From Extracts, Describing the Ancient Manner of Placing the Kingdom in Military Array; The Various Modes of Defence Adopted for its Safety in Periods of Danger; and The Evidence of Foreigners as to the National Character and Personal Bravery of the English. Taken from Original State Papers of the Sixteenth Century Collected on the Continent, and hitherto Inedited. Anonymous [Rev. William Gunn], London: W. Bulmer and Co., 1803: pp. 2-6; 28-33.
RELATION4 of the Magnifico Messer Daniel Barbaro,5 describing the Kingdoms and Countries of England and Scotland, read before the Doge and Senate of the Republic of Venice, May 1551.
Incipit “Io ho considerate spesse volte.”
I NOW proceed to the military force and discipline of the English; and these are established on the ancient usages of the realm. England is divided into counties, over each of which presides a sheriff,6 an annual officer appointed by the sovereign, and the representative of his person. As soon as war is declared, the sheriff issues7 his commands to every subject capable of bearing arms, from the age of fifteen to forty. In consequence of this summons, they repair from the towns and villages to some open and convenient plain. Here they are met by officers, deputed for the occasion, called Arrayers,8 before whom they pass in review, each bearing those weapons to which he has been accustomed, and from these are chosen such as appear most robust and active. It must indeed be confessed, that in no part of the world are to be found men better proportioned, or more distinguished for the bravery with which they encounter fatigue and danger, than the soldiers of this country. Some of them are enrolled for infantry, others for cavalry. Those of the middle stature are selected for the latter, and are divided into two classes, the light and the heavy. The heavy are men at arms,9 and usually composed of gentlemen, whose circumstances enable them to supply good horses. The light admit of a subdivision, one of which is armed alla stradiotta;10 the others have  the body covered either with a corselet,11 or a jacket of canvas quilted with mail; the head is protected with a salet, and they bear a long light spear, from which they receive the denomination of demi-launces.12 The taller men compose the infantry, of which there are four divisions. Of these, the archers13 constitute the first and most important; for the English are in general so singularly attached to archery, and have carried this exercise to so high a degree of perfection, that there are instances upon record, of their bow-men having routed an army of thirty thousand persons. The second consists of bill-men;14 these bear a heavy, short kind of weapon, formed like the bill-hook of the peasants, but larger and more ponderous. With this they annoy the cavalry, striking and forcing the horseman from his saddle. The third division is composed of the arquebusiers,15 but these, for want of practice, excepting a few who have served on the continent, are esteemed of little importance. Both this, and the fourth class, consisting of pike-men,16 are late innovations in the martial discipline of this country. These four orders of militia comprise the land-forces, and make up an army of one hundred17 thousand effective men. Of these, twenty thousand consist of archers, twenty thousand of cavalry, about the same number, of men at arms, and the rest, of arquebusiers, pike-men, and other descriptions of infantry; but it seldom happens that this whole force is called into action at the same time; for if the king is at war with France, those on the northern borders of England never move, unless threatened with hostility from the Scotch, and those on the southern coasts of the island do not quit that station. On appearance of danger from different quarters, they divide their army into four parts, which they marshal under an equal number of commanders. The extraordinary exertions they have made on many occasions, and the success which has attended them, exhibit unquestionable proof, not only of the valour of the natives, but of the wisdom of their plans. I shall confine myself to a single instance: Henry the father of the reigning sovereign, at the age of twenty-one, had in his pay, in France and England, an army of sixty thousand men. He, at that time,  declared war against the former, crossed the sea and took Terouenne; having humbled his enemy, he returned, obtained a victory over the Scots, and killed their king,18 who in his absence had invaded his territories. At this juncture, he had six thousand archers in Spain, to assist Ferdinand in his expedition against Navarre; he also aided many other princes both with money and troops, and was besides in possession of one hundred armed vessels.
The military19 officers are the captain general, who is first in command; the second is the marshal, or, in his absence, the general; the next are the provost of the cavalry, the treasurer, the master of the cornets, the master of the artillery, the colonel, and many other officers. The army is divided into companies of one hundred men each; over these are placed a captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, and a serjeant.
