Duties of the Squires of the King's Household

These are from Edward IV's regulations, but they are based on usages that go back to Edward II. See A.R. Myers, The Household of Edward IV. Manchester. 1959 [Widener Br 1595.15].

There are forty squires of the household, or there may be more if it please the king, by the advice of his high council. These men are chosen according to their possessions, social positions, and wisdom. They are also to be of sundry shires in order that the disposition of the counties may be known. Of these squires twenty are to be continually in this court as attendants on the king's person, in riding and going at all times ...

They are also to help serve his table from the serving board, and from such other places as the man who has general charge of the tables will assign. By common consent, also, they will make assignments among themselves as to which shall serve the king's chamber for any one day, week, or period of time. At another time others will be assigned to serve the hall, of every mess that comes from the dressing board to their hands for such service. There must be nothing withdrawn by these squires, upon pain of demerits that will be awarded by the steward, controller, or other judges at the serving board.

The king may take into his household forty squires in all, and yet, among them all, not twenty are paid full wages for the year. Therefore, the number of persons may be received and suffered the better in the payroll, for a worship, and the king's profit saved.

They eat in the hall, sitting together at one meal as they serve -- some at the first meat, some at the latter, by arrangement. This has always been the manner among them, for honor and profit to the king and ease to themselves. Each of them takes for his livery at night half a gallon of ale. For the winter season [each] takes two Paris candles and one faggot or else half of talwood.

When any of them is present in court, he is allowed for daily wages in the payroll seven pence halfpenny and his clothing winter and summer, or else forty shillings. The squires in this court have always been especially directed to wear the king's livery, both for personal glory and for the proper worship of this honorable household. Each of them is to be allowed one honest servant in this court and sufficient livery, in the towns or country, for his horses and other servants, by the purveyor. Two gentlemen are to be lodged together as bedfellows by the gentlemen ushers. If any of them be let blood, or be ill, in court or nigh thereto, he takes livery, two loaves, two messes of the principal meat, and one gallon of ale for each of the meat days. They are also to have all the year straw for their beds in court from the sergeant usher of the hall. If any of these squires be sent out of the court by steward, controller, or other of the countinghouse, on matters that concern the household, he has allowed him daily by petition twelve pence. The steward pays also for the squires' carriage of harness in court.

They take no part in the general gifts, neither in chamber nor in hall, unless the giver expressly names them. No squire shall depart from court except by license of steward, treasurer, or sovereign of the countinghouse that know how the king should be attended. They must settle the day when they shall return, upon pain of loss of wages. No sergeant of office nor squire nor yeoman nor groom except as he be allowed in this book, shall dine or sup out of hall or the king's chamber. Nor are they to withdraw any service or otherwise to hurt or belittle the alms of hall or chamber, upon such pain as the sovereigns of the household will award by the statutes of noble [King] Edward the Third.

. . .

The countinghouse in former times made certain commands for festival days. After the king and the queen and their chambers, and the stewards of the household in the hall be served, then some honest yeoman of the household are called or assigned to serve the others from the dresser to the hall. Especially those who are on the payroll are to be called, so that if they neglect any service, they may be corrected for it. These squires of the household of old are accustomed, winter and summer, afternoons and evenings, to gather in the lord's chamber within court. There they keep honest company according to their skill, in talking of chronicles of kings, and other policies, or in piping, or harping, singing, or other martial acts, to help to occupy the court, and accompany strangers, till the time require of departing.

From Life-Records of Chaucer, Ch. Soc. II, 67-70; as in Rickert, Chaucer's World.