Britannia, by William Camden

Posthumous Discourse


Etymology, Antiquity, and Office



Written in English by Mr. Camden.

Etymology. Big S SUCH is the uncertainty of Etymologies, that Arguments drawn from them are of least force, and therefore call’d by an antient Grecian, Greek Greek, as proofs only which do nothing but set a good face on the matter. Nevertheless, whenas Plato will have them admitted, if there be a consonancy and correspondence between the name and the thing named, we will produce three Etymologies of this Word Marshal, wherein the name is or hath been answerable to the Office in some part or other, in signification. For the word Marescallus is used for a principal officer in the court; in the camp, for a Ferrar, and an Harbinger. The Germans, from whom the word was first borrow’d, call’d him Marescalk; the Latins mollifying the same, Marescallus; the office, Marescalcia: The French, Marescaux; and we Marshal. All, deduced from the German Marescalk; which according to the receiv’d opinion is compounded of Mare, or mark, which do both, say they, signify an Horse; and Scalk, which doth not signify skilful, as some will, but an Officer, Servant, or Attendant. So Godschalck is interpreted God’s servant; and in the old German nunc dimittas servum, this word Servus is translated Scalk. So that jointly the word notifieth an officer and attendant about horses. This Etymology is confirmed first, by the Laws of the Allamanni; If any Marshal, who has the Care of twelve Horses, kill any Person, let him pay four Shillings. Then, out of Choniates, who writing the life of Baldwin, Emperor of Constantinople, saith, that this word Marescaldos noteth him, whom the Grecians call’d Greek, which, according to the name, doth signify him which marcheth foremost before the Army. To maintain this Etymology, they say, it may not seem strange, that so high an office as it is now, should be derived from horses; whenas all preferment in ancient time, as one saith, had the first rise from the Stable; and such as were there brought up, proved most serviceable horsemen; and many other names, which time hath advanced to high dignity, had very mean and small originals. But this Etymology lieth open to some objections, as, that the Marshals now have no command over the horses or stable; but certain it is, that in divers offices, albeit the functions are altered, the name remaineth. And as Varro writeth, Equiso among the Latins doth not only signify Master and Ruler of the horses, but also of all other things committed to his charge; so accordingly it is to be supposed, this word Marshal, not only to signify an Officer of Horses, but also of other Civil and Military matters appropriated to his function. It is said also, that Mare doth not signify an Horse in the German tongue, but, as in our’s, that which is more ignoble in that kind, and that names are to be imposed à potiori. And albeit it is most certain out of Pausanias, that Mare signify’d an Horse to the old Gauls, as it doth still to our Britains their descendants; yet they say it is unfitting to compound one word of two different Languages. But Quintilian sheweth the contrary in Epirhedium, Anti-cato, Biclinium, Epitogium; being compounded of Greek, Latin, and other Tongues: and to this Etymology do they incline, which will have the Marshal to be call’d in Latin, Magister Equitum, rather than Tribunus Militum.

There is also another deduction of Marshal from Maer, the Latin word Major, and Sala, which signifieth a Kings-court in the High-Dutch; for that they were Magistri Domûs, and principal officers for ordering the Court.

There is a third derivation of this name from Marke, as it signifieth a Marche, bound, or limit, and Scalck, which is Minister, as we said before. From Mark in this sense we have Marchio for a Lord Marcher, and Mark-grave in the very same sense: and therefore he relieth upon this opinion, which calleth the Marshal in Latin, PrætorPraetor Comitatus Comitatûs Augustalis, as being the civil Judge within the limits of the Court, which we call now the Verge; for that the Verge or Rod of the Marshal’s authority stretcheth so far: and they also, which have the Marshal call’d in Latin, Designator castrorum: for it was incident to his office to be as it were an harbinger, and to appoint limits and lodgings both in war and peace. Of these Etymologies happily one may be true, happily none.

