Letters of Reprisal
Cinque Ports Herald
Prior to the Norman Conquest, King Edward the Confessor had contracted the five most important Channel ports of that day to provide ships and men “for the service of the monarch” and although this was frequently as a “cross-Channel ferry service”, it was not exclusively so. Under the Norman kings this became the essential means of keeping the two halves of their realm together, but after the loss of Normandy in 1205, their ships (the for-runners of the Royal Navy) suddenly became England’s first line of defence against the French.
Today the Cinque Ports have only a ceremonial role, but a base for the Lord Warden of the Ports is still provided at Walmer Castle and new Lords Warden are always installed at Dover.
Every member of the Confederation, together with their Limbs, is situated in Kent or Sussex, apart from Brightlingsea which, as a Limb of Sandwich, uniquely lies in Essex.
About Cinque Ports Warrant 1563
A group of five ports situated on the S.E. coast of England and having jurisdiction along the coast in order of their importance: Hastings, Sandwich, Dover, Rommey and Hithe. The Cinque Ports furnished the chief part of the English Navy including ships, provisions and men. In return they had many important franchises an privileges.
Almost all trade and Navy ships passed thru this area. This letter authorizes the Wardens of those ports to issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal to arm private warships to capture French ships and goods and to keep accurate inventory of the booty and to get the enemy captains to sign the inventory.
Below is the text of Cinque Ports Warrant 1563.
Letters of Reprisal
Elizabeth R. By the Queen
Right trusting and well beloved, we greet you well.
Know you in what sort the French do daily in sundry places upon the narrow seas, and specially near the Cinque Ports, take our subjects’ vessels, and keep some of our people as prisoners, and others deliver upon ransoms and yet the king forebeareth to publish any war against us.
Wherefore considering no remedy can be had but by like proceeding, We will that you shall, with some secrecy and speed, procure some such within your jurisdiction as ye shall think meet to repair to the seas, and to be as bold upon the French King’s subjects, using the same in like manner as the French do.
And yet, because we know not what the issue of these troubles shall be, ye shall do well to enjoyne our subjects to take no manner of thing, but therefore to make perfect inventory, and to procure the hands and marks of the French to be thereto added; and beside that, to cause the same to be safely bestowed, so as it may be answered as cause shall require, with consideration to be had to the charges of the parties. And this, our pleasures, ye shall do without any notice to be given to any person that ye are so prescribed.