A bow made of wood or, later steel, the string being released by a trigger mechanism. They were heavier and more cumbersome than Longbows but had greater powers of penetration.The crossbow was spanned by pulling the cord back with both hands while the archer's foot steadied the front end on the ground. Later more powerful bows required first a hook attached to the archer's belt and eventually spanning devices such as the windlass, the cranequin and the simpler 'goat's foot lever'.

The big advantage that the crossbow had over other types of bow was that its operation could be learned by even the lowliest of medieval Serfs in a matter of an hour or two (as opposed to the many months of training that it would take a Longbowman to become proficient with his weapon). In addition the crossbow was a much more accurate weapon than a conventional bow allowing it to be employed as a ‘sniper’ weapon taking down individuals (as opposed to such weapons as the longbow which were far less accurate and was best employed like modern artillery delivering vast amounts of missiles into a specified area). Naturally having any common Serf being able to wander around killing Nobles and Knights at will on the medieval battlefield was not an attractive proposition to the upper classes, and one Pope even went so far as to issue an edict banning it from Christian Europe (although with no suggestion that it could not be used against infidel). Naturally most European Princes chose to ignore the edict and kept supplying crossbows to their militiamen. Perhaps the most famous fatality inflicted by a crossbow was that of King Richard the Lionheart killed by a crossbow bolt in the neck whilst attacking the castle of Châlus in 1199.

The bolt or quarrel was a stout, heavy missile about 12-inches long, fletched with vanes of parchment, wood or leather, often angled to impart spin.

Crossbows were widely used by foot soldiers in continental Europe from the late 10th century. Little used in England as a military weapon after the introduction of the Longbow, the crossbow reappeared during the Wars of the Roses when foreign mercenary troops were brought in.

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