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First Calais Roll

In English, illustrated manuscript on paper
England, c. 1575-1600

TM 321

i (marbled paper) + ii + 35 + ii + i (marbled paper) folios, on paper (watermark, bunch of grapes, Gravell Watermark Archive, GRP.073.1, 1590, n.p [England?]; similar to Briquet 13194, Rouen 1589-91), complete, but too tightly bound for accurate collation, no catchwords or signatures, written in ink in an upright formal secretary script by a skilled scribe, main text laid out in four columns with vertical rules in very faint pencil used to align the entries, horizontal rules in pencil added as needed, and then frame ruled in ink (double rules frame the first folio), on the recto only, except ff. 31-32v (ruled space, f. 1: 303 x 190 mm.; remaining folios: 300 x 187 mm.), illuminated title page with arms of Edward III and painted cartouche; 116 shields in brown ink, skillfully tricked, in excellent condition with slight soiling of title page and slight darkening throughout. Bound in a nineteenth-century English tree calf binding, with gilt borders of delicate vines and the arms of the Dukes of Newcastle embossed in gold on both covers, gilt spine with five raised bands, floral motifs, and red label, “Siege of Calais by Edw 3,” marbled endpapers, modern slip-case, in very close to perfect condition, with slight wear at the top and bottom on the spine. Dimensions 340 x 220 mm.

The origin of the document known as the First Calais Roll, represented here in a very fine, attractive sixteenth-century manuscript, with an illuminated title page and skillfully tricked arms, seems to be transcripts from accounts kept by Walter Wetewang, treasurer of the Household, of the wages paid to those present at the siege of Calais in 1346-1347 during the Hundred Years’ War. Although once classed as “spurious,” the text has recently been declared to be “one of the documentary pillars of fourteenth-century military studies,” and there is as yet no modern edition of the relatively small number of extant manuscripts.


1. Written in England in the later part of the sixteenth century as indicated by the script and watermark.

2. In the collection of the Dukes of Newcastle when it was bound in the nineteenth century; arms of the fourth Duke of Newcastle, Henry Pelham Pelham-Clinton (1785-1851), front and back covers.

3. One of the books belonging to the seventh Duke of Newcastle (1864-1928); see The Clumber Library. Catalogue of the Magnificent Library, The Property of the late seventh Duke of Newcastle, London, Sotheby’s, 14 February 1938, lot 1104.


f. 1, “Hereafter followeth the names and armes of the Principall Captaines as well of Noblemen as of Knights that were withe the Victorious prince Kinge Edward the thirde at the siege of Callis [sic] the 20th year of his reigne 1346 as ensuet. [Followed by Edward III’s coat-of-arms, and text in a cartouche:] The Prince of Walles 1; the Duke of Lancaster 1; the Bisshopp of Durham 1; Erles of Englande 12; Erles of Almayne 2; Barrons and Bannerett 78; Knight batchelers of Englande 975; Knightes of Almaine 81.”

ff. 2- 30, [text on recto only; each name accompanied by a coat-of-arms, copied four per page] “The Prince of Walles, named Edward, Henry, Duke of Lancaster, William, Erle of Northhampton, … Sir Hughe Calkyn of Flanders, Sir William Marmion, Sir William Wofford a Gascon, Sir Peter Despaine.”

The second or shorter version of the First Calais Roll (Wagner 159), based on a lost original muster and account rolls of the retinues of 116 bannerets (including the Prince of Wales), who were at the Siege of Calais; on the left of each entry is a coat-of-arms; to the right, is a list of each captain’s retinue; for example, the retinue of Henry, Duke of Lancaster: Erles, 2, Banneretts, 11, Knightes, 193, Esquiers, 512, Menn of armes, 46, Archeres on horse, 612, with the total in the final column, 1376. Printed by E. R. Mores, Nomina et insignia gentilitia nobilium equitumque sub Edoardo primo rege militantium. Accedunt classes exercitus Edoardi tertii regis Caletem obsidentis, Oxford, 1749, pp. 89-101; and edited George Wrottesley, Crecy and Calais London 1897; repr 1898, 193-204.

ff. 31rv, [Record of the Ships and Mariners serving in Edward III’s Fleet before Calais] “The Sowth Fleete: the kinge, London, … Kermarden, Caylethesworth, Mulbroke, The summ of the sowth fleete”; ff. 32rv, “The North Fleete: Bambrughe … Malden, Barton, The summ of all the north fleete; the summe of all the English fleete; Estrangers their Shipps and mariners, Bayon, Spayne, … Gilderland, The Summ of all the Estrangers fleete.”