Antiquity. When this word enter’d first into England, I cannot resolve. I do not find that our Saxons used it, or any other name equivalent unto it, unless it was Stal-here, which signifieth Master of the Stable; but that may seem rather answerable to the name of Constable; yet Esgar, who was Stal-here to King Edward the Confessor, writeth himself in a donation to Waltham, Regiæ Procurator aulæRegiae aulae; whereas William Fitz-Osborne, in the Chronicles of Normandy, is call’d the Marshal. I believe, that William Tailleur the Author spake according to the time he lived in, and not according to the time he wrote of. Fauchet, a learned-man in the French Antiquities, saith, the name of Marshal was first heard about the time of Lewis le Grosse, who was in time equal to our King Henry the first, and Stephen of England, and from thence doubtless we borrow’d that name, as many other. The first Author that used the word in England, was Petrus Blesensis, Chancellor, as he was then called, but indeed Secretary, to King Henry the second of England, who used this word Marescallus for an Harbinger, in these words,Epist.14. complaining of them; Vidi plurimos, qui Marescallis manum porrexerunt liberalem; hi, dum hospitium post longi fatigationem itineris cum plurimo labore quæsissent, cum adhuc essent eorum epulæ semicrudæ, aut cum jam fortè sederent in mensâ, quandoque etiam cum jam dormirent in stratis, Marescalli supervenientes in superbia & abusione abscissis equorum capistris ejectisque foras sine delectu & non sine jactura sarcinalis, eos ab hospitiis turpitèr expellebant: ⌈i.e. “I saw very many, who reach’d out a bountiful hand to the Marshals. When they had, with much ado, found a Lodging after the fatigue of a long journey, and while their meat was half raw, or perhaps while they were sitting at Table, nay, sometimes when they were asleep in their Beds; the Marshals coming upon them, would, in a supercilious and abusive way, cut the Collars of the Horses, and throw out the loading without distinction and not without damage, and turn the people out of their Lodgings in a shameful manner.”⌉

The first mention, that I find of a Marshal in record, is, in the red book of the Exchequer, written in the time of Henry the second, which hath reference unto the time of King Henry the first: Regis avus, that is, Henry the first, feoffavit Wiganum Marescallum suum de tenementis, quæ de eo tenuit per servitium Marescalciæ suæ, & Rex reddidit ea Radulpho filio Wigani, tanquam Marescallo suo. ⌈i.e. “The King’s Grandfather, viz. Henry the first, enfeoffed Wigan, his Marshal, in certain Tenements, which he held of him by Service of the Marshalsie; and the King restored them to Ralph, son of Wigan, as his Marshal.”⌉ What Marshal this was, I cannot determin. The second mention of Marshal is in the first of King John, and hath also a reference to the time of King Henry the first, in this Charter, where King John confirmeth the office of Marshal, unto William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, in these words: Johannes Dei gratiâ, &c. Sciatis nos concessisse, & præsenti nostrâ cartâ confirmasse dilecto & fideli nostro Willielmo Marescallo Com. de Pembroco & hæredibus suis, Magistratum Marescalciæ curiæ nostræ, quem Magistratum Gilbertus Marescallus Henrici Regis avi Patris nostri & Johannes filius ipsius Gilberti disrationaverunt coram prædicto Rege Henrico in Curiâ suâ contra Robertum de Venoiz, contra Willielmum de Hastings, qui ipsum magistratum calumniabantur; & hoc judicio, quia defecerunt se à recto ad diem, quem eis constituerat prædictus Rex Henricus in Curiâ suâ, sicut carta ipsius Regis, quam vidimus, testatur. ⌈i.e. “John, by the Grace of God, &c. Know ye, that we have granted, and by this our present Charter, have confirm’d, to our well beloved and faithful William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and to his heirs, the office of Marshalsie, in our Court; which office, Gilbert, Marshal of King Henry our Grandfather, and John, son of the said Gilbert, claim’d before the said King, in his Court, against Robert de Venois, and William de Hastings, who also claim’d the same office; and in this Judgment, because they did not make good their Claim, at the day which the said King Henry appoint’d them, as the King’s own Charter, which we have seen, witnesseth —”⌉

