Armies, Recruiting of

   Because fifteenth-century England had no standing armies,WARS OF THE ROSES military forces had to be raised anew each time a campaign was undertaken. Surviving records, although fragmentary, indicate that these armies mainly comprised contingents of RETAINERS that the PEERAGE and GENTRY supplied to the king or party leader they supported, groups of tenants who held land of the peer or gentleman who called them to take arms on behalf of his party, and bodies of men who were summoned to service by official COMMISSIONS OF ARRAY, which the party in power used to mobilize the local county and town militias.
   The best-documented armies of the fifteenth century are not civil war forces, but the armies English kings raised for overseas expeditions, such as the force EDWARD IV recruited for his invasion of FRANCE in 1475. Composed of almost 200 contingents provided by noblemen or gentlemen who had contracted with the king to supply specific numbers and kinds of troops, this expeditionary force was an army of indentured retainers, men who had contracted to supply paid military service to a lord so he could, in turn, fulfill his contract (or indenture) with the king. For example, Sir Richard TUNSTALL contracted to provide 10 spears and 100 archers to serve for one year. Civil war armies were probably raised in a similar fashion. In 1455, Humphrey STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, paid ninety men 6s 8d per head to serve with the royal army at the Battle of ST. ALBANS. These wages were likely based on the rates the king paid to the contingent leaders with whom he contracted. Because we know that in the 1450s Buckingham had less than 130 paid retainers, including serving women and nonmilitary household officers, his 1455 contingent of ninety men was clearly recruited from other sources. A wealthy landed noble like Buckingham, and powerful noble families like the Nevilles and the Percies, had extensive territorial influence that gave them a wide network or AFFINITY of political and military support on which to draw. Such magnates could summon their tenant farmers to service, as the Percy family did during the NEVILLE-PERCY FEUD of the 1450s. Of the 710 persons we know to have been part of the Percy army at the Battle of HEWORTH in 1453, the largest group (about 330) were Percy tenants.
   The last major method of recruitment was the issuance of commissions of array, whereby the party in power used its control of the government to call upon men to perform their public duty and assist their lawful king in defending the realm from invasion or rebellion. By law, the Crown could summon all ablebodied men between sixteen and sixty to serve for forty days at the expense of their town or county. During the Wars of the Roses, the question of who the lawful king was severely complicated the use of commissions of array. From 1458 to 1460, the Lancastrian regime of MARGARET OF ANJOU controlled the administrative machinery of government and issued commissions in the name of HENRY VI. Late in 1460, the ACT OF ACCORD made Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, heir to the throne and head of the government, allowing the duke to issue commissions in Henry’s name. However, the followers of Margaret either ignored these orders or employed them to raise troops that were eventually used to defeat and kill York at the Battle of WAKEFIELD. After March 1461, when there existed both a Lancastrian and a Yorkist monarch, counties and towns either sent troops to both armies or followed the allegiance of the most powerful local lord or noble family.
   Further Reading:
   - Boardman, Andrew W., The Medieval Soldier in the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1998);
   - Gillingham, John, The Wars of the Roses (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981);
   - Goodman, Anthony, The Wars of the Roses (New York: Dorset Press, 1981); Ross, Charles, The Wars of the Roses (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1987).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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