The Soldier in later Medieval England

Source Information

Muster database

The nominal data currently available by searching the online database is drawn from the muster rolls surviving in The National Archives (TNA) in Exchequer Accounts Various (E101).  These are working documents that would probably have been drawn up in advance of a campaign, and then annotated at least once, during a formal muster at the port of embarkation.  They represent mainly overseas expeditions as per the sample summarised below.

The process of raising armies in England was highly bureaucratic and driven by the Exchequer with their obsession for accounting for monies being spent.  Forces were raised by indenture (a contract), which specified size, rank, length and location of service. The expeditionary force was subject then subject to muster and review.  Thus the muster rolls themselves are annotated with soldiers who have not turned up for service or who have not 'passed muster', deaths, promotions and replacements.  Presently this level of detail is not shown on the online database.

A sample of sources covered:

Land expeditions:

1370 (to France under Sir Robert Knolles): 1 roll, multiple retinues
1373 (to France under the duke of Lancaster): 3 rolls, 3 retinues
1375 (to Brittany under the earl of Cambridge and duke of Brittany): 1 roll, 1 retinue
1380-81 (to Brittany under the earl of Buckingham): 2 rolls, 4 retinues
1384 (to Scotland under the duke of Lancaster): 1 roll, 1 retinue (+ large sub-retinues)
1400 (to Scotland under Henry IV): 2 rolls, multiple retinues
1405 (to Wales, projected under Prince Henry): 1 roll, 1 retinue
1415 (to France under Henry V): 28 rolls, multiple retinues
1417 (to France under Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester): 1 roll, multiple retinues
1420 (to France under Henry V): 1 roll, multiple retinues
1421 (to France under Henry V): 1 roll, multiple retinues
1441 (to France under Duke Richard of York): 2 roll, multiple retinues
1443 (to France under John, Duke of Somerset): 1 roll, multiple retinues
1449 (to France under Edmund, Duke of Somerset): 1 roll, multiple retinues

Naval expeditions:

1371 (under the earl of Hereford): 1 roll, 1 retinue
1372 (under Edward III): 16 rolls, 16 retinues
1373 (under the earl of Salisbury): 1 roll, 1 retinue
1374 (under Sir William de Neville + Sir Philip de Courtenay): 9 rolls, 9 retinues
1377-78 (under the earl of Buckingham): 7 rolls, 7 retinues
1378 (under the earl of Arundel and duke of Lancaster): 6 rolls, multiple retinues
1385 (under Sir Thomas Percy): 1 roll, 1 retinue
1387 (under the earl of Arundel): 2 rolls, multiple retinues
1388 (under the earl of Arundel): 1 roll, multiple retinues

1417 (under Sir Thomas Carew): 1 roll, multiple retinues
1418 (under the earl of Devon): 1 roll, 6 retinues

Protection database

This database contains letters of protection and powers of attorney granted and recorded on the Treaty (or French) Rolls (TNA C 76), Gascon rolls (TNA C61)  and Scottish Rolls (TNA C 71) for the years 1369-1453.  They represent a very different source to that available in the Muster roll database and should be treated with care.  They are both legal instruments that would be taken by soldiers, prior to undertaking military service.  However, they only demonstrate for the most part intention to serve, although protections were also sought by others going overseas or to Scotland, for instance in support of the armies as victuallers.  The letter of protection protected an individual from prosecution whilst serving overseas; and by a power of attorney an individual could appoint legal representatives to act on his behalf whilst absent.  For the reliability of this source for the campaigns of 1387-1388 see Adrian R Bell, War and the Soldier in the Fourteenth Century (Boydell, 2004), pp. 68-79; and for other discussion see Andrew Ayton, Knights and Warhorses: Military Service and the English Aristocracy under Edward III (Boydell, 1994), pp. 157-159 and Michael Prestwich, Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience (New Haven, 1996), pp. 109-110.