants, who have well approved petitioner’s faithful service therein. Petitioners pray the countenance and  favour of the Council for advancement of this service, and that such rewards may be conferred on those employed therein as shall encourage them to perform the same. [1 p.]

148. I. The Lords pray the Lord Lieutenants, members of the Council Board, if they approve of petitioner s proposition,
to return certificate to the Board, that further course may be taken. The Inner Star Chamber, 19th May 1637.
[¼ p.]

State Papers, Dom. vol. ccclvi


That’s my emphasis on the key phrase. The petition succeeded but was obviously ignored in the field because the Neads were back, petitioning the Council again on May 31 about “Some delinquents [who] have obstinately refused to conform themselves”.

When I was first researching the Double Armed Man, I assumed that the association with the Artillery Garden and the Trained Bands meant that any examples of the deployment during the wars would be on the side of Parliament. The direct association between the Neads and Charles in reality means it would be more likely to find troops thus armed on the Royalist side. This is what we find.

Charles may have had a soft spot for the old Double Armed Man, company was formed in Herefordshire in 1642 [1] and it finally found service with the Royalist army guarding an artillery train, as discovered by the Earl of Bedford (fighting in 1642 on the side of Parliament)  on the approaches to Hertford: “…at the entry of the town stood the whole Trained band as a full body placed in a warlike equipage… he was by them conducted to the second watch, being a company of Pikes with Bowes and Arrowes…”.[2]


[1] Medieval archery: the place name evidence,Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service, University College Worcester, Henwick Grove. Worcester, published Wed Mar 17 2004, accessed 7 October 2014.
[2] A Perfect Diurnal of the Proceedings in Hartfordshire from the 15th of August to the 29. Printed for W M, September 1, 1642  (cited in Credland)


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