87. RECORDS CONCERNING THE MILITIA (1539-77)

(A) Commission of a Lord Lieutenant (1576)[1]

Elizabeth, by the grace of God of England, France, and Ireland queen ... , to our trusty and well-beloved councillor, Sir Christopher Hatton, knight, our vice-chamberlain, greeting. Know ye that, for the great and singular trust ... we have in your approved fidelity ... , we have assigned ... you to be our lieutenant within our county of Northampton and all corporate and privileged places within the limits ... of the same county, as well within liberties as without. And [we] do by these presents give full power and authority unto you that you from time to time may levy, gather, or call together all ... our subjects ... dwelling ... within our said county ... , meet and apt for the wars; and them to try, array, and put in readiness, and them also ... , after their abilities ... , sufficiently to cause to be armed and weaponed; and to take the musters of them from time to time in places most meet for that purpose after your good discretion: and also the same our subjects, so arrayed, tried, and armed, as well men-of-arms as other horsemen, archers, and footmen ... meet and apt for the wars, to conduct and lead, as well against all ... enemies as also against all ... rebels, traitors, and other offenders and their adherents ... , from time to time so often as need shall require by your discretion; and with the said enemies ... to fight, and them to invade, resist, repress, and subdue, slay, kill, and put to execution of death by all ways and means ...; and to ... execute and use against the said enemies ... , as necessity shall require by your discretion, the law called the martial law.... And further we give you full power and authority, for the execution of this our commission, to appoint and assign in our said county ... muster masters and one provost marshal. Which provost marshal shall execute and use the martial law, in case of any invasion or rebellion, in conducting any numbers of men of war against the said invaders, traitors, or rebels.... And forasmuch as it may be there shall be instant cause, as now there is, for you to be attendant upon our person, or to be otherwise employed in our service, whereby this our service of lieutenancy committed to your fidelity cannot be by you in person executed in such force as we have appointed the same: therefore we give unto you ... authority to appoint, assign, and constitute by your writing, under your hand and seal, our trusty and well-beloved Sir John Spencer, knight, Sir Richard Knightley, knight, and Sir Edward Montague, knight, to be your deputies in this said service in our said county of Northampton.... And by this ... commission we give unto the said [Spencer, Knightley, and Montague] ... , or any two of them, full power of authority in your absence to do and execute in our said county of Northampton ... every thing and things before by this our commission assigned and appointed by you to be done and executed.... And further we will and command ... our justices of the peace, mayors, sheriffs, bailiffs, constables, headboroughs, and all other our officers, ministers, and subjects, meet and apt for the wars within our said county of Northampton ... , that they and every one of them, with their power and servants, from time to time shall be attendant, aiding, and assisting, counselling, helping, and at the commandment as well of you as of your said deputies ... , as they and every of them tender our pleasure and will answer for the contrary at their uttermost perils.

Thomson, Lords Lieutenants in the Sixteenth Century, pp. 153 f.

(B) Instructions for General Musters (1572)

Instructions ... for general musters and training of all manner of persons able for the wars to serve as well on horseback as on foot. The principal intent of the queen's majesty ... is to have perfect knowledge of the numbers, qualities, abilities, and sufficiency of all her subjects in that county ... , from the age of sixteen years upward, that may be found able to bear armour or to use weapon on horseback or on foot; and out of that ... number, being viewed, mustered, and registered, to have a ... sufficient number of the most able to be chosen and collected, to be by the reasonable charge of the inhabitants in every shire tried, armed, and weaponed, and so consequently taught and trained ... for the service and defence of her majesty, her crown, and realm against all attempts both inward and outward....

Articles of the instructions to the commissioners. It is necessary that, by your precept to the constable of the hundreds or other officers thereto requisite ... , all able persons from sixteen upwards which are within the limits of this your commission in any parish, hamlet, or village, be summoned to appear at days and places certain and meet for the musters; so none, being able of any degree, be forborne to be warned and called to the same general musters.... And therefore it shall be well done to command in your precept that the names and surnames of all persons in every parish ... , able to bear armour or to use weapons ... , be immediately collected and put in writing ...; naming in the said writing or note every householder by himself, with his sons, servants, apprentices, journeymen, or any other sojourners or indwellers remaining in their houses ...; and that the said householders be charged to bring all the said persons by name with their armour and weapons at such several times and places as shall be thereto limited. And so, after the return to the commissioners of the said writing containing their names, the said commissioners shall call for the persons and proceed to the musters of them, and register the names of such as shall appear with notes of their armours and weapons. And when some shall not have armour or weapons meet there, it shall be noted to what kind of service for the wars every of the said persons shall seem meet; wherein is meant not to omit to note what number of them may serve for labourers or pioneers, and who are also carpenters, smiths, or suchlike artificers, so as there may be some use had of their abilities for service of their country as cause shall require....