Earls Marshal. Here is to be noted, out of these authentick Records, that there were Marshals in the time of King Henry the first, answerable in time to the first Marshals of France; that there were more Marshals than one; and, that William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, had only Magistratum Marescalciæ Curiæ, that is, Marshalsie of the King’s House: which office was so long invested in that Family, that it gave them a sirname; as also to other families, which have been Marshals in great Houses: and lastly, that it was given to William Marshal and his heirs, and so it was challenged by them as hereditary. Nevertheless it is certain, that the next succeeding King, Henry the third, took away that office from Richard Marshal, the son of the said William; for, among the grievances of the said Richard, he complain’d, as appeareth in the History of Thomas Rudborne, that the King, in these terms, spoliavit me officio Marescalciæ, quod hæreditariò ad me pertinet & possedi, nec aliquo ad illud me restituere voluit requisitus. ⌈i.e.“Depriv’d me of the office of Marshal, which belongs to me in right of Inheritance, and which I was in possession of; and would by no means restore it to me, when demanded.”⌉ Happily upon this ground, which Rigordus the French Historian writeth in this age of the Marshalship of France, Hæreditaria successio in talibus officiis locum non habet. ⌈i.e. Hereditary Succession has no place in such Offices.⌉ And after he was dead, and his brethren, his five sisters and co-heirs, which, as appeareth by the partition, had every one a thousand five hundred and twenty pounds yearly rent, began to contend about the office of the Marshalship, and the Manour of Hamsted-Marshal, in the County of Berkshire, belonging to the same; Roger Bigod, son of the eldest Daughter, with great difficulty obtained the same. For as Matthew Paris writeth 1246. Multiplicatis intercessionibus, concessa est Marescalcia cum officio & honore, Comiti Rogero Bigod, ratione Comitissæ filiæ Comitis magni Willielmi Marescalli primogenitæ, matris suæ. ⌈i.e. “Upon repeat’d Intercessions, the Marshalsie, with the Office and Honour, was granted to Earl Roger Bigod, in right of his mother, the Countess, who was eldest Daughter of the great Earl William Marshal.”⌉ His nephew, Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, was enforced to surrender to King Edward the first this office, with all his inheritance in England, Ireland, and Wales, for certain insolencies against the King: and this Roger, or his Unkle Roger, was he, which first stiled himself, as pride is highest when downfal nearest, Marescallus Angliæangliae; whereas all his Predecessors used no other stiles than the simple addition of Marescallus, as Gulielmus, Richardus, Gilbertus, Marescallus, Comes PembrociæPembrociae. And no doubt, but as the greatness of William Marshal the elder, called the Great Earl, which he had gotten in the minority of King Henry the third, gave the first greatness to this office; so there was a far greater access of dignity thereunto, when King Edward the second granted to Thomas of Brotherton, his half Brother, a Prince of the blood, the lands of Bigod, and shortly after the office of Marshalship with the rights thereunto belonging, and performing the service accordingly. After the death of Thomas of Brotherton, we find William Montacute Earl of Sarum, Thomas Beauchamp Earl of Warwick, Henry Lord Piercy, John Fitz-Alane, Lord Matravers, Thomas Holland Earl of Kent: And then Thomas Mowbray, right heir unto Brotherton, had the office of Marshal of England, with the name, stile, title, state, and honour, granted unto him in the twentieth year of King Richard the second, de assensu Parliamenti sibi & hæredibus suis masculis de corpore. ⌈i.e. “By assent of Parliament, to him, and to the heirs male of his Body begotten.”⌉ Yet, nevertheless, the next year after, he being banished, it was granted to Thomas Holland Duke of Surrey, as amply as it was to him; that he might as well bear in the presence as absence of the King, a Rod of Gold, enamel’d at both ends, with the King’s Arms in the upper end, and his own in the lower end. Afterwards, according to the alteration of times, sometimes the Mowbrays, and the Howards, descended from them; sometimes others, by interruptions upon sundry occasions, enjoyed the same dignity.

