King's shilling

King's shilling

The King's shilling - for many years a soldier's daily pay, before stoppages - was the shilling given to recruits of the British army and the Royal Navy of the 18th and 19th centuries. The expression "to take the King's shilling" meant that a man agreed to serve as a soldier or sailor.

Recruiters of the time used all sorts of tricks, most involving strong drink, to press the shilling on unsuspecting victims. The man did not formally become a soldier until attested before a Justice of the Peace, and could still escape his fate by paying his recruiter "smart money" before attestation. In the 1840's this amounted to £1 (twenty shillings), a sum most recruits were unlikely to have at hand.

One trick supposedly employed by press gangs was to slip the shilling into a drink. If the prospective soldier drank the drink to the bottom (so that the shilling was now visible), it was taken as a sign that they had accepted Impressment. It is believed that glass bottomed Tankards became popular as a result of this practice. This, however, is a myth. Recruiters were subject to fines if they used trickery in order to recruit civilians. Also, men who signed up to serve in the military were given a four day 'cooling off' period, during which they were permitted to change their minds.

ee also

*Recruitment in the British Army


*cite book | author=Holmes, Richard | title=The Oxford Companion to Military History | publisher =Oxford University Press | year=2001 | id=

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • king's shilling — noun (in phr. take the King s shilling) archaic enlist in the army. [from the practice of giving new recruits a shilling.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • king's shilling — noun : a shilling whose acceptance by a recruit from a recruiting officer constituted until 1879 a binding enlistment in the British army he s taken the king s shilling …   Useful english dictionary

  • King's shilling — /kɪŋz ˈʃɪlɪŋ/ (say kingz shiling) noun 1. the, a shilling given to a new recruit to the British army, acceptance of which constituted, until 1879, a binding enlistment. –phrase 2. take the King s (or Queen s) shilling, British Obsolete to enlist… …   Australian-English dictionary

  • king's shilling — (until 1879) a shilling given a recruit in the British army to bind his enlistment contract. Also called, when a queen was sovereign, queen s shilling. * * * …   Universalium

  • King's shilling — noun a shilling accepted by new recruits when tricked into or agreeing to enlist into the British army or navy during the 18th and 19th centuries …   Wiktionary

  • take the king's shilling — see under ↑shilling • • • Main Entry: ↑king …   Useful english dictionary

  • take the King's shilling — archaic enlist in the army. → king s shilling …   English new terms dictionary

  • take the King's shilling — ► take the King s (or Queen s) shilling Brit. enlist as a soldier. [ORIGIN: with reference to the former practice of paying a shilling to a new recruit.] Main Entry: ↑shilling …   English terms dictionary

  • Shilling (British coin) — In the United Kingdom, a shilling was a coin used from the reign of Henry VII until decimalisation in 1971. Before decimalisation there were twenty shillings to the pound and twelve pence to the shilling, and thus 240 pence to the pound. At… …   Wikipedia

  • shilling — ► NOUN 1) a former British coin and monetary unit equal to one twentieth of a pound or twelve pence. 2) the basic monetary unit of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. ● not the full shilling Cf. ↑not the full shilling ● take the King s (or Queen s)… …   English terms dictionary

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