DEFENCE AND SECURITY Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Leicester Coventry seigneurial rights military service organization recruitment militia expenditures armour uniforms leadership wages rebellion fines siege warfare communication
Subject: Troops for national service
Original source: 1. Leicestershire Record Office, Leicester mayoral and miscellaneous accounts; 2. Coventry City Record Office, Leet Book
Transcription in: 1. Mary Bateson, ed. Records of the Borough of Leicester, (London, 1899), vol.1, 332-33, 340. 2. Mary Dormer Harris, ed., The Coventry Leet Book or Mayor's Register, London: Early English Text Society, old series, vol.146 (1913), 282-83.
Original language: 1. Latin (1b translated in part by Bateson); 2. Middle English
Location: Leicester, Coventry
Date: Late 14th and 15th centuries


[1a. Provision of troops by Leicester, March, 1322]

Thomas le Rous, sheriff, arrived in the week before Shrove Tuesday [February 23] with a commission to take all those between two ages to aid the king against his enemies, the rebels, together with [money for] their expenses for 15 days. That same day the mayor, at the advice of reputable men, sent him a gift of bread [costing] 13d., wine (16d.), and ale (8d.). Subsequently, in the presence of John Alsy, William le Palmere, Robert de Overtone, and John de Scharneford, who came accompanying the mayor, he agreed to intercede for the town [providing] 50 men and that he would assist and counsel the community; for that undertaking, he was given 40s. by the community, and John Sotemay, the under-sheriff, 20s. On the same day John de Sadington was given, in the presence of Walter de Busceby and other good men, 6s.8d to have his support in dealing with the king.

The expenses of the 50 men.
Robert le Porter, vintenar, received, on the first Sunday in Lent [28 February], for himself and his twenty men for 14 days, £5.2s.8d., because four of them were on horseback. Walter the Taillour, vintenar, received for himself and his twenty men for the same period £4.15s.8d. Robert de Wilugby received for himself and his nine fellows for the same period 48s.10d. Henry Merlin, constable, received 7s. as his wages for the same period. Item, 6d. for cloth bought for their pennons. Item, 40s. to the Friars Preacher for persuading the king's confessor to support the town in dealing with the king. Item, 100s. Item, 100s. to Geoffrey de Skeftington for having his support in dealing with the king regarding the fine to be paid by the town. Item, £200 as the fine paid to the king.

Expenses of delivering the aforesaid money.
4½d for string and canvas for the bags. 20s. in expenses of Robert de Stretton for transporting part of the money on 20 March, in the company of Sir Ralph Basset. 8s.4d in expenses of John de Scharneford, Richard de Tikhull, William Routh, and Thomas Daubeneye (with his horse), for transporting money. 13s. in expenses of Thomas Vescy, Ralph Cokenbred, Robert le Porter [and 4 others] for carrying all the rest of the money, the following Sunday. 3s. for hiring three horses for the use of those who lacked them. 6d. for the cost of [their] bread and ale before setting out. 18d. for making the king's arms on the four gates
Total £ 225.10s.½d

[1b. Provision of troops by Leicester, July, 1322]

Expenses of twelve foot-soldiers sent to the king
Two hauberks bought from Hugh the Tailor, £1.2s.0d. One bought and cleaned 12s.5d. and another cleaned and mended 13s.2d. 1 pair of plates with the metal [parts?] of two bascinets, 16s.4d. For repairs and refurbishing, including of the caps and their linings, 3s. 1 pair of plates and for nails and nailing, 12s. 1 pair of plates and one bascinet, for nails and nailing, and for a new lining for the bascinet, 14s.6d. Also, for one pair of plates and one bascinet, with two pairs of gauntlets, 25s. Also 8 aketons and 1 bascinet. to William le Cu for all his armour, 15s. Also 3 aketons, 4 bascinets and 8 pairs [of gauntlets]. And for assembling and freshly nailing two pairs of those gauntlets, 1s. 1 pair of gauntlets, 2 bascinets, and for cleaning one.
Total: £13.19s.8d
Paid to the men for their weapons, 36s. (3s. to each of them). Paid to them for hackneys, 24s. For cloth bought for their jackets, 57s.6d. For shearing it, 12d. And for cutting out [the pattern] and repairs, 6s.6d. And for silk and sendal, 6d. For two and a half ells of fustian, 10d. For card and sendal for their pennons, and thread together with the cutting out [of the shape], 12¼d.
Total: £6.7s.4¼d.

[2. Provision of troops by Coventry, 1455]

Memorandum that what follows is a copy of a letter sent from our sovereign lord the king to the mayor and sheriffs of the city of Coventry.


It is our wish and desire that you, in whom we place our special trust, accompanied by the most capable and properly equipped force – for which you will be held accountable – that you can muster to serve us and be at our command, will join us wherever we may be, as quickly as possible. By doing so, you will give us a particular reason to be a good and gracious lord to you, and to hold you in our special favour and concern. Issued under our signet [ring seal] at our palace of Westminster on 18 May.

This letter was delivered to the mayor by John Metyngham on 22 May following the date on the letter, and the mayor gave him 6s.8d as a reward.

Whereupon the mayor, having given careful consideration to the contents of the letter, had the city aldermen and councillors summoned to come to him along with his colleagues, and the letter was read out to them. They, being concerned about the welfare as well as the safety and preservation of the king, as every true subject ought to be, decided that a hundred good men, properly equipped with bows and arrows and outfitted with jacks and sallets, should be readied as quickly as possible to join our sovereign lord at St. Albans, and to remain with him and serve him in whatever his highness might command. And the mayor and aforementioned worthy men decided that William Tybeaudis should be the captain of the 100 men.

