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Restaurum Equorum - Valuing horses in England

One of the many interesting papers given earlier this summer at the International Medieval Congress focused on a set of English documents that showed how compensation was given for warhorses that were killed or injured.

In the paper ‘Appraising the Warhorse: Restaurum Equorum in the Armies of Edward I and II,’ Emma Herbert-Davies looks at these records which survive from 1282 to 1364 and what they reveal about horses in the military. She describes the Restaurum Equorum as “an insurance policy for warhorses” set up by the English crown for those soldiers who fought in their campaigns. It allowed for these soldiers to seek monetary compensation if their horses had been killed or had to be withdrawn from service.

The Restaurum Equorum consisted of two sets of documents - the first was inventories of the soldiers and their horses. Supervised by the king’s clerks, these were appraisals of the horses conducted by people with expertise, usually high-ranking army commanders. They would first detail what type of horse it would be and their value, with the mounts usually falling into three categories:

Destriers - the expensive warhorses that usually belonged to leaders of retinues and high-ranking nobles. This represented only about 2.5 to 5 % of the entire list, and would cost anywhere between 40 to 120 marks

Horses (equus) - they would have a wide range of prices, going from 100 shillings to 100 marks

Rounceys - those belonging to the lowest members of a retinue, they would average 10 marks.

The document then offered information on the colour and markings of the horse, with the colour being very detailed. Herbert-Davies explains this was done so that one could easily determine if a dead horse was indeed the same one included in the list. Things like height or age were not included, but the appraisers would check on the health of a horse to make sure it would be useful on campaign. Interestingly, those horses with just one eye would be deemed fit for service, and it seems their compensation amounts were not lowered.

The second document in the Restaurum Equorum would note that if the horse had died, then they would be listed as so and the owners’ given letters on how they could get compensation from the royal exchequer. In some cases, we would know the cause of death, such as if they were killed in battle. Herbert-Davies also notes what happened if a horse was sick or injured, with the records explaining that they would ‘be sent to the baggage train’ where it seems attempts were made to rehabilitate the animals. Those that could not perform military service would be given other work to do, or in other cases given away.

Emma Herbert-Davies is a PhD student at the University of Leeds, where she focuses her research on horses in medieval England. You can learn more about Emma on her university profile or follow her on Twitter @Horsesinhistory

Top Image: British Library MS Royal 19 B XV fol. 37

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