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The Militia

Service in the Militia

By the Sixteenth Century the Duke of Bedford was appointed as 'their Highnesse lieutenant of the counties of Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, and their cittie of Exeter, 17 March, 4 and 5 of their Majesties' reign. He was to check:

'the commissioners of musters in all the shires, to survey the quantity of weapons and military stores in each county, and to warn all persons obliged by statute to maintain great horses, demilances, etc., for the wars, to have them in readiness after the 20th of May next'.

The Duke of Bedford in the three counties of which he was lieutenant was:

To give orders for the raising of beacons, and watching the same, and to give them in charge of competent persons. To take note of all persons within his lieutenancy, of their weapons and armour, and to pick out and describe all the able horsemen and footmen, their names and dwelling-places. To call the gentlemen together, take view of their serving men, and of their horses fit to carry them, and to consider what number there is of them fit to carry a demilance, and how many light horsemen. To appoint Captains for the horse and foot, and to divide the shires in hundreds as he shall think fit. To appoint to every Captain the number of men he should have, give him their names and addresses, and deliver to him 'a precepte or commandment for his numbers within that hundred to obaie him, and to all officers for his assistance if anie disobaie'. To order the Captains to hold musters and drill of their bands, and to keep them always in readiness. To appoint what places they should go to, when warning should be given of danger. To consider the dangerous places on the coast, and make the inhabitants put up bulwarks of earth. To cause the necessary pay to be found. If the enemy landed in too great force to be resisted, the Lord-Lieutenant was to retreat to some strong position, cutting the bridges, obstructing the roads, etc., giving notice to the Queen and her council. To punish all vagabonds, and 'to have speciale care to keipe the shire in good order and quiet, especiallie at the tyme of levying the subsidie.'

The instructions issued by the Earl of Bedford in consequence of the above commission are very elaborate, and show that he lost no time in carrying out his orders. They are dated Exeter 18 April 1558, and are addressed to the justices of the peace and other worshipful people in the county, and he styles himself in the preamble their Majesties' 'Lieutenant-General for the counties of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall and Citii of Exeter'. They contain orders for the levying, arming, and drilling of men, and for making out lists, and seeing that all who are obliged to provide horses, geldings, armour, or arms, do so.

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