There follows a record of the costs and supplies provided the captain and the 100 men.
First, for tartan to make a new pennon, 16d. For ribbon for the same, 14d. For making the pennon and a silk tassel, 14d. For furbishing the spear-head, 2d. Item, for a garment for the captain
First, for one and a half quarters of green cloth, 9d.; for one and a half quarters of violet, 9d.; for one and a half quarters of red cloth, 9d.; for one and a half quarters of Musturdevylers, 12d. For making the garment, 16d. Total: [not entered].

Also, for 25 yards and one and a half quarters of green and red cloth bought to make bands for the 100 men, 18d. a yard. Total 38s.7½d. For making the bands, 4s.2d. Total: [not entered]

And because neither the captain nor the 100 men set out at this time, because of certain news that was brought and because the king was taken back to London and his plans were not followed through, the bands, garment, and pennon were given to the wardens for safekeeping.



The demand for troops from Leicester in 1322 came in the context of Edward II's struggle with "contrariant" barons led by the mighty Thomas of Lancaster, who happened to be the lord of Leicester. This was not the first time Leicester had been drawn into such a struggle, for one of its previous earls had been Simon de Montfort. On both occasions the consequence of being on the losing side led to the borough being forfeited to the king, and the townsmen burdened with a heavy fine. No wonder then that borough authorities often preferred to temporize, if they could, and avoid over-committing themselves.

Most of the burgesses of Leicester are unlikely to have felt any special commitment to their overlord, beyond what was politically expedient. That expediency was reflected in the periodic gifts of money or food and drink they sent him and his steward of Leicester, as well as in troops provided on occasion: in 1312, for example, they sent 20 archers to help with the earl's pursuit of Piers Gaveston, the king's favourite. We can expect that these necessary evidences of loyalty were countered by resentment felt about the involvement of the earl's officials in local government, and the financial demands of the lordship on community resources. After the fall of Earl Thomas, the king invited petitions of grievances against him; one was drawn up by the Leicester authorities accusing the men to whom the earl had farmed the borough of extortionate practices; in their effort to make a profit from the arrangement, the farmers (or their officers) had, it was alleged, imposed unprecedented licence fees on those involved in the weaving, fulling, or sale of cloth (a major element of the town's economy), as well as new tolls on fish brought to the town for sale.

In 1322 Earl Thomas was expecting support from Leicester for his faction's cause, while the king expected support for his; both were sending messengers to the borough, doubtless with demands to that effect. The borough authorities were also sending messengers to the earl, at least, although we cannot be sure whether this related to the conflict. In mid-January the earl sent a letter, via Sir William Trussel, asking that an embassy of leading townsmen be sent to Tutbury to confer with him. When they arrived, however, they found not the earl but only one of his lieutenants. Nervous, and probably aware that things were not going well for the earl (for the authorities were also keeping in touch with the king's party, whose forces were gathering to move against the Contrariants), the embassy declined to discuss matters and returned home. The earl resorted to threats. At first he ordered that the townsmen place themselves under Sir William's command – the mayor was placatory but apparently non-committal; then the earl ordered his steward to muster all suitable men of the town and its surrounding hamlets to come to his castle at Pontefract, ostensibly to fight against the Scots, but really to support Lancaster against the king. The mayor gave the steward a monetary gift to win his favour in the recruitment process (perhaps to avoid any of the city leaders being selected), and continued to keep in touch with both factions.

Essentially, the Leicester authorities were trying to straddle the fence, negotiating concurrently with both sides on the matter of provision of military support. On February 21, for example, they discussed the matter over wine, in Walter de Busceby's tavern, with the steward and other members of the earl's household; one week later they were wining representatives of the king and Hugh Despenser. By the latter date, the earl was on the run and the king had called for a general muster. The contingent from Leicester was presumably for that; but the authorities were primarily concerned with convincing the king of the town's loyalty, in view of the reduced support it provided. By the end of February, Edward had brought his forces to Coventry – too close to Leicester for it to be safe for the townsmen to deny him.

Perhaps they had hoped to delay long enough that affairs would settle themselves without the involvement of a Leicester contingent; effort was made to keep informed about developing events. It appears that a fifty-man contingent was sent to join the king's army. It was presumably present at the battle of Boroughbridge (16 March 1322), where matters were resolved: the Lancastrian forces were soundly beaten and, as a result, Earl Thomas and other leading rebels were killed. We may note that the contingent's town-paid wages would not have sufficed to fund it through to the battle, and the king would not wish to have to take over payment. Yet unpaid soldiers could prove mutinous. Had there been any dispute over the payment of wages, and a consequent refusal of the Leicester soldiers to fight at Boroughbridge, this might help explain the king's subsequent punishment of Leicester; but that is purely speculative.

After his victory, the king came down to Leicester; one of his aims was to deal with the power-bases of his vanquished enemies. Edward had no reason to feel sympathetic towards the townsmen. Leicester had been one of Thomas of Lancaster's principal bases, for the earl had a castle there. Leicester men had helped in the fall of his friend Gaveston. And when, in 1318, the Contrariants had brought Edward to heel for a time, it had been at Leicester that an assembly of magnates had imposed terms on him, giving Lancaster all he had been aiming for in restricting royal authority. Furthermore, Leicester's half-heartedness in the military support it offered Edward in 1322 must be seen in the context of much more widespread reluctance to send troops to the king's aid (although Lancaster too had experienced difficulty in mustering support); Edward's wrath in regard to that may have been channelled at Leicester, which was close at hand. Possibly Edward also suspected the townsmen of sending military help to the earl at the same time. But, in imposing the large fine of £200; on Leicester, perhaps old grudges were less influential than the simple vengefulness and venality of the victors in the aftermath of Boroughbridge; Leicester had to pay for its unlucky association with the rebel leader. The fine might have been even heavier had not the authorities paid out money to have a word put in on their behalf by Edward's confessor.

