On Genealogy & Family History SE, I asked a question about Finding late 18th Century service record of Francis Green in Cornish Militia?, and it looks like it will need a degree of luck to find out anything more about his military service apart from that he was part of the Cornish Militia based in Totnes (Devon) at the time of his marriage in 1798.

For the Marriage Banns there were three other men from the Cornish Militia getting married on the same page as Francis Green (the page had five Marriage Banns on it in total), and on the next page there was a man from the Berks Militia.

Does anyone know why the Cornish Militia were based in the County of Devon, instead of their own County of Cornwall, at that time?

I suspect that it may have been related to The Defense of Great Britain: 1798.

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    Could be that the Cornish Militia is referring to the Duchy of Cornwall, as opposed to just the County, which would explain as to why it would appear in the County of Devon, which was at a time a holding under the Duchy. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 4:23

1 Answer 1


You are probably referring to the Royal Cornwall Militia. This unit was deployed to Devon in March 1797, as part of the coastal defence against an anticipated French invasion. In all likelihood, this would be why Francis Green was in the parish of Totnes the next year.

6th March: The Cornish Militia came into Dover to be quartered in Town during the Election at Canterbury

- Diarty of Thomas Pattenden (1748-1819), Resident of Dover

(The previous election for Canterbury, in 1796, was voided for bribery on 2 March 1797, and a by-election was held. MP Samuel Elias Sawbridge won again on 10 March only to be removed later in May).

Such deployments were a typical experience for all British Militia during the Napoleonic Wars. In this turbulent era, the regular Militia was mobilised and transformed into a reserve force for the Army. Most regiments rotated through deployments outside of their home counties, while volunteer and local militia units were formed to replace their traditional role in home defence.

During its long wartime embodiment, nearly all the militia regiments were stationed away from their home counties, losing their local ties, and came to be treated as a source of recruits for the army.

- Gee, Austin. The British Volunteer Movement, 1794-1814. Oxford University Press, 2003.

In fact, such rotations throughout the British Isles would come to be seen as a beneficial exercise in nation building in this early age of nation-states. Its effectiveness in reality is another matter, though.

It was, however, widely believed that the militia could act as a vehicle for national integration. When a bill to authorize the service of the Irish militia in England was introduced in parliament in 1811, its proponents stressed the beneficial moral and political effects of such an exchange: 'new connections and friendships would be formed, not confined to one class or degree but extending generally through both nations'.

- Kennedy, Catriona. Narratives of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: Military and Civilian Experience in Britain and Ireland. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Note: Modern British Militia were authorised by the Militia Act of 1757, which organised regiments on per-county basis. So a "Cornish Militia" wouldn't have been the militia of a Duchy of Cornwall, which was and is really a collection of manors moreso than an actual geopolitical unit. Though, the Cornwall Militia did become the Duke of Cornwall's Rangers.

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