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"Early Military Organisation of Norman England" Topic


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244 hits since 30 Apr 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2018 10:00 p.m. PST

"In other words, although we seem after 1086 to find a classic system of landholding in which tenants hold land from barons and barons hold from the King, all owing military service rather than money and all bound together in a feudal ‘pyramid' with the King at its top and a broad array of knights at its base, this classical formulation had very little to do with the way that armies were actually raised, even as early as the 1090s. Money rents were already a factor in landholding, and what appear to be military units of land are often best regarded as simple fiscal responsibilities. William the Conqueror paid mercenaries to accompany him to England in 1066, and a mercenary or paid element made up a large element of the professional side of the King's army ever after. Knights' fees go entirely unmentioned in the Domesday survey, and the very first reference to the emergence of fixed quotas of knights owed by each of the major tenants-in-chief, in a writ supposedly sent by William I to the abbot of Evesham, occurs in what is almost certainly a later forgery concocted long after the events which it purports to describe.

In reality, we have no very clear evidence for the emergence of this quota system until the reign of Henry II, after 1154. We may assume its existence at an earlier date, not least because by 1135 it appears that the majority of the greater barons expected to answer for round numbers of knights, generally measured in units of ten, answering for twenty, fifty or sixty knights. That such quotas ever served in the field, however, or that they were used as the basis for levying taxation on barons who did not themselves serve, remains unproved until the 1150s. One scenario, rather likelier than the traditional presentation of such things, is that barons and the greater churchmen answered for fixed numbers of knights to the King, and were responsible for ensuring that a certain number of men turned up in their retinues whenever summoned, if necessary by paying mercenaries to make up their ‘quotas'. This would explain why lists of such ‘quotas' begin to appear in monastic records, for example at Canterbury by the 1090s and why the King had cause to complain, again at Canterbury in the 1090s, not of the quantity but of the poor quality of the knight service that was being supplied. Only at a later date, and only really with nationwide effect from the 1150s, did kings begin to charge a tax (known as ‘scutage' or ‘shield money') on barons who failed to supply the requisite quota of knights, arranging for this money to be paid to fully professional mercenary soldiers rather than have the baron make up his service by paying any old rag-tag or bobtail retainer…."
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