In addition to the fine, Leicester's liberties were taken into the king's hand; this was associated with the forfeiture of Lancaster's possessions to the Crown. The king appointed representatives to take over the earl's various properties, and auditors of the accounts related to those lands. A custodian was appointed to administer the earl's lordship of Leicester. Decorating the town gates with the royal coat of arms was an acknowledgement of the change in lordship, and possibly intended to gratify Edward with a conspicuous demonstration of the townsmen's loyalty (although we cannot rule out the possibility that they simply replaced arms of the earl that may have previously decorated the gates). Normally, a town in the king's hand would have to pay a sizeable fine to regain its self-governing privileges. However, the prompt action taken by Leicester in paying, in the fortnight following Boroughbridge, suggests the fine was punitive, not associated with restoration of the liberties. Besides, the custodian is mentioned again a little later, although the infrequency of references hints that he may have been an absentee, with day-to-day administration remaining in the hands of the mayor. That included levying a "great tallage" to cover the costs of the fine and the troops sent into the field; or, probably more accurately, to reimburse whoever had advanced the money that was so promptly paid out (conceivably the mayor himself). Leicester's liberties may not have been reinstated until the town was restored to the earldom, in the person of Thomas of Lancaster's brother and heir, in 1324.

Whatever the reason for the fine, the mayor's account records a high level of activity, in terms of messengers to and from the king, in late March and early April. Some of this was likely related to Edward's summons of a parliament at York in May (at which he intended to overturn legislation his opponents had previously put in place to curb his power). Messengers continued to arrive periodically during the summer months, but by late May the matter at hand was the king's demand for Leicester to send soldiers to join an army heading into Scotland. On 20 May royal letters were sent off to several towns acknowledging their commitment of troops, identifying Newcastle-on-Tyne as the assembly point for the army, and requiring that the towns cover the expenses of their troops for a 40-day campaign (that is, the king was taking advantage of his supremacy at that time to flout the custom that he would pay such expenses once troops had joined the army). The contributing towns were:

Bedford 10 soldiers
Cambridge 20 soldiers
Derby 4 soldiers
Exeter 26 soldiers
Leicester 12 soldiers
Northampton 40 soldiers
Oxford 25 soldiers
Salisbury 40 soldiers
Winchester 50 soldiers

Leicester's small contingent had been put together by 4 July, when ale was bought for them; such refreshment was repeated on 8 July (perhaps they were being outfitted or drilled), and they were finally despatched (after more ale) on 16 July, the mayor escorting them out of town to Redhill – location now unknown – where he gave them 2s. to pay for ale after the first day's journey, and sent them off. The soldiers received wages for 50 days – transit time plus the 40 days demanded by the king – at a rate of 4d. a day. The following year we hear of archers sent to the king – probably a group of similar size to that of July 1322, judging from the amount raised by taxation to cover their expenses.

The list of expenditures on the soldiers sent out in March and July shows that the burden on a borough's budget was not simply related to wages and living expenses of the troops for at least part of their period of service. Ensuring that they were provided with serviceable arms and armour and with transportation was another obligation. Equipment might need to be purchased, usually second-hand, or borrowed from townsmen (with an obligation to compensate if it were lost or damaged during operations), while towns occasionally had a small supply on-hand; another option was to give the soldiers a cash allowance and expected them to furnish their own weapons and mounts. In addition, there was the matter of identification of a contingent, in terms of pennants and uniforms; these were partly a matter of tactical necessity, and partly perhaps of civic dignity and pride. At this period, lack of regulation or standardization in uniforms meant that an army would comprise groups of soldiers with clothed in a variety of colours and styles, some of which might be similar to those of soldiers in the opposing army;

In the Middle Ages towns did not yet have their own coat of arms proper, although they had the beginnings of them, notably in the iconic imagery used on their common seals. Although precocious London used that type of emblem on its militia banner at an early period, most towns used simpler visual means of identification for their troops. This might be a particular colour or colour scheme for uniforms, and/or some kind of badge. When, in 1436, Salisbury prepared to send abroad a contingent of archers and men-at-arms, to help protect Calais against a siege, each of them was outfitted at city expense with some kind of coat which bore, on both front and back, a red cross with the letter S in blue. The Nottingham chamberlains' account for 1463/64 includes several expenses, totalling 56s.4d, in relation to the manufacture of jackets for troops to go to York to assist Edward IV, in the summer of 1464, against an active Lancastrian army. The size of the Nottingham force is not specified, but 9 yards of red cloth was purchased for the jackets, and a smaller amount of a better quality cloth (also red) for a jacket for the captain of the troops, who was one of the borough sheriffs; a yard of white fustian was bought, along with thread, and payments made for cutting out letters {presumably N) and attaching them to the jackets. The control of uniforms at company, rather than army, level created the risk of similar colours or decorations being worn by opponents, and a resulting confusion that could influence the outcome of a battle.


If Leicester, through the accident of seigneurial association, was unlucky enough to be entangled in the civil war of Edward II's reign, Coventry found itself involved, probably reluctantly, in the Lancastrian-Yorkist conflict of the fifteenth century.

