was principally to repel oversea invasions that its services were required. Yet even in those days the necessity of some more permanent force was felt, and bodies of paid troops were maintained by the kings at their own cost. Thus Canute and his successors, and even some of the great earls kept up a household force (huscarles). The English army at Hastings consisted of the fyrd and the corps of huscarles.
The English had fought on foot; but the mailed horseman had now become the chief factor in war, and the Conqueror introduced into England the system of tenure by knight-service familiar in Normandy. This was based on the unit of the feudal host, the constabularia of ten knights, the Conqueror granting lands in return for finding one or more of these units (in the case of great barons) or some fraction of them (in the case of lesser tenants). The obligation was to provide knights to serve, with horse and arms, for forty days in each year at their own charges. This obligation could be handed on by sub-enfeoffment through a whole series of under-tenants. The system being based, not on the duty of personal service, but on the obligation to supply one or more knights (or it might be only the fraction of a knight), it was early found convenient to commute this for a money payment known as “scutage” (see Knight Service and Scutage). This money enabled the king to hire mercenaries, or pay such of the feudal troops as were willing to serve beyond the usual time. From time to time proclamations and statutes were issued reminding the holders of knights’ fees of their duties; but the immediate object was generally to raise money rather than to enforce personal service, which became more and more rare. The feudal system had not, however, abrogated the old Saxon levies, and from these arose two national institutions—the posse comitatus, liable to be called out by the sheriff to maintain the king’s peace, and later the militia (q.v.). The posse comitatus, or power of the county, included all males able to bear arms, peers and spiritual men excepted; and though primarily a police force it was also bound to assist in the defence of the country. This levy was organized by the Assize of Arms under Henry II. (1181), and subsequently under Edward I. (1285) by the so-called “Statute of Winchester,” which determined the numbers and description of weapons to be kept by each man according to his property, and also provided for their periodical inspection. The early Plantagenets made free use of mercenaries. But the weakness of the feudal system in England was preparing, through the 12th and 13th centuries, a nation in arms absolutely unique in the middle ages. The Scottish and Welsh wars were, of course, fought by the feudal levy, but this levy was far from being the mob of unwilling peasants usual abroad, and from the fyrd came the English archers, whose fame was established by Edward I.’s wars, and carried to the continent by Edward III. Edward III. realized that there was better material to be had in his own country than abroad, and the army with which he invaded France was an army of national mercenaries, or, more simply, of English soldiers. The army at Creçy was composed exclusively of English, Welsh and Irish. From the pay list of the army at the siege of Calais (1346) it appears that all ranks, from the prince of Wales downward, were paid, no attempt being made to force even the feudal nobles to serve abroad at their own expense. These armies were raised mainly by contracts entered into “with some knight or gentleman expert in war, and of great revenue and livelihood in the country, to serve the king in war with a number of men.” Copies of the indentures executed when Henry V. raised his army for the invasion of France in 1415 are in existence. Under these the contracting party agreed to serve the king abroad for one year, with a given number of men equipped according to agreement, and at a stipulated rate of pay. A certain sum was usually paid in advance, and in many cases the crown jewels and plate were given in pledge for the rest. The profession of arms seems to have been profitable. The pay of the soldier was high as compared with that of the ordinary labourer, and he had the prospect of a share of plunder in addition, so that it was not difficult to raise men where the commander had a good military reputation. Edward III. is said to have declined the services of numbers of foreign mercenaries who wished to enrol under him in his wars against France.
The funds for the payment of these armies were provided partly from the royal revenues, partly from the fines paid in lieu of military service, and other fines arbitrarily imposed, and partly by grants from parliament. As the soldier’s contract usually ended with the war, and the king had seldom funds to renew it even if he so wished, the armies disbanded of themselves at the close of each war. To secure the services of the soldier during his contract, acts were passed (18 Henry VI. c. 19; and 7 Henry VII. c. 1) inflicting penalties for desertion; and in Edward VI.’s reign an act “touching the true service of captains and soldiers” was passed, somewhat of the nature of a Mutiny Act.
61. It is difficult to summarize the history of the army between the Hundred Years’ War and 1642. The final failure of the English arms in France was soon followed by the Wars of the Roses, and in the long period of civil strife the only national force remaining to England was the Calais garrison. Henry VIII. was a soldier-king, but he shared the public feeling for the old bow and bill, and English armies which served abroad did not, it seems, win the respect of the advanced professional soldiers of the continent. In 1519 the Venetian ambassador described the English forces as consisting of 150,000 men whose peculiar, though not exclusive, weapon was the long bow (Fortescue i. 117). The national levy made in 1588 to resist the Armada and the threat of invasion produced about 750 lancers (heavy-armed cavalry), 2000 light horse and 56,000 foot, beside 20,000 men employed in watching the coasts. The small proportion of mounted men is very remarkable in a country in which Cromwell was before long to illustrate the full power of cavalry on the battlefield. It is indeed not unfair to regard this army as a miscellaneous levy of inferior quality.
It was in cavalry that England was weakest, and by three different acts it was sought to improve the breed of horses, though the light horse of the northern counties had a good reputation, and even won the admiration of the emperor Charles V. Perhaps the best organized force in England at this time was the London volunteer association which ultimately became the Honourable Artillery Company. At Floddon the spirit of the old English yeomanry triumphed over the outward form of continental battalions which the Scots had adopted, and doubtless the great victory did much to retard military progress in England. The chief service of Henry VIII. to the British army was the formation of an artillery train, in which he took a special interest. Before he died the forces came to consist of a few permanent troops (the bodyguard and the fortress artillery service), the militia or general levy, which was for home, and indeed for county, service only, and the paid armies which were collected for a foreign war and disbanded at the conclusion of peace, and were recruited on the same principle of indents which had served in the Hundred Years’ War. In the reign of Mary, the old Statute of Winchester was revised (1553), and the new act provided for a readjustment of the county contingents and in some degree for the rearmament of the militia. But, from the fall of Calais and the expedition to Havre up to the battle of the Dunes a century later, the intervention of British forces in foreign wars was always futile and generally disastrous. During this time, however, the numerous British regiments in the service of Holland learned, in the long war of Dutch independence, the art of war as it had developed on the continent since 1450, and assimilated the regimental system and the drill and armament of the best models. Thus it was that in 1642 there were many hundreds of trained and war-experienced officers and sergeants available for the armies of the king and the parliament. By this time bows and bills had long disappeared even from the militia, and the Thirty Years’ War, which, even more than the Low Countries, offered a career for the adventurous man, contributed yet more trained officers and soldiers to the English and Scottish forces. So closely indeed was war now studied by Englishmen that the respective adherents of the Dutch and the Swedish systems quarrelled on the eve of the battle of Edgehill. Francis