These Meritorious Objects of the Royal Bounty : The Chelsea Out-Pensioners in th Early Eighteenth Century
Andrew Cormack, recently completed his doctorate and has now reworked his thesis into a book-length study. It traces the origins of the concept of a government's ‘Duty of Care’ to its soldiers. Renewed interest in the fate of such men was generated by the wars in the first decade of the 21st Century, but when did the concept arise and how was it dealt with?
In England it can be traced back to the early 1680s when Charles II ordered the building of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, to receive old and invalid soldiers. On opening in 1692, however, it was found that there were more qualified recipients for this charity than there were beds to accommodate them. The Out-Pension was therefore set up to serve their needs in their home localities, but in an age when there were no banks and no provincial civil servants, how were about 3,000 Out-Pensioners throughout Great Britain and Ireland to receive their money?
This book presents a view of the Other Ranks of the British Army of the Georgian era researched from the detailed records of the Royal Hospital. What brought soldiers to the moment of their discharge? How did their regiments release them? Were they wounded, ill or injured and how had they received these disablements? How long had they served for and how old were they at discharge? Did the cavalry fare better than the infantry, and were there differences of experience between the Foot Guards, the Marching Regiments of Foot and the Marine Regiments raised for the War of Jenkin's Ear? Did all discharged soldiers qualify for Chelsea or only some?
Out-Pensioners were an extremely privileged section of the labouring community but with good reason, as soldiering took a heavy toll on fitness and health. Not only combat against the French at Blenheim, Dettingen and Fontenoy, against the Spaniards at Gibraltar and Cartagena and the Jacobites at Sherrifmuir and Culloden gave rise to disabling injuries , but men suffered equally on riot suppression duties and anti-smuggling operations, labouring on the new Fort George at Ardesier or building Wade's roads in Scotland. Serving in the pestilential regions of the Caribbean gave rise to many others. When they returned home broken down and unfit, how far did the Royal Bounty alleviate their lives after service and how did they live out the rest of their days?
In answering these questions, the ordinary soldiers of the Duke of Marlborough and His Royal Highness Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland are presented in a way never previously seen. No longer are they the more or less dutiful but anonymous crowd. The text examines all of these questions and in doing so brings the Army's Other Ranks into focus in a fascinating series of vignettes.
And although the charity was underpinned by general taxation, the government was determined the squeeze the last drop of service out of the old soldiers, so the book also comments upon the continuing liability imposed upon some of the fitter Out-Pensioners to serve in the Invalid Companies and the Invalid Regiment (41st Foot) that manned the fortifications of England and its off-shore islands.