On the whole, towns were not heavily caught up in this power struggle within the nobility. In contrast to the castles where feuding nobles made their stands, almost no English town had to face a serious siege. Whereas the war in France was a war of territorial conquest necessitating that French towns be captured and held, during the Wars of the Roses – apart from a natural desire to control the capital and the major supply route of London-York, running through the Midlands, as well as to deny the enemy towns they might use as bases or strongholds – neither side had the means to seize and garrison towns for extended periods. Sieges were costly and time-consuming; the English rivals preferred just to fight it out. For assuring some measure of loyalty from towns, they relied more on having influential supporters within urban communities. Besides, most town walls were not strong enough to fend off for long an assault by a large and determined force that was well-equipped; although they were starting to accommodate artillery, relatively little was being done to modify them to resist it. And, during the fifteenth century many were falling into disrepair, with the notable exception of those in frontier areas still subject to attack by foreign enemies. Towns were consequently less valued as fortresses to be contested than as stopover points en route to or from some battle, providing billets and provisions, perhaps new recruits too, and occasionally refuge from pursuit. Urban authorities found it politic to offer hospitality rather than resistance, in the hope that armies would move on soon.

There were exceptions to these generalizations. Some towns were subject to pillaging as armies moved around the country. St. Albans had the misfortune to be caught smack-dab in the middle of one battle, in 1455, its streets and gardens the location of fighting, although not at all suitable for the deployment of troops. That was the confrontation to which Coventry was preparing to send the above contingent, but cancelled its plans upon hearing that the Lancastrians had already met defeat. Whereas Bristol allowed in a Lancastrian army without any resistance in1471, Gloucester (where the Lancastrians expected to find assistance) opted to hold out against it, having learned that Edward IV was en route with his own force, and its decision counteracted the Lancastrian advantage in taking Bristol; a royal pardon for choosing the wrong side had to be purchased by Bristol after the Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury. But it was London which had the greatest cause to fear assault, and which experienced some of the more serious attacks on urban defences: in 1460 when the Tower was besieged, and in May 1471 when a fleet anchored in the Thames attempted to take the city by force.

Midlands towns tended to be more involved in the Wars of the Roses than peripheral areas (such as East Anglia), because of their location in the interior, which was more likely to see troop movement, and because the Midlands was an area of Lancastrian support. Coventry's central position was strategically important, being in an area rich in food sources, within striking distance of London, and able to call for support from south, north, east and west. For a while, it was used as home base by the Lancastrian court. In the opening years of the 1450s, as political tension at the national level grew and threatened to deteriorate into civil war, the Coventry authorities paid a good deal of attention to defensive arrangements. St. Albans was the first of several battles for which there is record of the city sending troops. It also despatched 40 men to join the Lancastrian force defeated at Northampton in 1460. After the Yorkist loss at Wakefield (1461), where the duke of York was killed, Coventry was ordered to supply troops to the Lancastrians and defend the city against any other Yorkist forces. But with York's son, Edward, Earl of March, victorious at Mortimer's Cross immediately after, Coventry instead chose to open its gates to him, and provide archers for his march towards London; in coming months it supplied Edward IV with 100 men for the fight at Towton, and 40 for the earl of Warwick to pursue Queen Margaret and the Prince of Wales; 34 of the latter contingent returned to the city, having been away for longer than anticipated, and due additional wages.

With the fresh outbreak of war 1469-71, both sides again sought troops from Coventry. Edward IV asked for 100 archers to combat rebels in the north; the city sent only 50, offering them a good wage of 8d. for each of the 20 days they were expected to be away, but the men refused to serve for less than 10d. Another 50 men were sent to aid King Edward against Warwick, but the former lost and was brought prisoner to the city by the latter. Careful attention was once more being paid at this time to matters of defence, and changes in fortune were happening so fast and frequently that the town clerk had found it useful to begin chronicling matters such as who had the upper hand, who was in exile, who had been killed, etc.

In spring 1470 the city sent a continent to aid the resurgent king against Lincolnshire rebels. At the same time the duplicitous Warwick made Coventry his base of operations for a brief period, until he learned of his rebel allies' defeat. He then fled south (aiming for France), and Coventry put together another 40-man company to help the king pursue him. Yet another contingent, of the same size, was sent to Nottingham in August, when the king was preparing to resist Warwick's expected return. When Warwick launched his invasion, it was to Coventry he first brought his army, which the city chronicler described as 30,000 strong (such estimations are suspected, and in some cases proven, to be heavily exaggerated) . It was Edward's turn to flee the country. By 1471 Coventry soldiers were demanding 12d. a day and city collectors were having difficulties raising contributions to cover the costs.

Now it was Warwick who was to be the beneficiary of a contingent from the city (again 40 men), purportedly for a two-month expedition to Flanders, although the distribution of ordnance to men charged with defending the city gates suggests that the real intent was to resist the inevitable return of Edward and his supporters. The supposed expedition never took place, but the invasion by Edward did. When his army appeared before the city gates, Warwick (hoping for reinforcements to an already strong garrison) refused to come out and fight; the Yorkists lacked the resources and opportunity for a prolonged siege and after a few days withdrew. They returned later, but still Warwick stayed within the safety of Coventry's walls, which were relatively new; and evidently well-maintained, even if the circuit was not yet complete; again the Yorkists had neither the time nor the expendable manpower to waste in a siege, and they set off to take possession of London. Warwick had neglected to provide sufficiently for London's defence and was forced to pursue; he was accompanied by 20 foot-soldiers and 20 horsemen supplied by the Coventry authorities. They were presumably with the earl at his final defeat at Barnet.

