Military Wiki
The Royal Company of Archers,
The Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland
RoyalCompanyArchers badge.PNG
Badge of the Royal Company of Archers
Active 1676-
Country Scotland
Type Private Archery club
Role Royal Bodyguard
Size 530
Part of Sovereign's Bodyguard
Garrison/HQ Edinburgh
Motto(s) Dal gloria vires
Nemo me impune lacessit
Dulce pro patria periculum
Colors two standards
March Archer's March
Colonel in Chief HM The Queen
Captain-General The Earl of Airlie KT, GCVO, PC
Hackle Eagle Feathers
Number dependent on rank

The Royal Company of Archers is a ceremonial unit that serves as the Sovereign's Bodyguard in Scotland, a role it has performed since 1822 and the reign of King George IV, when the company provided a personal bodyguard to the King on his visit to Scotland. It is currently known as the Queen's Bodyguard For Scotland, and is located at Edinburgh. The Royal Company of Archers has a long history in Scotland as a body that celebrated both the recreation and talent of local archers. As a royally-established body, the company has a long history of unique prizes, powerful supporters, and ceremonial powers.

Early history

During the 17th and 18th centuries in Scotland, a muster or military rendezvous, called a "wapinschaw" (a weapon-showing) was held at least twice a year. Men were summoned by the sheriff and other civil magistrates to attend a muster in their respective counties at least 20 days in advance of the meeting. The civil magistrates, in conjunction with commissioners appointed by the King, supervised this body of militia, divided it into companies, and appointed captains. People of all stations were obligated to play their part in each rendezvous and to show up equipped in military gear that conformed to their respective ranks. The Lords and Barons were required to provide a list of the members of their company and the weapons they brought with them to the civil magistrates and King's commissioners. The commissioners then compiled a list of the whole muster, which was presented to the King.[1]

Following the old laws of wapinschaw, the Jacobites formed a plan to institutionalise a military corps under a pretext of sports and recreation that could be assembled by an authority as occasion offered. A society for encouraging and exercising archery had already been formed in 1676 as a private archery club. This society sought and acquired the patronage of the Scottish Privy Council, which provided a prize that was shot for by the company. The company consisted of noblemen and gentlemen of distinction. The Marquis of Athole was the company's Captain-General in 1670; and they held frequent meetings during the reign of the royal brothers. No traces of this company exist for some time after the Glorious Revolution. Upon the accession of Queen Anne, and death of the Marquis of Athole, they appointed Sir George Mackenzie, then Lord Tarbat and Secretary of State, and afterwards Earl of Cromarty, their Captain-General.

Having chosen a new leader, the society obtained from Queen Anne a charter under the Great Seal of Scotland, establishing them as a corporation by Letters Patent, dated the 31 December 1713 into a Royal Company.[2] These letters of patent: revived and ratified, on their behalf, the old laws and acts of Parliament that favored archery;[3] gave them power to admit members, chose a President and council, appoint commanding officers, and to meet and act under their officers' supervision in military form for weapon-shawing as often as they should think convenient; and prohibited the civil magistrate from interrupting their activities. These rights and privileges were designed after the mode of feudal tenure, and to hold them in blanch fee (reddendo) of Her Majesty and her successors, therefore annually acknowledging a pair of barbed arrows. The society received these rights and privileges in its charter from Queen Anne in 1704.[4] In return for being endowed with "perpetual access to all public butts, plains and pasturages legally allotted for shooting arrows", the Royal Company is required to present to the Sovereign three barbed arrows on request.[1]

The first such weapon-shawing was held on 14 June 1714 with the Marquis of Athole as their Captain-General, even though he was in his 80s by this time, and the Earl of Wemyss as Lieutenant-General at the head of about 50 archers.[5] On that occasion, the society shot a silver arrow, presented to them by the City of Edinburgh, at Leith. The following year, the company doubled in number and was led by David Wemyss, 4th Earl of Wemyss after the Marquis of Athole died.[6]

After the first Jacobite rising in 1715 no parade was held for nine years,[5] but they resumed under James Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton on 4 August 1724 at Musselburgh.[7] However, after 1734 public parades were discontinued until after the Napoleonic Wars.

Duties and traditions

The Company's traditions relate to its reason for formation, the archery competition. To further this, it offers thirteen prizes that were at some time in the past competed for annually. Many are retained to the present day.