War is formally declared by a herald, and, on taking the field, the encampment20 is protected by waggons, or by whatever else answers the purpose of impediment. If, however, the enemy be near, the more effectual defence of the army is promoted by throwing up intrenchments of earth. The guard of the cavalry is called the scout,21 that of the infantry the sentinel. Upon sudden alarm, from the approach of the enemy, the word Bows, bows! is echoed throughout the camp, as if all the hopes of security depended upon its efficacy. The men then rush into the plain of the encampment, where they wait the command of the officers.
As England, except where it borders on Scotland, is surrounded by the ocean, the naval strength required for its protection is consequently important. The sailors are brave and experienced, and are deservedly the boast of Britain. In seasons of great emergency, the king can collect five hundred ships; of these, more than one hundred are decked, and seventy are galleons, which are long, high, and heavy (and were used in the last war as transports); the rest are stipendiary vessels, engaged when occasion requires, and which, on the restoration of peace, are distributed among their respective owners. Gallies, not being calculated to resist the violent flux and reflux of the English seas, are, from that  circumstance, unknown; and I was informed by the Prior of Capua, who came with six vessels of that description for the Queen of Scotland, that the mode of navigating them is different from all others. In some parts, the surge rises to a height so tremendous, and with a velocity so irresistible, that nothing less than a miracle can protect the ships at that time approaching the coast. I will only add to this brief account of the military and naval force of the English, that the land-troops would be more respectable, if they were in the habit of being trained to arms before they are absolutely called into action; the happy effects of which are obvious in the navy. By the activity of the British seamen, the surrounding ocean is protected against the corsairs of Flanders, Brittany,22 and Scotland;23 and, bold and daring as are become these pirates, they never presume to offer any insult, or hazard any attack on the shores of this island. The principal fortresses are those which follow: Berwick on the north-east frontier of England, fortified24 after the modern style, and of which the works are still going on. It is not, in my opinion, of equal strength with the fortresses in Italy, nor, like them, is the plan on which it is constructed capable of equal resistance.
It is guarded by a colony of English long since established there, and garrisoned by one thousand men, well armed and well provisioned. The governor25 is of high rank; his guard consists of four hundred men, who are considered as his own servants, and who receive little emolument from the sovereign. He has, besides, two hundred launce-bearers. The next is Holy Island;26 a mere rock, but well fortified. During war, it is considered as the station of the admiral27 of the north sea, who has a certain number of vessels under his command. In peace, it is garrisoned by one captain and forty men only. From the eastern coast to Dover, there is no intervening fortress for which the king finds it necessary to incur any expense, the natives being always ready to perform their duty. Upon sudden emergencies, they spread the alarm by kindling fires on every eminence, and thus the country is immediately in arms. The castle of Dover derives its  strength from its elevated situation, which presents to the view a wonderful extent of ocean. Here are stationed a keeper, a commanding officer, and about one hundred soldiers. The town is situated at the bottom of the cliff, and, as the inhabitants themselves keep guard, this is the only force allowed by the state for the defence of both.
The Isle of Wight next offers itself, and maintains a governor, who, though considered as filling a post of great importance, is allowed but very few troops; for the peasantry, who are well supplied with arms and ammunition, compensate the deficiency. From Dover to the south-west point of Cornwall, a tract of three hundred miles, this is the only strong place that demands observation. On the western side of the island, there are some ports, as . . . . . . . and Chester, whence is a passage to Ireland, but no fortresses that require public expense; as they are voluntarily defended by the natives. Situated on the north-west frontier is the city of Carlisle, which is secured from the incursions of the Scotch by detachments of cavalry and infantry always stationed there for that purpose. The Isle of Man deserves to be mentioned; it has no artificial fortress, but depends for its safety on the exertions of the inhabitants, under the conduct of the most noble Earl of Derby.
Great sums of money have of late years been wasted in erecting fortifications, which, however have not answered. These have been burthensome to the community, and the foundation of popular discontent. After all, the great security of the kingdom exists in the valour of the natives, whose bravery is equalled only by the strict subordination they observe to their respective leaders.
4 By an ancient institution of the Republic of Venice, every ambassador, on his return, is bound to relate before the Doge and Senate, whatever appeared to him worthy of observation in that state he had been lately resident.
