Paymaster of the Forces

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His Majesty's Paymaster of the Forces
Office of HM Paymaster of the Forces
StyleThe Right Honourable
Inaugural holderSir Stephen Fox
Formation18 March 1661
Abolished1 December 1836
SuccessionPaymaster General

The Paymaster of the Forces was a position in the British government. The office was established in 1661, one year after the Restoration of the Monarchy to Charles II of England, and was responsible for part of the financing of the British Army, in the improved form created by Oliver Cromwell during the Commonwealth. The full title was Paymaster-General of His Majesty's Forces. It was abolished in 1836, near the end of the reign of William IV, and was replaced by the new post of Paymaster General.


Sir Stephen Fox (1627–1716), first Paymaster of the Forces

The first to hold the office was Sir Stephen Fox (1627–1716), an exceptionally able administrator who had remained a member of the household of King Charles II during his exile in France. Before his time, and before the Civil War, there was no standing army and it had been the custom to appoint treasurers-at-war, ad hoc, for campaigns. Within a generation of the Restoration, the status of the paymastership began to change. In 1692 the then paymaster, Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh, was made a member of the Privy Council; and thereafter every paymaster, or when there were two paymasters at least one of them, joined the Privy Council if not already a member. From the accession of Queen Anne the paymaster tended to change with the government. By the 18th century the office had become a political prize and potentially the most lucrative that a parliamentary career could obtain. Appointments to the office were therefore made often not due to merit alone, but also to political affiliation. It was occasionally a cabinet-level post in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and many future prime ministers served as paymaster.[1]

A wing of the Horse Guards, Whitehall, used to accommodate the Paymaster to the Forces; rebuilt in 1732, the building went on to accommodate the Paymaster General's Office until 1939.[2]

Before the development of the banking system, the duty of the paymaster was to act as the personal sole domestic banker of the army. He received, mainly from the Exchequer, the sums voted by Parliament for military expenditure. Other sums were also received, for example from the sale of old stores. He disbursed these sums, by his own hands or by deputy paymasters, under the authority of sign-manual warrants for ordinary expenses of the army, and under Treasury warrants for extraordinary expenses (expenses unforeseen and unprovided for by Parliament).[1]

During the whole time in which public money was in his hands, from the day of receipt until the receipt of his final discharge (the quietus of the Pipe Office), he assumed unlimited personal liability for the funds, thus his private estate was liable for the money in his hands. Failing the quietus this liability remained without limit of time, passing on his death to his heirs and legal representatives.

Appointments were made by the Crown by letters patent under the Great Seal. The patent salary was £400 from 1661 to 1680 and 20 shillings a day thereafter, except for the years 1702–07 when it was fixed at 10 shillings a day.[3]

The office of Paymaster of the Forces was abolished in 1836 and superseded with the formation of the post of Paymaster General.

List of Paymasters of the Forces[edit]

Portrait Name(s) Term of office Government Monarch
Sir Stephen Fox[note 1] 18 March 1661[3] 9 February 1676[3] Clarendon


Danby I

Charles II
Sir Henry Puckering, Bt 9 February 1676[3] 23 May 1679[3] //
Sir Stephen Fox 23 May 1679[3] 3 January 1680[3] The Chits
Nicholas Johnson[note 2]
(?) William Fox (died 1680 aged 20)[4][note 3]
3 January 1680[3] 20 April 1682[3]
28 April 1682[3]
Charles Fox[note 4] 28 April 1682[3] 26 December 1685[3]
The Earl of Ranelagh 26 December 1685[3] 22 December 1702[3]
James II


Whig Junto I


William III and Mary II
William III
John Grubham Howe
(Home troops only)
Charles Fox (1702–05)
Hon. James Brydges (1705–13)
Thomas Moore (1713–14)
(Overseas troops)
22 December 1702[3] 3 October 1714[3]
Sir Robert Walpole 3 October 1714[3] 17 October 1715[3] Townshend

Stanhope–Sunderland I

Stanhope–Sunderland II

George I
The Earl of Lincoln 17 October 1715[3] 11 June 1720[3]
Sir Robert Walpole 11 June 1720[3] 19 April 1721[3]
The Lord Cornwallis 19 April 1721[3] 20 January 1722[3] Walpole–Townshend
Hon. Spencer Compton
(Lord Wilmington from 1728)
15 March 1722[3] 15 May 1730[3]

George II
Hon. Henry Pelham 15 May 1730[3] 24 December 1743[3] Walpole


Thomas Winnington 24 December 1743[3] 23 April 1746 Broad Bottom
William Pitt the Elder 7 May 1746[3] 16 December 1755[3]
Newcastle I

The Earl of Darlington
The Viscount Dupplin
16 December 1755[3] 8 December 1756[3]
The Viscount Dupplin
Thomas Potter
8 December 1756[3] 15 July 1757[3] Pitt–Devonshire

