This timeline, compiled by the project’s research assistant Dr Stewart Beale, highlights the key parliamentary legislation passed during the mid-seventeenth century in response to the need to provide for victims of the Civil Wars.
35 Eliz c.4: Act for the Relief of Disabled Soldiers
Creation of the first national pension scheme for disabled servicemen.
39 Eliz c.18: An Act for the Reviving, Continuance, Explanation, Perfecting and Repealing of divers Statutes
The 1593 Act which was due to expire was renewed.
43 Eliz. c.3: Act for the Necessary Relief of Soldiers and Mariners
Disabled servicemen, equipped with certificates of service from their commanding officers, were permitted to apply to the officers of their home parish for an annual pension of up to £10. To pay for this, Justices of the Peace were empowered to tax every parish in their counties at a weekly rate of up to 10 d. This money was gathered by High Constables and delivered to County Treasurers for it to be distributed at meetings of the county Quarter Sessions.
23 October 1642: Battle of Edgehill
The first pitched battle of the Civil Wars in England.
24 October 1642: Ordinance for maintenance to be given to the wives and children of those that are killed, and to maimed soldiers
Parliament promised to provide ‘competent maintenance’ to maimed parliamentarian soldiers, widows and orphans. For the first time, widows and dependents of soldiers were entitled to relief. An enlistment strategy designed for the ‘better encouragement’ of labouring men to join the ranks of the parliamentarian armies, it was not stated how this initiative would be financed. Royalist war victims were excluded from the ordinance.
November 1642: Creation of Committee for Sick and Maimed Soldiers
Established by Parliament, the Committee was tasked with maintaining London’s permanent military hospitals, as well as granting gratuities and pensions to parliamentarian war victims. Initially funded by parliamentary grants and voluntary contributions held in London’s churches, it met at Cordwainers’ Hall. In 1653, the Committee was reformed under the title of the Hospitals’ Committee, although its responsibilities largely remained the same as before. It continued to sit until 1660.
6 March 1643: Ordinance for an assessment to be made in the several parishes of England, for the relief of maimed soldiers, widows and fatherless children
Overwhelmed by the number of war victims, and finding that its current policy ‘cannot be held for any continuance of time, without many inconveniences’, Parliament passed responsibility for the maintenance of maimed soldiers, widows and orphans onto the parishes. Constables and Churchwardens were empowered to levy a tax on parishioners for the relief of parliamentarian war victims residing within their parish.
31 October 1643: Ordinance for the relief and maintenance of sick and maimed soldiers, and of poor widows and children of soldiers slain in the service of the parliament
In an effort to centralise the distribution of military welfare, Parliament replaced the ordinance of 6 March 1643 with an order to levy the sum of £4,280 on 15 counties under its control, as well as the cities of London and Westminster. High Constables were charged with delivering the money to the Committee for Sick and Maimed Soldiers, where it was distributed to wounded parliamentarian soldiers and widows. Recipients could expect to receive ‘not above foure shillings… weekly’. When the ordinance expired in summer 1644, Parliament ordered that the Committee receive a monthly portion out of the excise tax to cover its expenditure.
18 September 1646: Ordinance for £10,000 for relief of widows of soldiers, waggoners, and necessitous persons
Parliament ordered that £10,000 raised from the excise be granted to maimed parliamentarian soldiers and widows. The Committee for Sick and Maimed Soldiers was instructed to submit a list of names to Parliament of those they deemed eligible to receive relief.
28 May 1647: Ordinance for relief of maimed soldiers and mariners, and the widows and orphans of such as have died in the service of the parliament during these late wars
This ordinance saw the resurrection of the Elizabethan county pension scheme, which had been in abeyance in most counties since the early 1640s. A weekly rate of between 2 s. 6 d. and 3 d. was levied on all parishes, with the proceeds distributed to parliamentarian war victims at Quarter Sessions. War victims were expected to appear before Justices of the Peace with a certificate signed by a commanding officer, confirming their or their husbands’ military services, and their impoverished condition. Pensions were awarded at the discretion of these Justices, and rarely exceeded more than a few pounds a year. Until 1660, this scheme ran alongside the initiative overseen by the Committee for Sick and Maimed Soldiers in London.
16 July 1647: Parliament attempts to quell female petitioners
Overwhelmed by the number of war widows petitioning Parliament directly for relief, the House of Commons ordered female war victims ‘to forbear coming to the House and making clamours here’.
10 August 1647: Ordinance amending that of 28th May 1647 for the relief of maimed soldiers and marines, and widows and orphans of soldiers and marines
Parliament extends indefinitely the amount of time Justices of the Peace are allowed to raise the increased rates of tax for maimed soldiers that had been allowed under the legislation passed on 28 May.
28 September 1648: Parliament attempts to quell female petitioners… again
Parliament ordered that war widows who continue to ‘solicit the House with their clamours, and frequent the doors and passages to the Houses… shall, from such time as they shall be taken notice of so doing, have all pension or other relief afforded them by the Parliament ceased, and taken from them’.
3 September 1651: Battle of Worcester
The last significant pitched battle of the Civil Wars in England.
30 September 1651: Act providing for maimed soldiers and widows of Scotland and Ireland
The county pension scheme was extended to include servicemen wounded in Scotland and Ireland, as well as the families of those slain.
16 December 1651: Pledge to relieve officers’ widows slain at Worcester
Parliament ordered that the sum of £640 be divided between the widows of six parliamentarian officers killed at the battle of Worcester. Further gratuities were granted to four more officers’ widows in April 1652.
26 September 1653: Act for speedy and effectual satisfaction of the adventurers for lands in Ireland
Following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, Parliament sought to pay off its creditors and soldiers with confiscated lands. The act included a clause granting territories in county Cork and county Dublin to the widows and orphans of slain parliamentarian servicemen, whose arrears of pay totalled less than £150.
29 May 1660: The Restoration
Charles II’s return from exile brought about a dramatic shift in the administration of military welfare. Emboldened by the King’s return, royalist veterans start to petition for pensions.
June 1662: Act for distribution of threescore thousand pounds amongst the truly loyal & indigent commission officers
Diverted from Charles II’s personal income, the sum of £60,000 was distributed between 5,300 royalist officers.
June 1662: Act for the relief of poor and maimed officers and soldiers who have faithfully served his majesty and his royal father in the late wars
Similar to the ordinance of 1647, only this Act permitted royalist – rather than parliamentarian – war victims to petition county magistrates for relief. Anyone guilty of ‘taking up armes’ for Parliament was barred from receiving welfare. This Act also denied relief to side-changers and any who had not ‘always been loyal’.
The term allowed for the Act for the relief of poor and maimed officers and soldiers came to an end and was not renewed. The 1601 Act remained in force, and some soldiers continued to petition and received pensions. However, the increased rates of taxation that had been allowed in 1662 were no longer valid. This meant that the amount of money available for pensions was significantly restricted.