Robert Hardy, Tudor longbow expert and Mary Rose trustee, dies
The BBC has today reported that respected actor, Robert Hardy, has died.
Although Hardy was not a Hollywood name, he was considered a versatile actor, primarily appearing on television and the stage.1
He starred in the television series "All Creatures Great and Small," and played both Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, each on more than one occasion. In later years, he was the Minister of Magic—Cornelius Fudge—in several of the Harry Potter films.
Robert Hardy would also have a crucial career in maritime archeology. He developed an interest in medieval warfare that grew into a passion, all thanks to his playing the part of Henry V in 1960.
This very serious military historian became the preeminent expert on the longbow, the deadly weapon of Medieval England. This 6ft long bow was amazingly accurate at a distance of up to 350 yards.
When the Mary Rose—the first purpose-built warship—was raised in 1982, Robert Hardy was put in charge of restoring and deciphering the 138 longbows that were rescued from the Solent mud. The Daily Telegraph reports that "he kept the longbows in his cellar (to slowly dry them out) and minutely researched their construction and power."2
Hardy wrote two books on the long bow: Longbow: A social and military history,3 and with Matthew Strickland, and The Great Warbow: From Hastings to the Mary Rose.4
This is very sad news. Robert Hardy was one of our strongest supporters, and we're very appreciative of all the work he has done for us.
— The Mary Rose Museum
On 11 October 2005, I was lucky enough to be on the press boat when an anchor was raised from the seabed where the Mary Rose had previously lain.5
The boat was filled with cynical press photographers and reporters. As we sailed out to the site where the Mary Rose sank, the atmosphere was changed on the boat. It lightened as almost to a man, the press corps shared their personal stories with each other as to where they were when the hull of the Mary Rose was raised on 11 October 1982. We had all been children at the time and had ardently followed the story of the Mary Rose on Blue Peter.
Once the anchor was back on dry land in Portsmouth, I had the opportunity to speak to Robert Hardy. He was a stickler for detail. I learnt that you don't "fire" an arrow, rather, you "shoot" an arrow.
Robert Hardy was obviously hugely passionate about the Mary Rose. He was a trustee of the Mary Rose Trust and a big advocate for the museum.6 Hardy was also a trustee of the Royal Armouries at HM Tower of London.7
The Mary Rose Museum has tweeted: "This is very sad news. Robert Hardy was one of our strongest supporters, and we're very appreciative of all the work he has done for us. RIP."
Helen Bonser-Wilton, Chief Executive, The Mary Rose Trust stated, “We are greatly saddened by news of actor Robert Hardy’s death. He was a true gentleman and joy to work with. Robert’s work with the Mary Rose has been transformational as the leading specialist on the longbow. Without his enthusiasm, skill and knowledge of the craft of archery, the subject would be much diminished.
His close association with the Mary Rose, since the very early days, has been crucial to the understanding of the use of longbows in Tudor times and the important role they continued to play on board Henry VIII’s favourite warship. His passion and enthusiasm for the Mary Rose will be his lasting legacy and treasured by the team.” ■