The Royal Company was constituted in 1676 for “the purpose of encouraging the Noble and Useful Recreation of Archery” and received its Royal Charter (as The Royal Company of Archers) from Queen Anne in 1704. Archery was the sole activity of the Royal Company until 1822 when the first Royal Body Guard duty was undertaken. Many of the major Prizes date from the century and a half before the Body Guard for Scotland appointment was made: these include The King’s Prize 1788, The Musselburgh Arrow 1603, The Edinburgh Arrow 1709, The Silver Bowl 1720. Archery still forms a major element of the Royal Company’s raison d’être and continues throughout the year, except when undertaking Body Guard duties, and all members are encouraged to participate in these Royal Company archery activities.
The Royal Company today practises archery very much as the founding members practised it in 1676. The main distance, 180 yards, the equipment, wooden bows and arrows and the style of shooting remain just as they have been over the centuries.
A highlight of the archery year is the Queen’s Prize for which the winner receives a silver trophy, in a style of his own choosing, presented to him by the Sovereign during Royal Week. The winner is also presented with a gold medal which is to be worn on all uniformed occasions, including Royal Duties while he remains the holder.
Of particular note is the triennial twelve-a-side match (at 180 yards) against the Woodmen of Arden, established as an Archery Society in 1785, which takes place alternately in Edinburgh and at Meriden in Warwickshire. First contact was brought about by the Toxophilite Society of London in 1786 who had just conferred the freedom of their society upon all members of the Royal Company. This prompted an exchange of freedoms between the Royal Company and the Woodmen of Arden. The triennial fixture, for the Challenge Cup, was first shot at Meriden on 31 July 1878, and was won by the Royal Company. The competition has been hard fought ever since and now, after 44 matches, the Royal company has won 23 and the Woodmen 21, remarkably close after nearly 150 years.
In Scotland. From the beginning of April to the end of July most shooting takes place in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, by gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen, usually on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. From the beginning of October to the end of March shooting takes place in the Butts at Archers’ Hall, normally on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
In the South. From the end of March until the beginning of September the usual shooting ground is Perk’s Field, the Royal Household recreation ground behind Kensington Palace in Hyde Park, with shooting taking place on most Monday evenings. Some weekend shoots are held at venues outside London.
List of Prizes
The following Prizes are shot for over the years:
- Prizes shot for annually outdoors during the season April to end July (180 yards, unless otherwise stated)
|1603||Musselburgh Arrow||Musselburgh Links|
|1709||Edinburgh Arrow||The Meadows, Edinburgh|
|1783||Pagoda Medal, 60 yards|
|1788||King’s (or Queen’s) Prize||Holyroodhouse|
|1800||Bugle Horn, 100 yards|
|1801||St Andrew’s Cross, 200 yards|
|1823||Hopetoun Royal Commemoration Prize||Hopetoun House|
|1834||Spens Anniversary Medal|
|2004||Gordon Simpson Medal|
- Prizes shot for in 6 year rotation
|1878||Triennial Match||Holyroodhouse or the Forest Ground, Meriden|
|1660||Selkirk Arrow||The Haining, Selkirk|
|1850||Montrose Arrow||The Links, Montrose|
|1628||Peebles Arrow||Hay Lodge Park, Peebles|
|1852||Biggar Jug||Biggar Park, Biggar|
- Prizes shot for annually indoors in the Butts at 100 feet during the season October to March
In the South
- Prizes shot for outdoors during the season May to August (180 yards)
|2002||Claret Jug||Perk’s Field, Hyde Park|
|2012||Sir Peter Redwood Medal||Perk’s Field, Hyde Park|
|2016||Queen Elizabeth II Cup||Nobbscrook, Windsor|