5 Daniel Barbaro lived from 1513 to 1584. (Bayle. et. Dict. hist.) There were, about this period, several of his family eminent for their talents and attainments; Daniel was the author of a treatise on eloquence, another on perspective, and of a translation of Vitruvius with a scientific commentary. His biographer asserts that he was three years ambassador to England; but a passage, in this relation, corrects that error, and limits the period to eighteen months. The editor has seen another copy of this relation in the library of the Corsini-Palace.
6 In the original, “Visconte del Re, fatto per un anno.” The reader is referred to Du Cange, Voc. Comes.
7 In this age, it was usual, as occasion required, for our kings to issue commissions of array, and to appoint officers in every county (arrayers), in whom they could confide, to muster and array, or set in military order, the inhabitants of every district. For though Lords Lieutenants of counties began to be introduced under Henry the Eighth, they were not then the standing representatives of the crown, to keep the counties in military order; for Camden (Brit. p. 103, edit. 1594.) speaks of them in the reign of Elizabeth, as extraordinary magistrates appointed in periods of danger only. At length the prevalence of these commissions of array caused the latter to fall into disuse.
8 “Magistrati militari.” When an army was to be raised either for foreign service, or to guard against invasions or domestic insurrections, the feudal tenants and the mass of the people, being assembled in their districts, were inspected by certain provincial officers, termed arrayers; two or more of whom considered sufficiently trusty and experienced, were commonly appointed by the king’s commission, for each county. It was their duty to see if able-bodied men were armed, and accoutred according to their station, and the nature of their service. — “Arraiator, qui disponit, ordinat, instruit. Gall. Mareshall de Camp., alias Arraitour.” (Du Cange.)
9 “Huomini d’ armi.” “Froissart calls them gens di armes, and at other times lances, from the spears or lances they bore.” (Strutt’s Manners, Vol. II. p. 33.) The men at arms derived that appellation from being completely armed cap-à- pied; they were chiefly composed of the tenants in capite, holding by military service, or their substitutes, sometimes called servientes. (Grose’s Milit. Hist. Vol. I. p. 101.)
10 From στρατιωτης — the light horse, natives of Albania, and the neighbouring provinces of Greece, who were stipendiaries to the Venetian state, and introduced into Italy, in the sixteenth century, are called by Guicciardini, Stradiotti. [Vocab. Della Crusca, Voc. Stradiotto.)
11 “Corselet,” perhaps, rather the brigantine jacket. This consisted of small laminæ of steel, so skilfully placed over each others, as to resist the point of the sword, or even a musket-ball, and yet so flexible as not to impede the motions of the body: they are shewn in the horse-armory in the Tower.
12 “Lanciette.” (See note 35.)
13 Bowyers were one of the ancient companies of London. A Bowyer living in that city was obliged to keep by him a store of bows, and to sell them at a certain price. The archers and the bill-men were, in the reigns of Henry the Seventh and Eighth, constantly intermixed with the gunners and pikemen. (Strutt’s Manners, &c. Vol. III. p. 8.) Our great and early conquests in France, were achieved by the consummate skill of the English archers. “No experience can say, that our bow-men ever beaten out of the field by the musket, says Patricius.” (Ibidem, Vol. II. p. 40.)
14 In the Italian Roncha, and the weapon Ronchetta. Among the spoils of the invincible armada, in the Tower, are shewn what are called the Spanish Ranceurs; they are of different forms, and were intended, either to kill the men on horseback, or pull them off their horses. The black, or as it is sometimes called, the brown bill, was a sort of halbert, the cutting part of which was hooked like a woodman’s bill, and from the back of which projected a spike, and another from the head. (Grose’s Milit. Antiq. Vol. I. p. 129.) Weapons of the staff-kind were very numerous, and their names only are to be found in accounts of arsenals, and casually in the works of ancient military writers, who do not describe their forms or dimensions.
15 The slow progress of the use of fire-arms, after the invention of gunpowder, is very remarkable; and it seems equally singular, that our laws for the encouragement of archery, were enacted subsequently to that discovery.
16 By the 4th and 5th, Chap. 2, of Philip and Mary, the pike-men were to be clad in corselets, and placed in the front and flanks of the battle, for the surer guard of the soldiers behind. The general use of the bayonet, at length, superseded that of the pike, and took place in this country either very late in the seventeenth or early in the eighteenth century.
