Fourteenth-Century Indenture of War

from Clifford J. Rogers (ed.), The Wars of Edward III: Sources and Interpretations (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999), by permission of the editor.

An Indenture of War, 1347. [Source: Maj. Gen. George Wrottesley, Crecy and Calais from the Original Records in the Public Record Office [Reprinted from the William Salt Archaeological Society] (London: Harrison and Sons, 1898), 192. Original in French.]

INTRODUCTION by Clifford J. Rogers:

In all his campaigns, Edward III formed the core of his army around the knights and esquires of his own household and the retinues of the magnates and bannerets (knights who had the right to lead retinues of other knights under their banner) who accompanied him, supplemented by archers and other troops arrayed from the towns and counties of England and Wales. The retinues of the lords, like the King's own household, were usually made up of a mix of men-at-arms and mounted archers in roughly equal numbers.

In total, eighty-eight men were listed in the records of the King's Wardrobe (the administrative department of the royal household which handled war-wages) as heads of retinues during 1346-7. The largest retinue was that of Henry of Lancaster, comprising 2 earls [himself and John of Kent, a minor], 11 bannerets, 193 knights, 512 esquires, 46 hobelars, and 612 mounted archers; the smallest was Sir Roger Lestraunge, who served as a retinue of one. Stafford's retinue, including himself and Sir Hugh, comprised 3 bannerets, 20 knights, 92 esquires, and 90 mounted archers, at 4s., 2s., 12d., and 6d. per day, respectively, the standard rates.

Heads of retinue operating independently of the King-- e.g. as captain of a garrison in Scotland, or King's Lieutenant in Gascony or Brittany--- often secured contracts or "letters of indenture" specifying their term of service, rate of pay and benefits, etc. The King rarely if ever provided such indentures for those serving personally with him, but nonetheless many soldiers in the royal host would be operating under letters of indenture, for it was often the case that the heads of retinues agreed on letters of indenture with those serving under them, at least down to the level of bannerets. The following is a typical example.

This indenture, made between the noble men Sir Ralph, Baron Stafford, on the one hand, and Sir Hugh fitz Simon on the other hand, bears witness that the aforesaid Sir Hugh is to remain as a banneret with the aforesaid Sir Ralph, along with four knights and eight esquires, for one year following the date of this document, to go with the said Sir Ralph wherever he wishes to make war, receiving from the said Sir Ralph the customary wages, or else direct support at court, at the choice of Sir Ralph, which is to say for himself 4s., for each knight 2s., and for each esquire 12 d. per day, and for his fee for the entire year, 100 marks. And the aforesaid Sir Ralph promises that he will pay to the aforesaid Sir Hugh, before his departure across the sea, half of his fee, which is to say 50 marks, and his wages, as specified above, for a quarter of a year in advance. And in case the said Sir Ralph wishes that he shall have direct support at court, he, his knights, and his esquires and their chamberlains, as is specified above, shall get hay and oats and stabling for forty-five horses, and eight horses for baggage, and wages for their grooms. And Sir Ralph shall provide a mount for Sir Hugh, for his own person.

And in addition to the aforesaid, Sir Ralph promises that the great horses of the said Sir Hugh shall be appraised in the same fashion as his own great horses are by the King and his Council. And that the said Sir Ralph shall be bound to restore to the said Sir Hugh the loss of his said horses, thus appraised, if they should be lost in the service of the said Sir Ralph. And concerning the prisoners which may be taken by the aforesaid Hugh, or by his men, the aforesaid Sir Ralph shall have half the profits of their ransom, etc. In testimony whereof, etc. Written at London, the 16th of March, the year 21 Edward III [1347].