Item, the commissioners shall upon the first musters consider particularly all the imperfections in the persons appearing, and in the armours, weapons, and suchlike, and shall give particular instructions and charge how to remedy the same ... , and shall appoint certain persons ... to see to and give order for the reformation thereof against the time of the next musters.

Item, where always of very ancient time there hath been and still are a number certain of soldiers furnished of armour and weapons to be found of the common charge of every town or parish, over and besides such particular persons as are by the late statutes chargeable by reason of their own private possessions or goods to find soldiers, armour, and weapons: the commissioners shall do well, upon the registering of the general musters, to cause special entries to be made apart of the numbers found by the parishes in the muster-books distinct from the others....

Item, because the training and exercise of a multitude of people in their armour and weapons, and namely archers and harquebusiers, may seem costly and chargeable, and that it shall not seem necessary in many places to have the whole numbers of the able people to be armed and weaponed: therefore [the commissioners] ... shall therein use their discretions ... , and shall consider and determine what were or may be a convenient number in every part of the shire to be collected out of the total number, meet to be sorted in bands, and to be trained and exercised in such sort as may ... reasonably be borne by a common charge of the whole country....

And because, in the choice of the numbers to be trained and exercised, divers of the soldiers inhabiting in many towns shall be forborne and not appointed to be of the trained number, and yet the service of the persons chosen and trained doth appertain to the weal of the whole shire; there shall be consideration had, in the collection of the charges to maintain the said training and exercise, that every town and parish of the shire and inhabitants thereof be rateably charged without burdening some more than other....

Grose, Military Antiquities, I, 79 f.

(C) Certificate of Muster Masters (1539)

This is the certificate of Sir George Gresley, knight, John Vernon and William Wyrley, esquires, three of the king's commissioners ... appointed for the trial and the view of all persons armed within the hundred of Ofelaw in the county of Stafford, above sixteen years, as well horsemen, footmen, bowmen, and billmen within the said hundred, whose names with their surnames and their weapons severally appeareth; and have given monition to every of them ... to be ready with their horse and harness, and to have their harness according to the king's statute thereof made. In witness we have subscribed our names and set to our seals the 27th day of April, 1539....[2]

Elford and Hasulhowre

Richard Huddilston — horse, harness, bill; able

John Hervy — harness, without a horse, a bill; able

Richard Wryght

Rauf Massye

Petur Foleshist

John Janens — bowmen, able; without horse or harness

John Melburne

Thomas Smyth

Alexander Hodson

Philipp Wright — a bowman, not able

Collections for a History of Staffordshire, 1901, p. 217.

(D) Instructions for Training Men in Lancashire (1577)

To our very good lords, the earl of Derby and Lord Mounteagle, and to the rest of the commissioners appointed in the fifteenth year of her majesty's reign for the taking of the general musters in the county of Lancashire: after our hearty commendations. Whereas it pleased the queen's majesty ... to direct her commission ... unto you for the taking of views and musters of her loving subjects of the county of Lancashire ... , we would have wished that you had set them down in writing more particularly, according to such direction as was contained in the said instruction. For want whereof we are first to require you ... you would certify your former musterings somewhat more orderly, according to a schedule which we send you herewith enclosed ...; and further, forasmuch upon some considerations ... it is thought requisite that out of the total number then mustered in that county the number of three hundred should be selected and trained, the same number being so small it is not doubted but the country is very well able to bear the charges of the training (for which cause both her majesty and we assure ourselves that as heretofore you have showed yourselves very forward in executing her majesty's commandment tending to so good an end), so now also in respect of some small charges or pains, which the country is to be at, you will not fail to employ your best endeavours for the executing thereof as appertaineth to good and dutiful subjects. And yet our meaning is not, by this present preparation of this small number of shot,[3] but that also ... all the rest of the serviceable men which were before mustered ... otherwise to supply and continue in readiness, so as they may be ready to be mustered, as you shall have further commission; by which is meant that the footmen shall be mustered about the month of May and the horsemen about July, whereof we require you to have some consideration in giving warning now aforehand.... And so we bid you heartily farewell. Westminster [20 March 1577]. Your loving friends: William Burleigh, Robert Leicester, Francis Bedford, Francis Knowles, Ambrose Warwick, Thomas Sussex, James Crofte, Francis Walsingham.

J. Harland, Lancashire Lieutenancy, I, 91 f.


[1] Less elaborate commissions of this kind had been issued since the reign of Edward VI. For an excellent discussion of the subject, see Miss Thomson's work cited below.

[2] A list similar to the one following is given for each township within the hundred.

[3] Men armed with bows or firearms.


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