We cannot easily tell whether Coventry genuinely favoured Warwick (or, rather, the Lancastrian horse he backed at the end), or simply felt it had no choice but to provide him with support. It now sought to win its way back into Edward's good graces with a loan of money and a modest contingent of troops, who may have participated in the defeat of the remaining Lancastrian forces at Tewkesbury (1471). Edward's anger over the protection Warwick had found in Coventry was not to be quelled so easily. As had happened earlier with Leicester, the city's liberties were suspended, and £200 had to be paid to have them restored and a royal pardon issued to the citizens. That Lancastrian sympathies continued to flourish amongst some in the city is suggested by royal letters in February and December 1472 ordering that inhabitants be prevented from wearing liveries of other lords, that anyone spreading seditious rumours was to be reported to the king, and that those refusing to pay the king's taxes or otherwise resisting authority were to be imprisoned and sent before the king.

Although the years that followed were fortunately quieter, the city authorities' approach of trying to keep in with both sides continued up to 1485, when troops were sent to aid Richard III at Bosworth, but Henry VII was given a princely welcome into the city shortly after his victory there.

York too had aided the Kingmaker during his period of dominance, having earlier provided support to the Lancastrians. After 1471, however, when the Duke of Gloucester had command in the north, the city looked to him for good lordship and loyally provided him with troops on several occasions.

Loyalties, leadership, and recruitment

The Wars of the Roses were primarily a conflict within the aristocratic warrior class. Particular townsmen could be implicated because of personal feelings or loyalties stemming from bastard feudalism – many borough ordinances of this period (echoing national statute) urged their citizens not to accept livery from any lord, nor place any outside interests before those of their town – and at times the community as a whole could be aroused to express support for one party or another, such as after the second battle of St. Albans (1461) when the Londoners, disgusted with the rapacious behaviour (or at least rumours thereof) of Queen Margaret's army of northerners and fearing themselves next in line, closed their gates against it, and instead allowed the earls of March and Warwick entrance. But overall the corporate policy was (not explicitly, but evidently) to avoid making a long-term enemy of whoever was going to govern the country. It is not easy to say whether particular towns had any sincere and long-standing sympathies with one faction or another; they bent with the wind, keeping local best interests in the forefront, although occasionally we see indications of divided loyalties within the urban ruling class. Although Coventry offered lavish hospitality to Henry VI and his queen before there was open warfare, it expected that cultivating the relationship would work to its benefit. Nonetheless, in February 1460 Henry had cause to complain that there were those in Coventry who favoured his enemies and were spreading disaffection in the city.

In such conditions of uncertainty, it was wise to keep in touch with both sides (as Leicester had done in 1322) and to seek reliable information regarding any rumours or unofficial reports that came in, so as to know which side had the upper hand or had forces active in the region. For example, the financial account of the bailiffs of Shrewsbury in 1459 includes several payments to representatives despatched:

  • to try to verify rumours about hostilities between the king and the duke of York;
  • to find out more about a reported battle at which the earl of Salisbury's forces had killed many opponents, and ascertain where he was headed next;
  • to speak to the king at Nottingham and bring back his written instructions;
  • to take letters to the duke of York and bring back his response;
  • to gather information from various places concerning the confrontation at Worcester between the king and his enemies.

The nervousness of Shrewsbury authorities is also evidenced by expenditures on repairs and improvements to the walls and gates, and arrangements for watches at the latter. To commit too heavily to the losing side could bring penalties. Having gathered their intelligence, the Shrewsbury authorities sent 61 soldiers to Henry VI's aid at Northampton, although the wages paid out suggest they may not have stayed there long enough to participate in the Lancastrian defeat the following year.

Despite the medieval tradition of military leadership from the nobility, towns – preferring to be as free of seigneurial control as possible – tended to seek captains for their troops elsewhere. While London, in the period after and perhaps before the Conquest, looked to noblemen for this, during the Late Middle Ages towns mostly rejected such entanglements. Although we do occasionally find members of the gentry involved with urban military affairs, captaincy of local troops was more likely to be given over to the more appropriate borough officials, such as constables (e.g. Norwich, sheriffs (e.g. Nottingham, see above), aldermen or sergeants (e.g. York). Coventry's captain William Tybaud appears to fall into the last of those categories, if we may identify him with the William Tibottes who was in the post of sword-bearer by 1455 (when his salary was raised) and still therein in 1480; it looks to have been an appointment for life. Presumably such were chosen because men whose ability (perhaps particularly in terms of strength or fighting prowess and force of personality) and reliability were known. They could be trusted, better than an outsider, to have the best interests of their town in mind; this included keeping the troops under control and ensuring their behaviour did not discredit the town. When, in 1470, Coventry sent a contingent to aid Edward IV, under the command of the mayor's sergeant, William Shyppey, the soldiers were required to swear an oath to obey their captain and not to quarrel amongst themselves.

From about the mid-fourteenth century, the Crown was increasingly relying, for troops for overseas service, on contracts with captains commissioned to recruit mercenary companies in England; and in the fifteenth this was applied to forces required for civil war, with the development that many captains were indentured retainers of the leading nobles, whose duties included the recruitment of retinues for military service. In 1480 the Coventry authorities were approached by a Sir Thomas Everyngham. who was putting together a thousand-man company to fight in Burgundy; he wanted to recruit some of these from Coventry: servants wishing to leave their employ (regardless of the wishes of their masters) as well as men imprisoned for debt or as disturbers of the peace unable to put up bonds for good behaviour. But because Sir Thomas had no supporting documentation, and because uncertain whether it was sensible to allow so many to leave at a time when relations with Scotland were worsening, the mayor wrote to the king's council for guidance. The city authorities had reason to be cautious. In July 1469, Edward IV, faced by a rebellion among his former supporters in the north, issued commissions of array, including to Coventry, from which he requested 100 archers. A day after his letter arrived at the city, another came from the Earl of Warwick, asking for as many men as they could raise – ostensibly to take them to the king, but more likely to join up with the rebels, with whom Warwick was in league. A second from Edward, a few days later, suggests he suspected Warwick's duplicity, for he ordered the Coventry authorities not to allow any of the citizens to join any force except under orders that bore his personal signature or one of his seals. In 1480, however, the king's reply vouched for Sir Thomas and asked the authorities to assist him in finding capable archers and foot-soldiers, but excluding felons or convicted criminals from the pool of candidates.

