Sunday, April 10, 2011

Question from Richard - Master of the King's Tents

I am interesting in Henry VIII's Army and about Thomas Caverden I have found the title of "Master of King's Tents". Despite researchs on it I have found nothing.

Is it the title of the person, in a general pre-staff, commissionned as responsible for troops housing, a sort of a quarter-master?

Was this title standing or temporary, only for the time of a campaign?

Was the extent of his commissio, to the whole British forces or only to an army?

Were the other titles and roles of the senior officers with the same rank in the other military fields?

I hope despite my bad English anyone could answer my asks.
All the best.


Foose said...

I don't think the "King's Tents" were used for housing soldiers on campaign. From what I've read, the troops slept in the open, or erected bivouacs, requisitioned outbuildings or seized an enemy barn if they wanted or needed shelter.

The position of Master of the King's Tents was combined at one point with the responsibilities for the properties and scenery used in court masques and pageants - indicating it was a court post, rather than a military appointment. It also suggests that the tents involved were bound up with the king's image, the presentation of his royal person. These tents were the ones erected when the king went on campaign, were he - and possibly selected courtiers or members of the royal family - stayed.

I found a book called Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century: A Study in Cultural Receptivity, by Margaret Christina Miller; it discusses the significance of royal tents and uses Henry VIII's 1513 excursion to France as a specific example:

"It was a highly significant act for a monarch, prince or aristocrat to go to war surrounded by tokens of his rank, be they elaborately decorated tents, luxurious utensils or clothing, or specialised classes of household staff. The descriptions reveal a social structure in which an absence of physical symbols of status would threaten to diminish the dignity of rank. A monarch ... must be seen to have at hand the means of entertaining in appropriate fashion ... and all the trappings of physical comfort reflective of superiority ...

"[In 1513] Henry [VIII] had a ceremonial tent of cloth of gold so large that it took one whole wagon to transport it, several other tents of varied design ... Some of the larger tents were necessary to accommodate such elements as his treasury and his wardrobe; he took a long a vast quantity of money ... clothing and jewellery." (She cites Scarisbrick as her source.)

I also found a couple of sources that stated that the tents were occasionally used to eke out extra accommodation when the king was on progress or moving to another palace where the lodging could not accommodate all the courtiers.

shtove said...

Following up on Foose's insight (thank you) - woodcut of Elizabeth's deputy, Henry Sidney (father of Phillip), on campaign in Ireland - lots of tents:

Good details. I suppose it's hard to draw the line between ceremony and practice - I imagine tents like this were used by officers in harsher circumstances. In any case, there must have been people appointed to supply and maintain them.

The image is from a book of propaganda verse published in the 1570s.

Anonymous said...

Cawarden/Carwarden left a great many papers - you can look at summaries of them here

and here

- they should allow you to work out what he did.