The Musselburgh Arrow

The tradition of shooting the silver Musselburgh Arrow pre-dates the creation of the company to that, known as the small arrow presented by the town of Musselburgh in 1603, and follows in the traditions of other burghs of Scotland. A new, large, arrow was presented in 1713.[8] The victor of the shooting retains the arrow for a year, and on handing it over to the next victor appends a medal to the arrow with an engraved personal motto, all of which are held by the Company. 103 such medals were held by the Company by 1816.

Three Arrows

By 1820s three more arrows were also presented by the cities of Peebles (1626), Selkirk (1675)[9] and Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Arrow was presented by the City of Edinburgh in 1709, and the medals appended to it are in gold. The winner was at one time entitled to a prize of five pounds Sterling from the City, but this fell into abeyance after 1716. The 'Edinburgh Arrow' is an annual competition, known as the Sovereign's Prize since 28 July 1822 when it was competed for at the nearby Bruntsfield Links.[10] It is the rule of the prize "1. That the said Silver Arrow be shot for at the rovers in Leith Links, upon the second Monday of June yearly, at ten of the clock in the forenoon if the day be favourable; and if not, that the shooting be adjourned to the next fair Monday."[11] 16 June 2009 marked the 300th anniversary of the first competition for The Edinburgh Arrow.

The three arrows are now depicted on one of the standards. Until the institution of the third prize only a pair of arrows were presented to the Sovereign on demand,[12] this now increased to three.

The Silver Punch bowl and Ladle

The fifth prize is The Silver Punch bowl and Ladle presented to the company in 1720, and likewise had medals appended to it by its winner.[13] The Bowl made to the value of £20, and the bill for its construction and the engraving on it came to £22, 13s. 9d. sterling. It had inscribed on one side the common seal of the Company, and on the opposite side the reverse of the seal; and between those, on one side a Saint Andrew, and on the other the following inscription: "Edinburgh, 20th June 1720. — The Councill of the Royall Company of Archers, viz., Mr David Drummond, Praeses, Thomas Kincaid, John Nairn, James Ross, Robert Lowis, John Lowis, John Carnegy, George Drummond, Tresr., William Murray and James Lowis, clerks, ordered this piece of plate to be furnished out of the stock of the Company, and to be shot for as ane annual pryze. at rovers by the said Company, as the Councill for the time shall appoint"[14]

The Pagodas Medal

This prize consists of a medal, one of two which were presented to the Company in 1793 by Major James Spens, The 73rd Regiment (Royal Highland East Indies).[15] They were made from fifty "pagodas," being part of the money actually paid by Tippu Sultan to the allies at the Treaty of Seringapatam in 1792.

Silver Vase and Gold Medal

A prize by the General John Earl of Hopetoun commemorating the 1822 visit by King George IV is also competed for annually on the king's or queen's birthday, and known as the Commemoration Prize.[16]

The Royal (Queen's) Prize of 20 Guineas

Since 1677 there has also been a competition for The Royal (Queen's) Prize for which £20 is awarded on the condition that the winner contributes to the Company silver plate to the value of money received from the Crown.[17] The condition is that the plate must bear the insignia of Archery.

The Silver Bugles

The ninth and tenth prizes are a pair of Silver Bugles, one presented to the Royal Company by one of the General Officers, Sir Henry Jardine, Knight, and which was shot for on the 9th of April, 1830, for the first time. The second was presented later by the Sovereign's Bodyguard.

St. Andrew's Prize

St. Andrew's Cross, given in the 1840s by Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, of Coul, to the Royal Company, and called the "St.Andrew's Prize."

The above prizes were competed at the 180, 185 and 200 yards distance with two targets or 'clouts' as the aiming mark, one located at each end of the range.[18] Two further prizes are competed for 'at butts' or point blank distance.[19]

Prize of the Goose

The Prize of the Goose was competed for since 1703 and involved a live goose, requiring the winner to kill the goose when only its head protruded from the mark.[20] The winner was to be known as the Captain of the Goose for a season. At some time in the history of the Company the above method was adopted for shooting for the prize of the Goose by inserting a small glass globe of about an inch in diameter in the centre of the butt-mark, which is a circular piece of cardboard, four inches in diameter. The competitor whose arrow first breaks this globe is declared " Captain of the Goose " for the year, and was awarded the other gold medal presented by Major Spens.