17 “In the year 1575, (or twenty-four years after the date of this relation) the able-bodied men throughout England, amounted to 182,929, and the number of those in a constant capacity of acting, was 62,462, and of light horse, 2566.” (Campbell’s Lives of the Admirals, Vol. I. p. 432.)
18 James the Fourth, in the memorable battle of Flodden-Field, fought September the eighth, 1513. Henry the Eighth was not at this battle, as is here stated, which was gained under the Earl of Surrey, during the absence of his sovereign in his expedition against Terouenne. (Note 30.) On the 21st of September, he received the armour of the Scottish king, as a token of victory.
19 In a list of the officers which served at St. Quintius, 1557, the pay of the Captain-general for his own person is fixed at £5. 1s. 2d. a day, — that of Marshal, at £3. 6s. 8d. — of the Provost, £1. — of the Treasurer, £1. 6s. 8d. — the Master of the Ordnance, £1. 6s. 8d. — (Grose’s Milit. Antiqu. Vol. I. p. 339.)
20 Many interesting particulars respecting ancient castramentation, are to be found in the last quoted publication, Vol. II. from p. 211, to p. 229.
21 The pay of the scout-master was six shillings a day: his office is described at some length in Grose. (Milit. Antiq. Vol. I. p. 255 and p. 344.)
22 In that curious tract, “de Politia conservativa Maris,” preserved in Hukluyt’s Voyages, (Vol. I. p. 187,) and written probably, early in the reign of Edward the Fourth, the author exclaims against the piracies carried on by the inhabitants of the Duchy of Brittany, and against the outrages they committed on the English coasts, particularly  on the maritime towns of Norfolk. As this was done in the time of peace, Edward the Third remonstrated to the duke, who returned for answer, that these privateers belonged to St. Michael and St. Maloes, which, though in his dominions, were inhabited by a lawless race of people, over which he had no control. Upon which, Edward gave leave for fitting out privateers, to cruise upon the coasts of Brittany. This expedient soon answered his purpose, by bringing the subjects of the duke into such distress, that he was glad to answer for the good behaviour of those two lawless towns. (Campbell’s Lives of the Admirals, Vol. I. p. 314.)
The introduction to the tract above mentioned, shews of what importance it was conceived, at that early period, to preserve the superiority in the Channel: “Here beginneth the prologue of the libel of English policie, exhorting all England to keep the sea, and namely the narrow sea: shewing what profite commeth thereof, and also WHAT WORSHIP AND SALVATION TO ENGLAND, AND TO ALL ENGLISHMEN.”
23 The pirates of Scotland were long complained of, and their depredations arose to so high a pitch, that petitions were laid before the privy council, to obtain redress of these grievances, when the earl of Surrey (the father of the Admiral) said, “the narrow seas shall not be so infested, while I have enough to furnish a ship, or a son capable of commanding it.” Upon this, two ships were immediately fitted out by the two brothers, at their own, or at their father’s expense, and the evil was soon remedied. (Campbell, Vol. I. p. 360.)
24 Fortifications at Berwick had been carrying on in the reign of Edward the Sixth. (Ridpath, p. 574.) In a minute of Secretary Cecil, containing an account of the king’s debts in 1552, one article is £6000. for Berwick. (Ibid.)
The strength of the fortresses of Italy is here alluded to. The  engineers of that country were at this period greatly celebrated. In 1544, “Antonio di Bergamo, and John Thomas Scala, Italians, expert men in the skill of fortifying, were introduced, by Sir Richard Lee, Knight, to view the state of Tynmouth.” (Lodge, Vol. I. p. 80.)
25 The ordinary officers of the town were, a captain, a marshal, a treasurer, a chamberlain, a porter, a master of Ordnance. (Ridpath, p. 589.)
26 The castle of Holy Island, which was built before this time, might be defended by forty, against four thousand men. (Grose’s Antiq. Vol. IV. p. 94.)
27 In the fourth volume (p. 220) of the Fœdera, we first find any mention of two Admirals at the same time in England. Edward the Third, in the year 1326, directing his precepts, “To the Admiral of his fleet or ships from the Thames’ mouth northward, and to the Admiral of his fleet from the Thames’ mouth westward.”