Copied in two columns on the recto and verso of each folio.

ff. 33 and 34, [Rates of wages in war by the day; recto only] “The prince of Wales by the Day for his Diet, 20 s. … Surgeons and criers beinge Welshmen, euery man by the day, 4 d.”

f. 34 and 35 [recto only], “The names of the greate Princes Noblemen estrangers holden in the kings reteneue and pay not beinge imprised in the nmber aforsayde; The Emperor to him deliured in prest at dyuers tymes for his wages …”;

f. 35, “The sum of the sayd expences aswell of wages as prests as for the expences of the kings houses and for other gifts and rewards and other things nessesary to the sayde parties of france and Normandy and before Callis duringe the siege ther of as appeareth in the accounte of W[illiam] Norwell keper of the kings wardrop from the 21 day of Aprill in the 18th yeare of the reigne of the sayd kinge unto the 24 day of Nouember in the 21 yeare of the sayd kings reigne. 337400 L 9s 4d.” [f. 35v, blank.]

The Hundred Years’ War is a term describing the long series of wars fought between the English and French monarchies between 1337 and 1453. Essentially the Hundred Years’ War was a dynastic conflict that ensued with the death of the last Capetian king of France and a pursuant claim to the French crown on the part of the English royal house. The initial stage of the war, which culminated in the Peace of Bretigny in 1360, was marked by a number of important English victories, including the Battle of Crécy in 1346. The successful siege of Calais, waged from 1346-7, gave the English control of the major port of entry into Northern France. The information preserved in this manuscript is of crucial importance to military historians in their reconstruction of the size of Edward III’s formidable army.

The First Calais Roll is probably a sixteenth-century compilation, based on transcripts from accounts kept by Walter Wetewang, treasurer of the Household, of the wages paid to those present at the siege of Calais in 1346-1347. Wetewang’s original accounts do not survive, and the First Calais Roll was therefore classified as “spurious” by Wagner (see Wagner, 1950, pp. 158-160). . Wagner notes that spurious rolls were not forgeries, but simply sixteenth and seventeenth compilations based on earlier sources that were mistaken for copies of medieval originals (see p. 157). Recently, Andrew Ayton, in his discussion of the size of Edward III’s army, notes that historians have not doubted the authenticity of the information included in “this very curious shadow of Wetwang’s original accounts,” and that it must be regarded as “one of the documentary pillars of fourteenth-century military studies” (see Ayton, 1994, p. 261).

Wagner knew of eighteen copies of this text (five additional copies are listed in Tyson, 2002, pp. 443-444), and divided the manuscripts into two groups, based on their text, as well as including manuscripts of uncertain textual affiliation. Textually, our manuscript is related to Wagner’s second or shorter version of the text, but also includes material found in the manuscripts of the first version. For a discussion of this material and the unusual concluding paragraph, which states that it was based on the accounts of William Norwell, Keeper of the Kings Wardrobe, see Campbell and Steer, 1988, p. 320, describing MS Vincent 92. This paragraph is also found in London, College of Arms MS M. 1 bis, London, British Library, Additional MS 3883 (the Commonplace Book of Sir Edward Hoby), and British Library, Harley MS 246. The text of these manuscripts deserves further study and suggests that Wagner’s simple division into two main textual families was inadequate.

Judging from its frequent transcription, the Calais Roll was relatively popular in Tudor and post-Tudor England some hundred and fifty years after the close of the Hundred Years’ War and two hundred and fifty years after the Siege of Calais itself. Given that the English, for all practical purposes, lost the War, even if they won the Siege of Calais, the popularity of the present text and its accompanying illustrations remains to be further studied.

There are evidently no manuscripts recorded in North American collections; most are in England (they are in the College of Arms, the British Library, the Society of Antiquaries, the Bodleian Library, and so forth). The text is relatively rare; the Schoenberg database cites three examples in the last 150 years, of which two may be the present manuscript


Illuminated title page, carefully arranged, with the arms of Edward III in full color, flanked by heraldic animals, in ink, with touches of color, and with an elaborate cartouche below, painted to emphasize its likeness to metalwork, framing a summary of the text. The text following is accompanied by 116 shields, carefully drawn in ink, with shading and letters indicating the colors proper to each coat-of-arms. The shield with the arms for Sir John Howarde, f. 11, has been colored red.


Ayton, Andrew. “The English Army and the Normandy Campaign of 1346,” England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, eds. David Bates and Anne Curry, London, Hambledon Press, 1994, pp. 253-268.

Campbell, Louise and Francis Steer. A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the College of Arms. Collections, Volume 1, London, College of Arms, 1988.

Gairdner, James. Three fifteenth-century Chronicles, Camden Society, 1880, pp. 82-85.

Powicke, M. R. “Hundred Year’s War,” Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. Joseph Strayer, New York, Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1985, vol. 6: 331-35.

Sumption, Johnathan. The Hundred Years War, Boston, Faber and Faber, 1990- .

Tyson, Diana B. “A New Manuscript of the First Calais Roll of Arms,” Notes and Queries 49 (2002), 443-444.

Wagner, Anthony Richard. A Catalogue of English Medieval Rolls of Arms. Aspilogia, 1, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1950.

Wagner, Anthony. Heralds and Ancestors, London, British Museum Publications, 1978,

Online resources

Gravell Watermark Archive

Heraldic Dictionary, University of Notre Dame, Special Collections


Virtual Library. Historical Auxiliary Sciences, Heraldry

Lynn Nelson, “The Hundred Years’ War”