This roundel represents a single rider, wearing a long tunic but no armor, who has just loosed an arrow from his bow. While crossbows were unusual and impressive, bows remained far more important in English armies, particularly the longbow, which proved its worth during the Hundred Years’ War. This archer is engaged in a demanding maneuver, the so-called Parthian shot. It requires the archer to remove both hands from the horse’s reins, to turn backward while the horse continues running forward in a straight line, and to load and loose an arrow at the enemy behind him. If shooting a crossbow from horseback is a demanding feat, so too is this shot, accomplished while twisting 180 degrees in the saddle atop a hurtling horse.
The Parthian shot was a well-known military exercise, practiced by the Islamic Mamluks (in Egypt) and the Mongols (from Central Asia), among others. Representations of the Parthian shot may have had a particular currency in mid-thirteenth-century England in the context of the crusades. The Parthian shot seems to have been associated in western Europe with the Saracen forces encountered by western crusaders. Therefore, the Chertsey combat tiles’ representation of a western European protagonist taking up this difficult fighting position is probably not neutral. This design shows a European who has adopted and become proficient at a skill practiced by the opposing armies in the crusades. While this figure is not dressed in mail, he too has a place in the crusading world.