As an addendum to the Long Bow story from a few days ago, I thought I would lay a little history, or at least a really good story down for you.

We have all probably seen the English version of the finger, known as the two fingered salute (seen below – as offered by Winston Churchill).

Now, historians say that Churchill merely meant this as a ‘v for victory’ but if you place close enough attention when you watch British sitcoms you will notice that he is folding his hand palm-in which means that this is the famous two finger salute that was supposedly started at the Battle of Agincourt.

A little background…

2fingersaluteThe Battle of Agincourt occurred on October 25, 1415, which is of course, St Crispin’s Day.  In short, Henry V invaded France and one of the key battles was the Battle of Agincourt.  Now before this battle had begun, or so the story goes, the French king said that he was going to have the bow fingers, the first two fingers on the right hand of the English and Welsh archers cut off so that they could not draw a bow again.  Before the battle, Henry rallied his troops with a rousing speech before the battle began.  In this speech, Henry told the men what the French king had said he would do.  Shakespeare relates the feeling of the speech best:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition: And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

Needless to say, this statement by the French did not sit well with the archers.  The longbowmen were one of the telling factors in the battle.  They decimated the French cavalry.  At the end of the battle, with very few English and Welsh archers in the wounded or killed in action category, they stepped forward and showed their still intact fingers to the French officers.  Thus was born the two finger salute – your right index and middle finger separated  and displayed with the palm facing inward.

Thus did the English longbow give rise to one of the best hand gestures that the world has ever known.  The history of the gesture would also lead one to believe that the finger is nothing more then the Americanized version of this gesture, but that is for another day – perchance another good story.