Office. What belonged to that office anciently, I have read nothing; but that at the Coronation of King Richard the first, William Marshal Earl of Pembroke carry’d the Royal Scepter, which had the Cross on the top; and at the coronation of Queen Eleanor, Wife to King Henry the third, the Marshal carry’d a Rod before the King, made way both in Church and Court, and order’d the Feast, as Matthew Paris writeth. There is a Treatise carry’d, about the Office of the Earl Marshal in the time of King Henry the second, and another of the time of Thomas of Brotherton; where I find, confusedly, what belonged to them in court and camp: As in Court, that at the Coronation, the Marshal should have the King’s horse and harness, and the Queen’s palfrey; that he should hold the Crown at the Coronation; that he should have upon high feasts, as the high Usher, the table-cloths and cloth of state for that day; that he keep the hall in quiet; that he should bring offenders within the Verge before the high Steward; that he should assign lodgings, and when the King passed the sea, each man to his ship; that he should have for his livery three winter robes at Christmas, and three summer robes at Whitsuntide; that he should allow but twelve common women to follow the Court (in which service, I suppose, he had Hamo de Gaynton his substitute, which was called Marescallus meretricum; by which service, he held the manour of Cateshall in the County of Surrey;) that he should have a Deputy in the King’s-Bench; that he should keep Vagabonds from the Court. In Camp, that he should lead the forward; that the Constable, with him, should hold courts in camp; that he should have certain special forfeitures, as armour and weapons of Prisoners; to appoint lodgings; to be abroad till all be lodged; to have fees of armourers and victuallers of the camp; to have all the armour and whole cloth of towns taken by composition; to have ransom of Prisoners escaped, if they be taken again; with many such like, too long here to be specify’d: And, in Peace and War, the Marshal should execute the Constable’s commandments in Arrests and Attachments; and that appeareth by the process between Grey and Hastings. In the second statute of Westminster, held 13 Ed. I. when many grievances of the Marshal were complain’d of, it was ordain’d in these words, Marescallus de quolibet Comite & Barone integram Baroniam tenente, de uno palfrido sit contentus, vel de pretio, quale antiquitus percipere consuevit, ita quod si ad homagium, quod fecit, palfridum vel pretium in formâ prædictâ ceperit, ad militiam suam nihil capiat. Et si fortè ad homagium nihil ceperit, ad militiam suam capiat. De Abbatibus & Prioribus integram baroniam tenentibus, cum homagium aut fidelitatem pro Baroniis suis fecerunt, capiat palfridum vel pretium, ut prædictum est. Hoc idem de Archiepiscopis & Episcopis observandum est. De his autem, qui partem Baroniæ tenent, sive sint Religiosi, sive Seculares, capiat secundum portionem partis Baroniæ, quam tenent. De Religiosis tenentibus in liberam elymosynam, & non per Baroniam vel partem, nihil de cætero exigat Marescallus. ⌈i.e. “The Marshal of every Earl and Baron holding by an entire Barony, shall be contented with one Palfrey, or with the Price of it, such as he hath used to have of old: so that, if he took a Palfrey, or the Price of one, at the doing of his Homage, in form aforesaid, he shall take nothing when he is made Knight: and if he took nothing at the doing of his Homage, when he is made Knight he shall take. Of Abbots and Priors, holding a whole Barony, when they do Homage or Fealty for their Baronies, he shall take one Palfrey, or the Price, as afore is said. And this shall also be observ’d amongst Archbishops and Bishops. But of such as hold but one Part of a Barony, whether they be Religious or Secular, he shall take according to the Portion of the part of the Barony that they hold. Of Religious Men that hold in free Alms, and not by a Barony, nor part of a Barony, the Marshal from henceforth shall demand nothing.” And about that time, were set down all the Droites belonging to the Earl Marshal, in a Roll, which was laid up in the Wardrobe; but that vanished shortly after. For as it appeareth by Record, in the eighteenth of Edward the third, the King directed a brief to the Barons of the Exchequer, of the fees, and all things else belonging to the office of Earl Marshal; and they returned in their certificate, annexed to the Brief, nothing but certain petty allowances of money, wine, candles, for the Marshal, and Magister Marescallus, and for the four Marshals for every day, qua facient herbergeriam. And out of the red book of the Exchequer, they certify in these words: De officio Marescalciæ survivit Gilbertus Mareschal, Comes de Strigal, cujus est officium tumultus sedare in domo Regis, liberationes hospitiorum facere, ostia aulæ Regis custodire. Accipit autem de quolibet Barone facto Milite à Rege & quolibet Comite eâ die palfredum cum sella. ⌈ i.e. “In the office of Marshalsy, survives William Marshal Earl of Strigal; whose duty it is, to appease Tumults in the King’s House, and to make delivery of Lodgings, and to keep the Gates of the Royal Palace. He hath, of every Baron who is made Knight by the King, and of every Earl, that day, a horse, with the Saddle.”⌉ And by an inquisition taken about the 11th of Henry the fifth, it appeareth, that there belongeth to the Earl Marshal’s disposing, the office of the Marshal in the King’s-Bench, the Marshal of the Exchequer, with the office of the Cryer before the Marshal, and the Marshal of the Hall of the King’s House, and some other such Places. But the greatest encrease of the authority of this Office hath been, since there were no Constables: for the Kings, since that time, have referred many matters to them, which in former times were proper to the Constable. Neither had the Marshal any precedency in respect of his place, until King Henry the eighth, in the 31st year of his reign, by Parliament assigned him place next to the Lord Constable, and before the Lord Admiral.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52