This shift did not completely undermine the value of local levies. Calling on regional and local communities to supply troops was a long-established and well-understood system; with the Crown unable to afford a standing army, this system persisted throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. But commissions of array and even requests or demands for troops made directly by royal letter, could prove a slow and unreliable process; even in the case of communities that responded positively, raising, outfitting, and despatching forces took time, and troops on the road might be tardy. Yet, while townsmen may not have been the best troops available, if they answered your summons, at least they were not with your enemy. The downside of a military recruitment system reliant, at least partially, on community levies – which entailed mandatory possession of arms and armour, martial sports, and periodic musters and militaristic parades – was that it fostered a culture of combat, placed ample weaponry at street level, and gave scope for private disputes or public discontent to be vented through armed violence or uprising. In doing so it placed more strain on the administration of the Peace.



Of Leicestershire. His intrusion into town affairs was a little irregular, but the king could hardly rely on the lord of the borough to raise troops for him.

"between two ages"
Normally, sixteen and sixty.

"reputable men"
Probably referring to members of the town council (known as jurats), likely including the four named companions: Alsy was mayor on several occasions between 1309-38; a William le Palmere had served as mayor 1299-1301 and 1303/04, while William le Palmer junior was one of the town's parliamentary representatives in 1318.

The original has allegaret, which Mrs. Bateson translates as "let off" as if it were allevaret. She may be correct that a scribal slip has occurred, but the general gist of the record seems to be that the mayor was attempting to enlist influential supporters to persuade the king to accept a 50-man contingent. The concessione for which the sheriff and his deputy were given a gratuity (such things being so common in greasing the wheels of medieval administration that we should avoid the temptation to apply modern standards and call it a bribe – note the presence of witnesses) was not reducing the contingent, but agreeing to recommend – the reduction to the king. The sheriff probably had some leeway to negotiate, but his commission was clear enough, and any reduction doubtless required the king's confirmation.

"John de Sadington"
A townsman, who entered the gild merchant (equivalent to becoming a citizen) ca.1293, but why his influence was considered valuable, I cannot say.

"Walter de Busceby"
He held the office of town bailiff for a good part of Edward II's reign, was mayor in 1313/14, and parliamentary representative in May 1322 and November 1323. Doubtless also one of the jurats.

Officer in charge of a troop of 20 soldiers. In this case, clearly each group of twenty included the vintenar and 19 others. The money each was paid was to cover the wages and living expenses of the troop for two weeks in the field. Evidently the vintenars were to receive 6d a day, the mounted men 5½d (to cover the hire of their horses), and the other soldiers, 4d. The third, smaller group of soldiers did not qualify as a full troop, and its leader was allowed only 5d. a day. The constable acted as the company captain, receiving an allowance of 6d. a day. According to C.M. Fraser [Northern Petitions, Surtees Society, vol.194 (1981), 63] in 1320 the normal wage of a lightly-armed soldier in royal service was 6d. a day, while a captain received double that; local communities were probably not expected to pay as much, and would certainly have wanted to keep the wages as low as possible.

"Henry Merlin"
A trusted member of the community, who served as its parliamentary representative in 1326 and 1332, and mayor 1330-32. .

Each section would have had its own pennon, judging from comparable situations at London and Norwich.

A mail shirt (or sometimes, usually at a later period, a leather coat with metal scales sewn on) that might extend down almost as far as the knees.

Solid metal pieces of armour used at this period to reinforce protection from mail, padded cloth, or leather armour; often referred to as coming in pairs, perhaps referring to a cloth over-garment to which two (or more) plates were attached.

"the caps and their linings"
The original refers to pavelionibus et copertura. I am surmising here that the pavelio may have been the cap part of the helmet, and that covering refers to the inner cloth padding.

A common type of helmet; the metal parts may refer to the side and back extensions to protect the lower head and neck.

"nails and nailing"
Presumably related to the method of fixing the plates onto other armour; we should perhaps think more in terms of rivets.

Not at this period plate iron gloves, but probably padded cloth or leather, perhaps with a mail covering.

A padded cloth undergarment that might itself be used as 'soft armour', or over which mail armour might be worn or to which plates could be attached.

A type of horse suitable for carrying a soldier to and from the field; not a war-horse.

Mrs. Bateson interprets courtepiis as peajackets, which were long, thick jackets of worsted or coarse wool worn by sailors to shield them from the cold; but the term appears to have originated in the 18th century, and the style of the naval jacket does not look like something that would have been worn in the medieval period. However, "pea" is thought to derive from a Dutch term for a type of felt cloth, so perhaps Bateson was on target. At any rate, it is credible that courtepiis were some kind of short tunic or overcoat serving as a uniform. Although the items related to the jacket might indicate that some were second-hand (the town authorities had such jackets made for the archers sent to aid the earl in 1312, and some of these might have survived to 1322), the reference to repairs may have meant the sewing together of the pattern pieces, while the silk and sendal could have been for the lining.

