Book 2, Ch. 3: Summary of military government

Pages 541-543

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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The military government of the city of London.

Though the municipal privileges of the corporation of London released the inhabitants from the feudal claims of the barons, yet being inclosed within walls, it is natural to think, that the turbulence of early unsettled times rendered it soon necessary to provide for their defence by adopting the obligation of personal service within their own districts. We find that London sent out bodies of citizens to assist king Alfred in repressing the inroads of the Danes (fn. 1); Fitzstephen gives us a muster of the citizens in king Stephen's wars (fn. 2), which though incredible as to the amount, leaves no room to doubt the fact of the array: and the first charter of Edward III. exempted them from the obligation of making war out of the city (fn. 3). But while this privilege eased their military services, it operated to the neglect of military discipline and exercises; for between 30 and 40 years afterward, the same king found it needful to enjoin the sheriffs to see that all the able bodied citizens, rejecting unprofitable sports, were trained and exercised in the art of shooting with bows and arrows, the arms then in use (fn. 4). This order in all probability brought archery in vogue, for the London archers soon became famous, and in 1498 the old Artillery ground by Devonshire square, Bishopsgate street, was inclosed for their use (fn. 5) : they were formed into regular companies (fn. 6), and it is asserted that at the latter end of the reign of Henry VIII. the city of London could muster 15,000 men (fn. 7). The dangerous intrigues of Mary queen of Scots produced an order from queen Elizabeth to the lord mayor in 1572, to train the young able bodied citizens to the use of arms; which the fraternities did accordingly at their respective halls, and they were to the amount of 3000 men soon after reviewed by the queen at Greenwich (fn. 8). On the expectation of a Spanish invasion they were augmented to 5000, and were again reviewed on Blackheath (fn. 9); and on the intelligence of the Spanish armada being fitting out, the city raised 10,000 men (fn. 10) : the citizens also furnished James I. with 2000 men to assist in the recovery of the palatinate (fn. 11) . These however appear in the light only of occasional levies; for the use of fire arms having superseded that of bow and arrows, and the military art being of course rendered more difficult to attain; it was again greatly neglected: but in the year 1610, some gentlemen revived a weekly exercise in the Artillery ground together with the name of the Artillery company; and the levies made in the civil war that succeeded, in which the city regiments performed distinguished service, may be considered as the commencement of that military establishment which still subsists in the corporation. The city militia were afterward so numerous, that the old Artillery ground proving inconvenient, they removed to the new artillery ground, near the upper end of Moorfields.

Court of lieutenancy.

The military government of London is now invested in a court of lieutenancy composed of a certain number of citizens, the principal of whom are the lordmayor and aldermen; and who appoint the officers to the six regiments of city trained bands: these regiments are as under.

Comp. Men.
The Blue regiment containing 8 1411
The Green 8 1566
The Yellow 8 1526
The Orange 8 1740½
The White 8 2088½
The Red 8 1630
Total 9962

Artillery company.

The artillery company consists of about 300 men, and serves as a nursery of officers for the foregoing regiments. It is governed by a president, vice president, treasurer, and court of assistants; the lord-mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs for the time being, with the field officers of the trained bands, are of the honorary court; who with 24 gentlemen annually elected, compose the court of assistants. The king is captain general, all the other officers are elected annually, and serve by rotation.


  • 1. Vid. p. 13, 14, ante.
  • 2. Fitzstephen's Description of London edit. 1772. p. 28.
  • 3. Appendix, No. XXIV.
  • 4. Vid. p. 72, ante.
  • 5. Vid. p. 109.
  • 6. Vid. p. 119.
  • 7. Vid. p. 122.
  • 8. Vid. p. 134.
  • 9. Vid. p. 137.
  • 10. Vid. p. 138.
  • 11. Vid. p. 153.