The law in practice

Perhaps unsurprisingly, veterans’ experiences varied widely before Parliament enacted the first statute for relief of soldiers. What is more unexpected is that this variability' in relief continued even after Parliament passed the statute. Despite the responsibility of caring for wounded soldiers placed on county' government, soldiers still petitioned the Queen and the Privy Council for relief in the form of positions in alms rooms, and at least some of these requests were granted. Between October 1595 (the first entry' after the Act was implemented) and July' 1601 (the last before a substantial gap in the register), * the Privy Council responded to seventy-one requests for some form of relief for at least fifty-eight different soldiers, one soldier’s widow, and one disputed pension made on behalf of a captain who had died during his service/' Of those seventy-one requests (including those that may' have been made on behalf of the same soldier), thirty-eight included the order that the man should be relieved according to the statute. In another seven responses, the Privy Council left the sum to be determined by' the local officials, such as their order to the JPs of Norfolk to “give some competent and yerly stipend unto John Benet.”[1] [2] With more than 50% of the cases being dealt with in this way (Figure 9.1), it seems that the Privy Council believed the statute to be effective and/or wanted little to do with the plight of poor soldiers.

The remaining orders tell a disjointed story' in which the Privy Council acted with little uniformity. In thirteen of the Privy Council’s responses, their orders include a specific sum that should be paid to the soldier.[3] The sums for the soldiers themselves ranged from “a yearlie pencion of xij ' per diem” (£18 5s.) for Henry Pickford, an Irish soldier “sore hurt and maimed in her Majesty’s service in that realm,” to “xy by the weeke” (£2 12s.) for William Boothe, “a poore maymed souldier” in Berkshire.[4] This is a substantial difference, but no mentions are made of the soldiers’ ranks or why one would have received a significantly greater stipend. At a glance, it appears that the Privy Council completely disregarded the statute in at least a few instances. However, the average sum for the thirteen specific orders for soldiers’ relief was just over £10 Is. 2d. a year, roughly' in line with the statute’s dictate of pensions not to exceed £10 Per annum for common soldiers.

According to Statute

Specific Sum

■ Hospital or Almsroom

■ Miscellaneous Relief

■ Other

Figure 9.1 Privy Council orders for soldiers’ relief, 1595-1601

Sources: The National Archives, Acts of the Privy Council of England: 1542-1631, PC/2, Volumes 13-17.

  • [1] APC, vol. 28 (1597-8), 199.
  • [2] Two orders (for the same individual) declare that ¿4 was to be paid to the soldier’s widow. APC, vol. 25 (1595-6), 407-8.
  • [3] For more on the disputed pension of Captain John Parsons, see The National Archives (hereafter TNA), Acts of the Privy Council of England: 1542—1631 (hereafter APC), vol. 28 (1597-8), 170.
  • [4] TNA, APC 2/21, f.148; TNA, APC 2/22, f.310.
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