The Soldier’s Experience, c.1295 to c.1453
Paper by Andy King
Given at the Mortimer History Society Conference in Ludlow, on February 15, 2020
Abstract: The period c.1295 to c.1453 saw the kings of England engaging in prolonged wars, fighting campaigns in France, Scotland, Aquitaine, Wales, Ireland, Flanders, Spain, England (against Scottish and French invasion), and at sea. And at various times, permanent garrisons and standing forces were maintained in the Scottish Marches, Calais, Aquitaine, Normandy, Brittany and elsewhere. All of this inevitably required the service under arms of large numbers of men. This talk will explore the changing patterns of recruitment of these men, including different classes and types of soldier (principally knights and men-at-arms, and archers), as well as different types of service, in expeditions, at sea, and in garrisons. What were the motives that led, or compelled, men to serve under arms? How important were compulsion and obligation, pay and the profit motive, and ideals of chivalry and a sense of identity with the king’s wars? And what were the links between service for the English Crown, service in the mercenary companies and service on crusade?
The English Crown was one of the most bureaucratic governments in Christendom, and the extensive surviving records enable military careers to be traced in considerable detail. These can be used to trace how changing strategic imperatives led to changing patterns of military service – and the extent to which these constant demands helped to create a class of ‘professional’ soldiers who made their living by war.
Top Image: Lambeth Palace MS 6 fol. 243