An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702

By Roger B. Manning | Go to book overview

11
Standing armies in the Three Kingdoms

War is no longer an accident but a trade, and they that will be anything in it
must serve a long apprenticeship to it. Human wit and industry has raised it
to such a perfection, and it is grown to such a piece of manage that it requires
people to make it their whole employment.

[Daniel Defoe], A Brief Reply to the History of Standing
Armies in England
(1698), 14.

Nothing makes the king’s power to be so adored as the evidence that in a
moment he can raise a favourite from the lowest condition to far above what
ancient nobles have arrived unto, or what their ancestors in many ages have
purchased by their services or their blood. Our court way to it is easy and
pleasant; the way of rising by war is with difficulty and danger.

Algernon Sidney, Court Maxims, ed. H. W. Blom,
E. H. Mulier and R. Janse (1996), 68.

The politically articulate classes in Restoration England generally regarded standing armies as odious, and were anxious to see the New Model Army disbanded. Charles II was allowed by Parliament to retain guards and garrisons as long as he paid for them. However, there were Royalist swordsmen who needed to be rewarded with military offices, and General Monck’s regiment was retained from the Cromwellian forces as a reward for his part in effecting the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Those Cromwellian soldiers who were not content to return to their pre-war occupations were encouraged to seek employment in mainland European armies. Although the term ‘standing army’ would gradually lose some of the connotations of a mercenary band and come to mean a professional and long-service force which was loyal to and paid by the state, the events surrounding the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars and the suppression of Monmouth’s Rebellion revived the fear of an expanded standing army as a tool of absolutism and popery in the French manner. Moreover, the need to buy or reward the support of the aristocracy wiped out whatever progress towards a merit system of awarding military office had been achieved in the Parliamentarian and Royalist armies during the civil wars, and reasserted the distinction between gentlemen and career officers. A purchase system for commissions took root and enjoyed

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