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Arms, Assize of

Arms, Assize of. Henry II made an Assize of Arms in 1181. It bound all freemen of England to swear on oath that they would possess and bear arms in the service of king and realm. The assize stipulated precisely the military equipment that each man should have according to his rank and wealth. Every knight, for example, was to have a hauberk, helmet, shield, and lance, whilst lesser men with rent or chattels valued at 10 marks were to possess a short coat of mail, an iron headpiece, and a lance. At first, the assize was applied by itinerant justices, who were to proclaim the assize in the shires, take the oaths required, enrol the names of all those liable, and arrange for local juries to make assessments of individuals' wealth. In the 13th cent., however, this became the responsibility of each sheriff and two knights of the shire. The assize, frequently renewed, effectively revived the old Anglo-Saxon fyrd duty.

S. D. Lloyd

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