Guest Author - Deborah Watson-Novacek
To really understand any historical time period it is essential that one has a firm grasp on the vocabulary of the times. In this article, the definitions for various governmental and military occupations are given and defined.
Governments of the Renaissance were composed of many people with different governing or legal specialties, including:
Bailiff - an officer of the court who is employed to execute writs and processes and make arrests. In Renaissance England, this term was also routinely applied to an overseer of an estate; a steward
Catchpole - a sheriff's officer who arrested debtors. Interestingly enough, this term is derived from the Latin cace-, meaning "catch," and pollus meaning "chick," - or "chicken chaser."
Chancellor - a secretary to a noble or royal. This word is derived from the Late Latin cancellarius, meaning porter or secretary.
Constable - the warden, or governor, of a town or castle
Diplomat - the person who negotiates with foreign nations
Hayward - an officer in charge of building and/or maintaining fences and hedges
Herald - A Herald was both the man in charge of making pronouncements and proclamations on behalf of the royalty, and one who was an expert in the field of heraldry (the various insignias used by the rich to identify themselves.)
Jailer - the man in charge of the prisoners in a jail
Judge - a public official responsible for deciding questions brought to court
Liner - an officer in charge of tracing property boundaries, or "lines," within the city
Master of the Revels - the official in charge of court entertainment, and later of the theaters
Pursuivant - an officer of arms. The pursuivant had duties similar to those of the herald, but was ranked below the herald
Reeve - a combination administrator and business manager of estates, towns and small territories (i.e. shires). Sometimes used interchangably with "Sheriff."
Summoner - an officer of the court who served subpoenas
Watchman - a man employed to stand guard or keep watch
Woodward - the keeper, or man in charge, of a forest
The military (based on the Latin miles,, or "soldier") were the men selected and trained to defend their country. Some of the different occupations within this group of soldiers include:
Arbalestier - one who fires a type of siege engine known as an arbalest. The arbalest was used for hurling large stones and other missiles.
Archer - one who shoots with a bow and arrow
Bowman - another name for an archer
Camp follower - Camp followers were of two types. The first type are the wives and children of soldiers who followed the soldiers from place to place to help care for them. The second type referred to civilians who followed an army in order to make money off of the soldiers by selling goods or services that the military didn't supply - including cooking, laundering, liquor, and nursing.
Cannoneer - a soldier who served and fired a cannon; an artilleryman
Crossbowman - one who shoots with a crossbow
Guardsman - a soldier assigned to the a regiment of household guards
Halberdier - a guard who carries a halberd - a weapon having an axlike blade and a steel spike mounted on the end of a long shaft.
Knifeman - one skilled with a knife; specifically, a soldier trained to disembowel horses
Mercenary - a man hired to fight for a foreign army
Pikeman - a soldier armed with a pike - a long spear used by the infantry
Pioneer - a soldier who performs construction and demolition work in the field to facilitate troop movements, such as digging entrenchments, making roads, etc.
Sapper - a military specialist in creating and maintaining field fortifications
Siege engineer - a military specialist in building and maintaining various siege engines
Sergeant-at-arms - an officer appointed to keep order within an army
Spearman - a soldier armed with a spear
Spy - as is the case today, a spy was agent employed to obtain secret information, especially of a military nature.