34. THE ASSIZE OF ARMS (1181)
1. Whoever possesses one knight's fee shall have a shirt of mail, a
helmet, a shield, and a lance; and every knight shall have as many shirts of
mail, helmets, shields, and lances as he possesses knight's fees in
2. Moreover, every free layman who possesses chattels or rents to the
value of 16m. shall have a shirt of mail, a helmet, a shield, and a
lance; and every free layman possessing chattels or rents to the value of
10m. shall have a hauberk, an iron cap, and a lance.
3. Item, all burgesses and the whole community of freemen shall have
[each] a gambeson, an iron cap, and a lance.
4. Besides, each of them shall swear to have these arms before the feast
of St. Hilary, to be faithful to the lord king Henry — namely, the son of
the Empress Matilda — and to bear these arms in his service according to
his command and in fealty to the lord king and his kingdom. And henceforth no
one having these arms shall sell them or pledge them or lend them or alienate
them in any other way; nor shall a lord in any way alienate them from his men,
either through forfeiture or through gift or through pledge or in any other
5. If any one having these arms dies, his arms shall remain to his heir.
If, however, the heir is not of age to use arms in time of need, that person
who has wardship over him shall also have custody of the arms and shall find a
man who can use the arms in the service of the lord king until the heir is of
age to bear arms, and then he shall have them.
6. Any burgess who has more arms than he ought to have by this assize
shall sell them, or give them away, or in some way alienate them to such a man
as will keep them for the service of the lord king of England. And none of them
shall keep more arms than he ought to have by this assize.
7. Item, no Jew shall keep in his possession a shirt of mail or a
hauberk, but he shall sell it or give it away or alienate it in some other way,
so that it shall remain in the king's service.
8. Item, no one shall carry arms out of England except by the command of
the lord king: no one is to sell arms to another to carry out of England; nor
shall a merchant or any other man carry them out of England.
9. Item, the justices shall have [a report] sworn by lawful knights, or
by other free and lawful men of the hundreds and neighbourhoods and boroughs
— as many as they see fit to employ — as to what persons possess
chattels to the amount that they should have a shirt of mail, a helmet, a
lance, and a shield according to what has been provided; so that they shall
separately name for those [justices] all men of their hundreds and
neighbourhoods and boroughs who are worth 16m. in either chattels or
rents, and likewise those who are worth 10m. And then the justices shall
have written down [the names of] all those jurors and other men, [recording]
how much in chattels or rents they [each] have and what arms, according to the
value of the chattels or rents, they should [each] have. Then, in their
presence and in a common assembly of those men, they shall have read this
assize regarding the possession of arms, and they shall have those men swear to
have arms according to the value of the aforesaid chattels or rents, and to
keep them for the service of the lord king according to this aforesaid assize,
under the command of and in fealty to the lord king Henry and his kingdom. If,
moreover, it should happen that any one of them, who ought to have these arms,
is not in the county during the period when the justices are in that county,
the justices shall set a time for him [to appear] before them in another
county. And if he does not come to them in any county through which they are to
go, and is not in that land [at all], they shall set him a time at Westminster
toward the octave of St. Michael; so that, as he loves his life and all that he
has, he shall be there for swearing his oath. And they shall command him,
before the aforesaid feast of St. Hilary, to have arms according to the
obligation resting on him.
10. Item, the justices shall have proclamation made in the counties
through which they are to go that, with respect to those who do not have such
arms as have been specified above, the lord king will take vengeance, not
merely on their lands or chattels, but on their limbs.
11. Item, no one who does not possess 16m. [as specified above]
or 10m. in chattels is to swear concerning free and lawful men.
12. Item, the justices shall command through all the counties that no
one, as he loves his life and all that he has, shall buy or sell any ship to be
taken away from England, and that no one shall carry any timber or cause it to
be carried out of England. And the lord king commands that no one shall be
received for the oath concerning arms unless he is a freeman.
(Latin) Stubbs, Select Charters, pp. 183 f.
 That is to say, as many knights as remain charged against
his demesne; cf. no. 36.
 Presumably less elaborate armour than that required of the
 A padded surcoat.