A heavy-woven fabric of linen warp and cotton weft.

A material similar to muslin, probably used because its weight would give a pennon some shape.

At accounting time the expenses were said to total £7.6s.8d; they were covered by another local tax., which raised £9.6s.11d, part of the surplus going to pay off the debts from the military activity in March.

These officers had taken the place of the bailiffs when the city was given county status by royal charter of 1451.

These "brethren" were the senior advisors of the mayor, an inner but informal council made up of men who were ex-mayors or local justices of the peace, soon to be dignified by the title of aldermen. From about that time the 48 councillors, drawn from across the wards of the city, would be referred to as a common council.

A padded jacket serving as soft armour, as opposed to the jackets provided the Leicester troops in the previous century.

A type of light helmet, common at this period, incorporating a tail to protect the rear neck.

The original pensell means a small banner (pensile). The tartan would probably have used much the same colours as were in the captain's uniform. The spear-head was that at the tip of the lance from which the pennon flew.

According to W.H. Stevenson, a cloth named after its original place of manufacture, being Montivilliers in France (called Mouster Villers by Froissart); colour uncertain, although this kind of cloth was known to come in russet and grey. Harris was less certain that this was the origin of the term, but described it as a coarse,woollen cloth. Note that moustre can also mean pattern.

The original has bendes, which probably means bands or stripes. It was not uncommon for soldiers to wear some kind of coloured sash, to identify their affiliation; they were presumably worn diagonally around the torso, supported by the shoulder, in the fashion worn, as late as the mid-twentieth century, by schoolboys participating in team sports.

"William Trussel"
The family of William Trussel was staunchly Lancastrian, several members of that generation supporting the earl against the king. Sir William's seat was at Great Peatling, Leicestershire, and he had earlier served a term as the county sheriff. Having survived the fight at Boroughbridge, he fled abroad, but later returned to serve the next earl.

"battle of Boroughbridge"
An early instance of the successful use of a strategy later to become standard to the English military: the combination of archers and dismounted soldiery to deplete enemy forces and counteract cavalry.

"not have sufficed"
At the risk of over-generalizing, troops summoned to defend the realm against invaders were to be funded by their community, while those to go on foreign campaigns were to be paid by the king (at least from the time they had left their county or had joined up with the army). However, this was a contentious issue, with both sides trying to offload responsibility onto the other; the matter of wages during civil wars fought on English soil was something of a grey area.

"castle there"
Leicester castle was one of those built in the years immediately following the Conquest, as part of William I's policy of cowing key centres of population (and potential resistance). In due course it came into the hands of the first earl of Leicester, whose son and successor is the likeliest candidate for whoever rebuilt the castle in stone, around the middle of the twelfth century. Edward II would have stayed there when he came to Leicester. By the time of a later earl, John of Gaunt, it was more important as a residence and administrative centre than as a fortress.

"supply on-hand"
For example, in 1488 an inventory of military equipment stored by the town of Reading included 4 sets of brigandines (body armour comprising overlapping small metal plates riveted to an outer covering of cloth – in the case of Reading, fustian, some black and one russet), one jack, 4 sallets, 2 pairs of gussets (mail attached to a doublet to protect the upper arm and armpit), 2 aprons, 3 standards, 1 pair of splints, 1 bill, and 2 sheaves of arrows. Perhaps such equipment was kept on hand in case town sergeants ever had to be armed.

"tactical necessity"
Soldiers had a certain clothing entitlement, in addition to wages, but it is not clear if this was solely an obligation of the king, or whether local authorities shared in it.

"archers and men-at-arms"
24 of the former, each given £1 for wages and expenses, and 3 of the latter, each given £2. It appears that the mayor advanced the soldiers these sums (either from the city treasury or his own purse), with the help of modest donations (totalling 15s.4d) from a handful of other citizens, and the remainder was recouped from a tax assessed across the aldermanries. Since the list of soldiers and the lists of those taxed are recorded, we can note that the former were not among the latter: the principle evidently being that some contributed to defence through service and some through cash, which may have favoured the wealthier citizens in terms of avoidance of military service. In both 1405 and 1407 city soldiers were serving the king in Wales. In 1451 the city council agreed to supply him, for the defence of Calais, with 50 spearmen and 24 archers, serving for 40 days at city expense. The threat to Calais lessening, it appears this force was never sent. In the following year a force of 20 soldiers was raised to accompany the earl of Shrewsbury into Aquitaine; on that occasion the advance payment of the "mercenaries", as they were described, was explicitly made from the city treasury and recovered from select citizens via contributions described in so vague a fashion that it is not clear if they were donations or taxes.

"Tower was besieged"
When a Yorkist army advanced on the city, a Lancastrian force invested the Tower, hoping to prevent a complete Yorkist takeover. The defenders' guns pounded the city, civilians being injured in the streets, while the Yorkists, perhaps aided by city militia, laid siege, doing some damage to fortress walls with their own cannon, situated on the south bank of the Thames. With supplies and hope for a relief force running out, the Lancastrians negotiated a surrender.

