Crossbow > Chapter
47 > Popinjay
> Ancient Crossbowmen
These companies of skilled and often knightly crossbowmen, especially
the Company of St. George, were granted many rights and privileges and
even landed estates.1
Delaunay writes: 2
' Documents of the fifteenth century, prove that companies of crossbowmen
were established at that period in almost all the chief towns of the provostships
of Lorraine and the Barrois.
' At Liege the crossbowmen were divided into two companies, consisting
of the Young and the Old Crossbowmen. The latter company was distinct from
the former, its patrons being the Virgin and St. Lambert. The Young Crossbowmen
had St. Hubert for their patron. The company of the Old Crossbowmen was
suppressed in 1467, and its charters annulled by the Duke of Burgundy who
had just subdued the country.
' This company was re-organised in 1482, but was disbanded by the Prince
Bishop Ferdinand of Bavaria who confiscated its property and estates.
Fig. 162. - Medal of the Grand Association of Crossbowmen
of Brussels. 1560.
It was restored to its ancient functions and privileges in 1676, but
was finally dissolved in 1684 by the Prince Bishop Maximilian of Bavaria.'
Ever since the beginning of the sixteenth century when the crossbow
was supplanted by the handgun in warfare, the former weapon has been popular
in parts of the Continent for shooting at a mark.
The mark at which the crossbow was chiefly used was the popinjay. In
Belgium small figures of birds are still set up on high poles for crossbowmen
to aim at. Footnote, pp. 221, 222.
The English word 'popinjay' is a corruption of ' papegai,' the old French
name for a parrot.
1 The members of the companies of crossbowmen
were held superior in rank to ordinary troops, as they were employed to
guard the person of the Sovereign in peace and war, and at all State pageants.
2 L.A. Delaunay. Etude sur les Anciennes Compagnies
d'Archers, d'ArbaUtriers et d'Arquebusiers. Paris, 1879. This fine and
exhaustive work contains the history of all the well-known companies of
cross-bowmen and archers that formerly existed in France and Belgium. It
is beautifully and profusely illustrated.
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