I've never heard of there being any minimum age. There wasn't any rules or any agency to enforce them then. I think it was more a matter of how tall and strong a boy was at a given age and whether he would be considered an asset or a liability in combat than determined if a boy went into combat or not.
According to James Raymond's Henry VIII's Military Revolution, the king's army was built on both the feudal retinues of the great nobles and a sort of national "militia" created during the Middle Ages by the 1285 Statute of Winchester. For the militia, "The age of military service was set between 16 and 60, and all men falling within this bracket were expected to practice regularly with the bow and keep themselves ready to fulfill their 'obligations.'" Clearly, there was wiggle room, with few questions asked of tall adolescents who presented themselves as 16. I understand that the son of Sir John Russell (later Earl of Bedford), Francis Russell, joined his father in France in 1544; he would have been about 17. The French war was run by Norfolk, Suffolk and Russell; Norfolk's son Surrey arrived in October 1544 but he was older, in his late 20s. The son of the Earl of Oxford was also serving and about the same age. Henry Neville, the son and heir of the Earl of Westmoreland, was around 20 when he was knighted at the surrender of Boulogne in 1544. Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, later to raise rebellion against Queen Mary, served in the French war starting at the age of about 23.
One of those injured at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 was King Henry IV’s son, Shakespeare’s Prince Hal. During the battle, the prince lifted his visor and was wounded in the face by an arrow, which entered at an angle, penetrating to the left of his nose just below the eye. The shaft was extracted but the point remained lodged “in the furthermost part of the bone of the skull to the depth of six inches”. Although he had received a painful and potentially fatal injury, the prince refused to leave the field until it was clear that his father’s forces had prevailed. Thereafter he submitted to the royal surgeons and retired to Kenilworth Castle for treatment. He was sixteen.The young man’s life was saved by John Bradmore, a London surgeon, who gradually widened the wound by inserting probes and used an ingeniously designed pair of tongs to locate and extract the arrow head. Rose honey was the main antiseptic used. The prince made a full recovery and became King Henry V, but must have had a facial scar.Gory details of this operation and other methods of removing arrows can be found at History of Dentistry Research Group ‘Saving Prince Hal: maxillo-facial surgery, 1403’http://www.rcpsg.ac.uk/hdrg/newsletter.htm#IssueNo16April2005Marilyn
That was an interesting article, Marilyn. There was another good one in that Website's archives, a dental investigation of whether Robert the Bruce actually had leprosy (in the film Braveheart his father had leprosy, but apparently there were persistent historical rumors that the Bruce had it too).
Thank you all very much!
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