The Gold Medal

This is the more often competed for prize, the competition being held three times a year for three days each time, the scoring accounted in points like the usual archery competition.

Competition Rules

Members of the Company on parade at the landing of King George IV at Leith in 1822. Detail from a painting by Alexander Carse.[21]

The Rules and Regulations of the Royal Company of Archers have never been printed, and, in fact, were never completed. The society may, therefore, be considered as "lawless" when within the precincts of their shooting ground.

The main duties of the company are now ceremonial, and since 1822 appointment as the Sovereign's 'Body Guard in Scotland' for George IV's visit to Edinburgh,[22] include attending the Sovereign at various functions during the annual Royal Visit to Scotland when he or she approach within five miles of Edinburgh, including the Order of the Thistle investitures at The High Kirk of Edinburgh (St Giles Cathedral), the Royal Garden Party and the Ceremony of the Keys at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the presentation of new colours to Scottish regiments. At the Holyrood-house they provide corridor guard of honour.

The Company arrives at the Holyrood-house by march at noon, preceded by their pipes and drums band, and holding the unstrung bows in their right hands. Initially they occupy the colonnades of the façade.

The Royal Company of Archers outside Edinburgh Castle

The Company has a march, the Archer's March composed by Allan Ramsay, which was played on special occasions.

Sound, sound the music, sound it,
Let hills and dales rebound it,
Let hills and dales rebound it
In praise of Archery.
Used as a Game it pleases,
The mind to joy it raises,
And throws off all diseases
Of lazy luxury.

Now, now our care beguiling,
When all the year looks smiling,
When all the year looks smiling
With healthful harmony.
The sun in glory glowing,
With morning dew bestowing
Sweet fragrance, life, and growing
To flowers and every tree.''

Tis now the archers royal,
An hearty band and loyal,
An hearty band and loyal,
That in just thought agree,
Appear in ancient bravery,
Despising all base knavery,
Which tends to bring in slavery,
Souls worthy to live free.

Sound, sound the music, sound it,
Fill up the glass and round wi't,
Fill up the glass and round wi't,
Health and Prosperity
To our great chief and officers,
To our president and counsellors,
To all who like their brave forbears
Delight in Archery.


The Royal Company of Archers has its base in Edinburgh at Archers' Hall commenced on 15 August 1776, and completed by Alexander Laing in 1777, now in Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh. The Hall was extended in 1900 by A.F. Balfour Paul, and recently refurbished. The Hall consists of a hall, forty feet by twenty-four, and eighteen feet high; two rooms of eighteen by nineteen, besides kitchen, cellars, lobby, and other apartments. The ground behind the house is laid out into a bowling-green, known as The Meadows or Hope Park, a spot deriving its name from Sir Thomas Hope,[23] who drained and converted it into an archery ground, maintained by the Edinburgh Bowling Club. The Hall serves as a venue for various dinners and meetings of the company.[6]

The affairs of this company are managed by a President and six counsellors, who are chosen annually by the whole membership. The Council is vested with the power of receiving or rejecting candidates for admission, and of appointing the company's officers, civil and military.[24]

The structure of the organisation is divided between officers (including a Secretary, currently David Younger) and members. By seniority, the officers comprise one Captain-General, four Captains, four Lieutenants, four Ensigns and twelve Brigadiers.

From the starting membership of 50 the number of the corps numbered about 1,000 in late 18th century, but only exceeded five hundred by 1930s. The Captain-General is the Gold Stick for Scotland.[25] In effect the size of the membership is more than that of a cadre light infantry battalion in low (reduced) establishment of thee companies[26] than a company,[27] and would equate more to the British Army regiment.

Every officer of the Archers is of the rank of a general, and the privates of the corps rank at Court as colonels.[25]

George Douglas, 16th Earl of Morton in the dress of the Royal Company of Archers at the turn of the 18th and 19th century, holding a longbow and a black-plumed white cockaded cap, in Holyrood Park, with Duddingston Loch and Edinburgh Castle beyond. (William Beechey)

Members of the Royal Company must be Scots or have strong Scottish connections. Membership is by election; the present membership totals around 530, with an active list of some 400 who pay an annual subscription of £25.

