Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Soldier in later Medieval England

The online database currently holds just under 90,000 service records. These are taken from muster rolls, housed in The National Archives (TNA), for the years 1369 - 1453.

Search Tips

You can search through each database field using the drop down box. Here are some tips:

You can look for exact matches, for instance typing John and searching in the First Name field will find all soldiers named John.

You can use fuzzy searching. To do this, type Jo* and search in the First Name field. This will give you all first names beginning Jo.

For people with a double barreled surname, for instance Fitz Alan, typing Fitz and searching the Surname field will bring up all those with surnames beginning Fitz.

Finally, on the search result page, clicking on the title of a column will sort the results via that field.

The site is here.

Initial notes

The count is of occurrences, not individuals.

57136 Archers, including
2910 identified as valleti/yeomen.
677 of the archers are distinguished as foot archers and 1620 as Armed Archers
198 crossbowmen, mustered for naval expeditions, keeping the sea and garrisons

26246 men-at-arms, (210 of these foot men-at-arms assigned to garrisons) including
6 Valleti/Yeomen
47 Gentlemen
8153 Esquires
1579 Knights
70 Bannerets
69 Barons
43 Earls
7 Dukes

I've also been looking for the Scot in English service that Froissart renders as "Sir John Assueton" who performed a notable deed at the barriers at the barriers at Noyon during the Knolles campaign of 1370-1371.

There are no men-at-arms in the rolls under the name John Seton or Swinton, but there are occurrences of men-at-arms listed as John Aschton, Asshton, or Aston, the last a knight mustered with a standing force in Scotland 1389-1390.

I find it rewarding to browse this site by muster roll. Go to a particular year, select one of the references and do a search on that reference. Then sort the result by membrane. You can then scroll through that muster by parchment. You will continually encounter small retinues, each on their own strip of parchment, often consisting of one or two men at arms and a handful of archers. More than once you encounter Chaucerian retinues with a knight, a squire with the same surname and a few archers.

Scribes differed in the details they recorded. Some note the social status of archers, and repeatedly record every archer as a yeoman or valettus. Others make no record of this detail.

Some record every man at arms below knightly rank as a squire. One parchment instead records each of these as a 'gentils hommez armez'. Yet others record some as squires, and others of unspecified status. An awkward category of men at arms who are not squires seems to be developing: scribes either squeeze them into the squire category, or describe them and squires both as “gentils hommez”, or leave their social status blank.

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