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Armed forces of England at the end of XVI beginning of the 17th centuries


V.Yu. Bikunov

ARMED FORCES of ENGLAND at the end of XVI - the BEGINNING of the 17th CENTURY

Work is presented by department of ancient history, the Middle Ages and archeology

Penza state pedagogical university of V.G. Belinsky.

The research supervisor — the doctor of historical sciences, professor V.P. Mitrofanov

In article features of armed forces of England in the period of the end of XVI — the beginning of the 17th century are considered; data on total number of troops and the fleet which England and also the countries given about the internal and foreign military contingents had are provided.

V. Bikunov


Features of the armed forces of England in the late 16th — early 17th centuries are considered in the article. The author presents the data on the strength of troops and fleet of England as well as on internal and foreign military contingents of the country.

One of tasks of this article is in showing features of management of the English armed forces of the specified period. The practical importance will consist in the analysis of efficiency of the specific organization of armed forces of England.

Other important task is the proof of that fact that "army" we do not accept the term which is often used in domestic and foreign literature for this period of the English history. Really, in many works devoted to various aspects of military science of England by HU1 — HU11 of centuries constantly slips a word "army". But in the meantime it is accepted to understand the constant military contingent guarding the country as this term. In a domestic historiography the absence of standing army in England of the considered time is considered one of features of the English absolutism. Therefore lawful will not use the term which does not capture the essence of the military organization of the English kingdom. Because the standing army of a new sample will be created only at Oliver Cromwell.

During this period the armed forces played a significant role in the political history of the country. As it is known that England became the great European power, but nevertheless the royalty did not ask about creation of standing army. Still armed forces in case of military need gathered partially feudal obligation or mobilization, and partially recruitment of volunteers. When need for military groups disappeared, they were immediately dismissed. The county militias submitting to Lord Leytenant were engaged in protection of local community and counties. Their structure depended substantially on constables of hundreds and districts. They were engaged in the organization of the subordinates, controlled internal discipline, had to train recruits.

Sources demonstrate that besides the soldiers who are within the country England had also the foreign military contingents. So, by data from 1585 po1602, it is possible to present the following picture (tab. 1):

Armed forces of England at the end of XVI — the beginning of the 17th century

Thus, the number of soldiers varied from year to year. There was it depending on the going foreign policy conflicts and the general political situation in regions. Most distinctly this moment is traced on the example of the Netherlands and Ireland. So, in the Netherlands the number of troops decreased from 7500 to 3300 people. In Ireland we see absolutely other picture. Here the military contingent increased with 4200 in 1590, to 12,620 in 1601. Obviously, it is connected with actions of the English troops for suppression of the Irish revolt.

From each county of England there were appointments of soldiers in foreign garrisons, and similar figures allow to look at structure of military connections more clearly. Let's note that the city of London is given in a source along with counties (tab. 2):

Table 2

The foreign troops provided by the English counties [2, river 291]

County Ireland France Netherlands Total number

Bedfordshire 419 250 600 1269

Berkshire 469 480 675 1624

Buckinghamshire 636 380 675 1691

Cambridgeshire 572 150 450 1172

Cheshire 902 — 150 1052

Cornwall 595 350 — 945

Cumbria — — — —

Derbyshire 773 75 848

Devon 1499 750 150 2390

Dorset 470 600 260 1330

Durham — — — —

Essex 1199 800 1100 3099

Gloucestershire 1692 500 400 2592

Hampshire 641 1400 525 2566

Hereford 1110 — 300 1410

Gantingdon 398 150 50 598

Kent 750 2250 1600 4600

Lancashire 1346 — 300 1646

Leicestershire 547 150 697

Lincolnshire 1345 300 300 1945

London 1600 4420 3495 9515

Midlessex 195 250 600 1045

Table 1

The foreign military contingents of England during 1585-1602 [2, river 290]

Year Total number Residence

1585 7500 Netherlands
1586 4870 Netherlands
1587 4800 Netherlands
1588 6000 Portugal
1589 4850 France
1590 4250 Ireland
1591 8425 France and Netherlands
1592 2490 France
1593 3025 France
1594 4800 France and Netherlands
1595 1806 Ireland
1596 8940 Kadiv and Ireland
1597 8835 Ireland and Azora
1598 9164 Ireland and Netherlands
1599 5250 Ireland
1600 4885 Ireland
1601 12620 Ireland
1602 3300 Netherlands

it is scarlet, the military contingent gathered only for military reviews or during the military campaigns. In peace time the military groups were dismissed. In the period of the end of XVI — the beginning of the 17th century the fleet was the powerful instrument of influence of England on foreign policy. It

image, armed forces of England of the considered period potentially were the effective tool on protection of the country against external aggression and at the same time very essential power argument in foreign policy of the English monarchy.


1. Nathaniel Bacon Supplementary Stiffkey papers. Camden, 3rd series, Camden miscellany, Vol. XXVI Ed. by Brooks, F. W. L., Royal Historical Society, 1936.
2. Cruickshank Ch. Elizabeth&s Army. Oxford University Press, 1968. 328 p.
3. Maitland F. W. The Constitutional History of England 1955. C.U.P. 576 p.
4. The State of England, anno Dom. 1600 by Thomas Wilson//Camden miscellany. Vol. XVI / / Camden Society publications, 3rd series ed. by F. J. Fisher, L., 1936.
Marjorie Stewart
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