Company standards

One of the current standards of the Royal Company of Archers

The Company has two standards. The first of these bears on one side Mars and Cupid encircled in a wreath of thistles, with this motto: In peace and war. On the other, a yew tree, with two men dressed and equipped as archers, encircled as the former motto: Dal gloria vires (Glory Gives Strength). The other standard displays on one side, on a field or, a lion rampant gules, encircled with a double tressure flory-counter flory of the second; on the top, a thistle and crown, motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (no one provokes me with impunity). On the other, St Andrew on the cross on field argent; at the top, a crown, motto: Dulce pro patria periculum (danger is sweet for one's country).[28]

The three arrows on the standard were added after introduction of a third place winner in the competition since 1720.


A reproduction of what the original uniform may have looked like in 1704.

The Royal Company of Archers have the distinction of being the first military body of troops in the service of the British Crown who adopted tartan as a part of their uniform.[6]

The original uniform of the corps appears to have been a "shooting" dress, consisting of a tartan, lined with white, trimmed with green and white ribbons; a white sash, with green tossels; and a blue bonnet, with a St. Andrew's cross, a tartan coat, with knee-breeches and white vest; and a "common uniform," the coat of which was "a green lapelled frock."[25] Tartan was fashionable at the time as an expression of anti-Union and pro-Jacobite sentiment and many of the Company were known Jacobites.

From 1713 to 1746 a red tartan sett was used for uniform, but it has not been satisfactorily settled as to what sett of tartan this was, though it was intended to be patterned on that worn by Prince Charles Edward Stuart. After 36 following the Battle of Culloden the Act of Proscription passed by Parliament which “proscribed or banned the making or wearing of Tartan cloths" was repealed, and from 1783 tartans were worn again. However, in 1789 the red tartan sett was discarded for the Black Watch one. In 1734 the headgear worn by the corps was a flat bonnet, ornamented with green and white feathers.[29] Until 1823 (and possibly later) the Royal Company of Archers still wore tartan.

Late in the 19th century when the Queen Victoria opened the Glasgow Exhibition, Her Majesty's Scottish Bodyguard wore their dark green tunics (formerly of the "Black Watch" tartan), with black braid facings and a narrow stripe of crimson velvet in the centre; shoulder wings and gauntleted cuffs similarly trimmed; dark green trousers with black and crimson stripe; a bow case worn as a sash, adorned with two arrows forming a St. Andrew's cross surmounted by a crown; a black leather waist-belt with richly chased gold clasp; a short, gilt-headed Roman sword, like an English bandsman's; Highland bonnet with thistle and one or more eagle feathers.[30]

Their uniform until the Second World War, however has been a Court dress of green with gold embroidery, and cocked hat with a plume of dark cock's feathers. The officers' dress has gold embroidery, and their rank is indicated by two or, in the case of the captain, three, feathers being worn in the bonnet.[29] The corps shooting dress is a dark-green tunic with crimson facings, shoulder-wings and gauntleted cuffs and dark-green trousers trimmed with black and crimson, a bow-case worn as a sash, of the same colour as the coat, black waistbelt with sword, Highland cap with thistle ornament and one or more eagle feathers, and a hunting knife.[25] The weapon worn with this uniform is the sword.


An able officer and veteran of the Napoleonic wars, John Hope, 4th Earl of Hopetoun reinvigorated the Royal Company of Archers and helped to steer it towards the role it occupies now since the 1822 visit by King George IV to Edinburgh.

  • John Murray, 1st Marquess of Atholl c.1676–1703
  • George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie 1703–1714
  • David Wemyss, 4th Earl of Wemyss 1715–1720
  • vacant
  • James Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton 1724–1743
  • James Wemyss, 5th Earl of Wemyss 1743–1756
  • Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry 1756–1778
  • Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch 1778–1812
  • Charles Montagu-Scott, 4th Duke of Buccleuch 1812–1819
  • John Hope, 4th Earl of Hopetoun 1819–1823
  • James Graham, 3rd Duke of Montrose 1824–1830
  • George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie 1830–1838
  • Walter Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch 1838–1884
  • William Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 6th Duke of Buccleuch 1884–1914
  • John Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 7th Duke of Buccleuch 1914–1935
  • Sidney Buller-Fullerton-Elphinstone, 16th Lord Elphinstone 1935–1953
  • John Dalrymple, 12th Earl of Stair 1953–1961
  • Walter Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 8th Duke of Buccleuch 1961–1973
  • John Dalrymple, 13th Earl of Stair 1973–1988
  • Ronald Colville, 2nd Baron Clydesmuir 1988–1996
  • Sir Hew Fleetwood Hamilton-Dalrymple, 10th Baronet 1996–2004
  • David Ogilvy, 13th Earl of Airlie 2004–present

Notable members

Over the years the Company members have included soldiers, scientists, lawyers and politicians.