"take the city by force"
The Bastard of Fauconberg, a kinsman of Warwick, took the late earl's fleet up the Thames to Southwark and, aided by levies from Kent and Essex, sought to enter London; some of the levies, which probably included contingents from towns in those shires, were described as reluctant conscripts, but others appear to have had grudges against London that arose from its economic dominance. When the city authorities – doubtless recalling the havoc that Cade's Kentish rebels had caused in the city some twenty years earlier – refused to let this force, several thousand strong, through the gates. This was not usual policy, but news had come of Edward IV's victory at Tewkesbury, so to allow Fauconberg in to attempt to free Henry VI from the Tower would have put London in the middle of conflict. Fauconberg tried various ways to break into the city. He first sought to force his way across London Bridge, burning down its southern gate, but this modest success did not further his goal. He toyed with seizing Westminster and London's western suburb; some of the Tower's garrison were sent to hold the Kingston bridge against him. He disembarked cannon from his ships anchored off Southwark, and commenced a bombardment of the city; city guns returned fire and had the better of the exchange. Finally, he launched another assault on London Bridge, and at the same time had 3,000 of his troops ferried across the Thames to near the Tower, where they divided into two forces that tried to break into the city via Aldgate and Bishopsgate. On the bridge, whose houses were set afire, Fauconberg's men were driven back by artillery at the city end. At the two other locations, although the wooden gates were burned, the defenders – a mix of city militiamen and the retinue of the earl of Essex – successfully defended the walls, and the Tower garrison made a sally that was able to drive off Aldgate's attackers. Fauconberg withdrew and his levies dispersed. London's mayor, recorder and some aldermen were knighted by Edward IV for their staunch resistance.

"attention to defensive arrangements"
Cade's rebellion, which was not entirely independent of the dynastic contest, was also a motivation. Extensions and improvements were made to the walls and gates, including the installation of portcullises; orders were repeatedly issued for cleaning out the city ditches; iron chains were to be hung across the ends of various streets; gatekeepers were appointed and orders issued for keeping the gates locked overnight; guards were provided for the gates and the night-watch re-organized. A Bristol brasier was commissioned to manufacture four cannon (two serpentines, and two smaller guns), bring them to Coventry and supervise their testing, while wooden frames were made locally to hold the larger pair; ammunition, in the form of a dozen metal "pellets" for each pair of guns, and a barrel of gunpowder were purchased; the chamberlains were given safe-keeping of the key to the tower in which the ordnance was kept. Such guns were anti-personnel artillery.

"matters of defence"
With King Edward's hold on the throne looking tenuous, six or seven "captains" were appointed for each city ward to take charge of the populace, and arms (including cannon and hand-guns) and soft armour were parcelled out to the gates, for use by their defenders.

"12d. a day"
This was the same rate of pay that York's contingent to Bosworth received – twice the rate paid a few years earlier – and York had been experiencing some difficulty from its recruits. such problems experienced at Coventry and York were not isolated and may reflect impatience with repeated demands and a growing reluctance to participate in a conflict which looked to be unending; Richard III's defeat owed as much to the troops that failed to show up as to those that did. On the other hand, this may represent dissatisfaction with a reduction in the profitability of soldiering. Wages were primarily intended to cover living expenses of soldiers; their profit margin came from plunder, which was acceptable in foreign wars. But in civil war it was bad public relations to let your troops pillage and most commanders tried to prevent it. Soldiers may have felt the need to compensate by asking higher wages.

Not cavalry, but infantry or archers mounted to give speed and mobility to deploy (or flee) and leave them less tired to fight. But to fight they dismounted. Light horse troops were also used as scouts and messengers, as well as to guard the flanks of marching infantry, but it is unlikely that such were among Coventry's horsemen.

"Particular townsmen could be implicated"
For instance, London mercer John Harowe helped Yorkists with their siege of the Tower in 1460 (see above), and was killed alongside the Duke of York at Wakefield later that year. And Nicholas Hervy, who served as recorder for Bristol in the 1460s (although his estates were in southern and south-western England), died fighting for the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury. Nicholas Faunt, elected mayor of Canterbury in 1470, towards the end of his term assisted in Fauconberg's rebellion, leading over 100 city troops to join him and raising funds or supplies from other citizens; for this complicity, the city's liberties were seized and Faunt hanged for treason at the end of May 1471.

"divided loyalties"
Faunt's aid to Fauconberg looks to be genuine sympathy for the Lancastrian cause, rather than coerced support, yet his fellow citizens were not unanimously behind him. Canterbury sent 34 men to join Edward IV's army going against the Lincolnshire rebels in 1470, but when Fauconberg was gathering his forces for the assault on London, he received hospitality at Canterbury and, either before or after that occasion, Faunt and his right-hand man, Walter Hopton, had been to Sandwich where Fauconberg's fleet was assembled; Faunt appears to have taken direct control over the city watch at this time. He personally commanded the Canterbury contingent that went to London. When he was arrested after Fauconberg's withdrawal, in his purse was found a list of names of those Canterbury citizens he considered sympathetic to the cause. This was returned to the city, where the authorities had a copy made and taken, by citizens assumed to be Yorkists, to Edward IV, so that the city's Lancastrians could be identified and punished. And the former had a number of cloth badges, in the form of a white rose, made (presumably to be worn by city officials) as a visual symbol of the city's new commitment to King Edward.

When explaining to Fauconberg why they would not let his forces enter the city, the London authorities advised him of the Lancastrian defeats at Barnet and Tewkesbury; they had not only received letters from King Edward to that effect, but had reports from observers they had specially despatched to ascertain the outcome of Tewkesbury.

"members of the gentry"
For instance, York's master of ordnance in the 1480s had the status of gentleman, while in January 1461, Henry VI's request to Norwich for troops was to be answered with 120 men (at 6d a day each) captained by William Rokewode esquire (although the city constables remained responsible for mustering the citizens for view of arms).

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Created: December 31, 2007. Last update: January 6, 2019 © Stephen Alsford, 2019