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 in Edinburgh, the capital city. 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 body established by the Monarch, the Company has a long history of unique prizes, influential supporters, and ceremonial roles.
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.
By using 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's members. The company consisted of distinguished nobles and gentlemen of the day. 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 it as a corporation by Letters Patent, dated 31 December 1713 into a Royal Company. These letters of patent: revived and ratified, on their behalf, the old laws and acts of Parliament that favored archery; 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. 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.
The first such weapon-shawing was held on 14 June 1714, with the Marquis of Athole as the Company's 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. On that occasion, the society shot a silver arrow, presented to them by the City of Edinburgh, at Leith. By the following year, the Company had doubled in number and was led by David Wemyss, 4th Earl of Wemyss after the death of the Marquis of Athole.
After the Jacobite rising of 1715 no parade was held for nine years, but they resumed under James Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton on 4 August 1724 at Musselburgh. However, after 1734 public parades were discontinued until the Napoleonic Wars were over.
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.