  • Lieutenant-General Sir Ronald Ferguson (1773–1841) and his brother Robert Ferguson of Raith (1770–1840) – subjects of the painting, "The Archers" (1789 or 1790), by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756–1823). (Collection: National Gallery)
  • Sir Walter Scott
  • Sir Henry Raeburn
  • The Rt Hon Sir Angus Ogilvy (1928–2004), husband of Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy.
  • Robin Orr Blair, LVO, WS (1940–), Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland
  • Charles Jauncey, Baron Jauncey of Tullichettle, Law Lord.
  • Sir Lachlan Hector Charles Maclean, 12th Baronet of Duart and Morvern, CVO, DL, (born 25 August 1942) is the 28th chief of Clan Maclean.
  • Merlin Hay, 24th Earl of Erroll (1948–), a cross-bench member of the House of Lords, Chief of Scottish clan Hay, and hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland.
  • James Charles Macnab of Macnab (1926–2013), chief of Clan Macnab[31]
  • Alan Cuthbert


The Company forms a part of The Queen's Household in Scotland.

Archers' Hall is a Category B listed building, i.e. "buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered" in compliance with Scotland's Town and Country Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.272
  2. Charles-Simon Favart, The Waverley anecdotes: Illustrative of the incidents, characters, and scenery, described in the novels and romances of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Volume 1, London, 1833, p.364
  3. In 1511, Henry VIII confirmed previous laws against illegal games in favour of archery
  4. Frank Adam, Thomas Innes, The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, 1934, p.330
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.273
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.275
  7. The Gentleman's magazine, Volume 102, Part 1, p.421
  8. Charles Lowe, The Graphic, The Royal Company of Archers, 9 August 1902, p.184
  9. Sir Walter Scott delivered the arrow into the hands of the Royal Company of Archers in 1818
  10. Robert Huish, The public and private life of His late...Majesty, George the Third, London, 1821, p.495
  11. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.315 [1]
  12. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, pp.274
  13. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, pp.273–274
  14. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.322 [2]
  15. Later the 2nd/42nd Highlanders
  16. John Britton, Modern Athens, displayed in a series of views, or, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth century, London, 1829, p.17
  17. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.329 [3]
  18. Edinburgh Guide, Edinburgh Events, 16 June 2009
  19. A flat trijectory of perhaps 150 yards. Into the 17th century 'direct level flight' meaning was alluded to by no less an author than Sir Walter Raleigh, in The History of the World, 1614: "Training his Archers to shoot compasse, who had bin accustomed to the point blanke." Compass meant 'curved', as in the flight of an arrow over a long distance.
  20. Sir Paul James Balfour, The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen's Body-guard for Scotland. W. Blackwood, 1875, p.313 [4]
  21. Alexander Carse paintings, BBC, retrieved 12 October 2013
  22. Andrew Kippis, William Godwin, The New annual register, or General repository of history, politics, arts, sciences and literature for year 1822, London, 1823, p.161
  23. Ely Hargrove, Anecdotes of archery: from earliest ages to the year 1791, p.213
  24. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.274
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Frank Adam, Thomas Innes, The Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, 1934, p.331
  26. See for example reorganisation of Light Infantry in 1992
  27. Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, The Army in 1906: A Policy and a Vindication, p.57
  28. Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.273-274
  29. 29.0 29.1 Hugo Arnot, The history of Edinburgh, from the earliest accounts, to the year 1780, Edinburgh, 1816, p.274
  30. Charles Lowe, The Royal Company of Archers, The Graphic, 9 August 1902, p.184
  31. 'Macnab of Macnab, James Charles' in Who's Who 2012 (London: A. & C. Black, 2011)
  • J. Balfour Paul, Lyon King of Arms, Scottish Archery (Chapter XIII), in Duke of Beaufort, ed., The Badminton Library of sports an pastimes, C.J. Longman and Col. H. Walrond, 1894.

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