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"Livery Coats during the WOTR?" Topic

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Paskal Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2019 2:51 a.m. PST

Hello All,

What contingent of Shire Levy or Town Levy wore Livery Coats during the WOTR?

Thank you all

French Wargame Holidays10 Nov 2019 3:48 a.m. PST

I have listed a few on my blog



Paskal Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2019 3:52 a.m. PST

Yes it's a beginning:

Town contingents and militias Livery Coats colors:

1455 Coventry – green and red
1461 Rye – red

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2019 11:26 p.m. PST

In addition, has the Shire Levy always worn livery coats?

Green Tiger11 Nov 2019 1:42 a.m. PST

I looked into this a few years ago and I can't remember the details but I do recall that most known (or subjective) town liveries were red or red and something else- I was working on a theory that there were regional colours (say – midlands red, Yorkshire red and white, North-East Red and black, Wales Green and white) but didn't get very far with it.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2019 8:58 a.m. PST

It's interesting what you write and too good to be true …

On the other hand if the archers and the retinue and town levy billmen were carrying livery coats, it was not the case for the shire levy, allied contingents and the mercenaries then how do you recognize them on a battlefield?

MajorB11 Nov 2019 11:20 a.m. PST

On the other hand if the archers and the retinue and town levy billmen were carrying livery coats, it was not the case for the shire levy, allied contingents and the mercenaries then how do you recognize them on a battlefield?

You don't.

To quote olicana on another thread:
"Mercenaries would march under flags provided by the employer. Livery probably wasn't part of the deal as the system of 'livery and maintenance' included political and legal (in its broadest sense) protection for the men who wore it – the protection that wearing livery endowed was the 'quasi-feudal' bargain struck in return for military service; mercenaries fought for money alone. The system of livery and maintenance is a complex subject and its broader implications have to be understood; it's not just a matter of wearing a uniform."

Yesthatphil11 Nov 2019 6:13 p.m. PST

In a similar vein, the flag carried by the Northampton militia bore a Wild Rat on it!

We don't really know what it looked like but there's some scope to speculate.

SoA Shows North
Northamptonshire Battlefields Society

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2019 1:17 a.m. PST

In the WOTR, apart from M.A.A., who does not wear a livery coat and in this case how are they recognized by their "friends ","allies" and "employers"?

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2019 1:22 a.m. PST

In the WOTR, did the levy shire wear livery coat?

Apart from the retinue troops, it was not the Town contingents who wore them?

dapeters12 Nov 2019 8:53 a.m. PST

Paskal that was a problem and could end in causalities by "friendly Fire" and Contingents could get into conflict with each other on the same side.

Paskal Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2019 9:12 a.m. PST

Not to mention that all the soldiers did not have to know all the colors of the livery and all the badges …

Warspite117 Nov 2019 11:32 a.m. PST

@ French Wargames Holidays (Matt)
The livery list on your blog is my own as published in Hobilar. It was written by me for Hobilar. I know it is my list as it also contains my mistakes. For example I mistakenly noted Edward IV as murrey and blue. He was, of course, blue and murrey. Your list even copies my typing style and notes.

A new version will be sent to Hobilar in due course. You are welcome to quote that revised list but I would like (at least) a name credit for my current work.

Barry Slemmings – Hobilar, the journal of the Lance and Longbow Society

Warspite117 Nov 2019 12:08 p.m. PST

To answer your question, there was no set livery for the so-called 'shire levy'.
Such troops were actually raised under Commissions of Array and there is no guarantee that any livery was issued or worn. It is possible that whoever issued the Commission of Array might have supplied livery colours but, given the short duration of most Wars of the Roses campaigns, it is doubtful whether any troops had time to receive such colours and also doubtful how many of these troops actually made it to any battlefield at all. The roads were not good!

However it should be noted that the 'levy quality' rebel army at the Battle of Empingham (Losecoat Field) was displaying the colours of the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence but that was also a planned insurrection and not a hasty call-to-arms to meet an invasion.


During the periods when two kings were claiming the throne, Henry VI and Edward IV, both sides could issue such commissions or just straight demands in the king's name. I believe York at least received two such conflicting demands. What to do? If you support the loser it could bode badly for the town. Fines, loss of privileges, etc.
Well, if I was the city fathers or county sheriff I would scrape 50 or 60 men together, equip them, get them on the road to the area of the campaign,tell them to march SLOWLY and make sure they arrive the day after the battle. Then, go down on bended knee to the winning side and tell them your troops were marching to THEIR support and no-one else's!
Every one likes a winner.

I have 4 'Levy' units in my large 15mm WOTR army. Each is 36 figures strong on DBM-style bases and each is 50/50 bill and bow. In each unit I paint most as individuals and a few in a simple fake livery or two. In one unit two bases have two out of the three figures in the same livery while another three-figure base has a one-off livery. Looking at the unit as a whole you then see a hint of uniformity, in much the same way as early ACW units were formed of companies where each company was uniformed but did not match the company standing next to it.

For a levy unit's flag I use a cross of St.George in various sizes but if you wanted to do something non-national you could substitute a religious scene. One of my Welsh units carries an entirely faked 'St David's' flag showing a white dove as St.David was noted as performing miracles involving doves. You could also show the Virgin Mary or a Crucifixion scene if you wished. Troops from Durham might carry St Cuthbert, troops from Kent might carry St Thomas Becket.
Be aware that the cross of St David is NOT medieval and dates from the Victorian period. I checked!

Finally, a good emergency livery which WAS used was the use of bends. These were strips of coloured cloth worn over the shoulder like a school gym band to show scratch teams.
Examples here:



Edward IV is known to have used 'bendys' in 1461 while bends were later issued by the Lancastrians in the colours of the Prince of Wales, Henry's son Edward.

Note that the man in my photos may have his bend on the wrong shoulder, if strict laws of heraldry being followed.


Paskal Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2019 11:43 p.m. PST

Yes, it would seem that these wars physically concerned only the nobility and its retinue soldiers (the professional soldiers in fact) its foreign allies (fighters in livery costs in their national colors?)and the mercenaries (wearing which lvrées? ).

In conclusion if the shire levy is there it is when a king (or a very high lord) wanted it.

The non-professional fighters could also wear only the badge and not the livery?

But it's always the same, all that costs money then (then there had to be collateral damage in the battles) …

Warspite119 Nov 2019 3:41 p.m. PST

You are seeking exact answers where the evidence does not exist. The further you go back, the less evidence survives.

Lords and Retinues should have worn a livery and a badge.

Mercenaries probably wore a livery.

With the Commissions of Array shire levies anything is possible.
If… and I stress IF… there was time and money then some sort of livery might have been issued. Or they might have been issued with at least a coloured bend. There are a few records of bends or colours being distributed but not enough to establish a fixed rule.

When it comes to the more irregular troops use a little imagination, a little common sense and go with your gut instinct. In uniform terms think less ACW Union and more ACW Confederate, and late war Confederate at that. Perhaps one livery on some, another livery on some others and nothing but personal clothing for the rest.


Paskal Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2019 10:54 p.m. PST

Use a little imagination, a little common sense and instinctively, yes so now I think the allies and mercenaries, did not wear livery costs (who would have paid?) and as they were troops using a special weapon (crossbows, handguns and pikes for example) they were easy to recognize on a battlefield (the Irish also for other reasons) …

Now I told myself that to use the figures of "shire levy" without livery coats to do the French at Bosworth for example would be a good idea!

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