1757 Caretaker

The Lord Holland 15 July 1757[3] 12 June 1765[3] Pitt–Newcastle

George III
[note 5]


Hon. Charles Townshend 12 June 1765[3] 21 August 1766[3] //

Rockingham I


Lord North
George Cooke
21 August 1766[3] 9 December 1767[3] //

George Cooke
Thomas Townshend
9 December 1767[3] 5 June 1768[3]
17 June 1768[3]
Richard Rigby 17 June 1768[3] 10 April 1782[3] //



Edmund Burke 10 April 1782[3] 1 August 1782[3] Rockingham II
Isaac Barré 1 August 1782[3] 16 April 1783[3] Shelburne
Edmund Burke 16 April 1783[3] 8 January 1784[3] Fox–North

Pitt the Younger I

William Wyndham Grenville 8 January 1784[3] 7 April 1784[3] //

William Wyndham Grenville
The Lord Mulgrave
7 April 1784[3] 2 September 1789[3]
The Lord Mulgrave
The Duke of Montrose
2 September 1789[3] 7 March 1791[3]
Hon. Dudley Ryder
Thomas Steele
7 March 1791[3] 5 July 1800[3]
Thomas Steele
George Canning
5 July 1800[3] 26 March 1801[3]
Thomas Steele
The Lord Glenbervie
26 March 1801[3] 3 January 1803[3] Addington
Thomas Steele
John Hiley Addington
3 January 1803[3] 7 July 1804[3]
George Rose
Lord Charles Somerset
7 July 1804[3] 17 February 1806[3] Pitt the Younger II
The Earl Temple
Lord John Townshend
17 February 1806[3] 4 April 1807[3] All the Talents
Charles Long
Lord Charles Somerset
4 April 1807[3] 26 November 1813[3] Portland II



Charles Long
Hon. F. J. Robinson
26 November 1813[3] 9 August 1817[3] //
Charles Long
(Lord Farnborough from 1826)
9 August 1817[3]
14 July 1826[3]

George IV
William Vesey Fitzgerald 14 July 1826[3] 10 July 1828[3] //

Canningite Govt.
Canning · Goderich


John Calcraft 10 July 1828[3] 30 December 1830[3] //
Lord John Russell 30 December 1830[3] 30 December 1834[3] Whig Govt.
Grey · Melbourne I

William IV
Sir Edward Knatchbull, Bt 30 December 1834[3] 28 April 1835[3] Peel I
Sir Henry Parnell, Bt 28 April 1835[3] 1 December 1836[3] Melbourne II

Office merged into that of Paymaster General, 1836.

Paymaster of the Forces Abroad[edit]

From 1702 to 1714, during the War of the Spanish Succession, there was a distinct Paymaster of the Forces Abroad, appointed in the same manner as the Paymaster.[3] These were appointed to a special office to oversee the pay of Queen Anne's army in the Low Countries, and are not in the regular succession of Paymasters of the Forces.[5] The salary of the position was 10 shillings a day.[3] Colonel Thomas Moore was paymaster of the land forces in Minorca and in the garrisons of Dunkirk and Gibraltar and is not always counted among the Paymasters of the Forces Abroad.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Knighted 1 July 1665[3]
  2. ^ Brother-in-law of Sir Stephen Fox
  3. ^ The second son of Sir Stephen Fox.[3]
  4. ^ The third son of Sir Stephen Fox.
  5. ^ The Prince of Wales served as prince regent from 5 February 1811.


  1. ^ a b Sutherland, Lucy S.; Binney, J. (1955). "Henry Fox as Paymaster General of the Forces". The English Historical Review. Oxford University Press. 70 (275): 229. doi:10.1093/ehr/lxx.cclxxv.229.
  2. ^ Roper, Michael (1998). The Records of the War Office and Related Departments, 1660-1964. Kew, Surrey: Public Record Office.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr Sainty, J. C. "Paymaster of Forces 1661–1836". Office-Holders in Modern Britain. The Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  4. ^ Unlikely, William Fox died in 1680 aged 20, as stated on his monument in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, which describes him as "born for their country and to honours, which the eldest, being Captain in the army, acquired by his fatigues over all England. William died April 17, 1680 aged 20"[1]. No mention is made of him having held the post of Paymaster, and as he predeceased his father, it must be assumed his father would have mentioned the fact, as he did on the monument of his other son Charles Fox, in Farley Church, Wiltshire. Quote from footnote 41 of 'Office of the Paymaster-General', in Survey of London: Volume 16, St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross, ed. G H Gater and E P Wheeler (London, 1935), pp. 17-27. [2] "Haydn's Book of Dignities gives Nicholas Johnson and Charles Fox. According to the Dict. Nat. Biog. Sir Stephen, on resigning his office, "contrived that his eldest son, Charles Fox, should share it along with Nicholas Johnson." This is incorrect. Nicholas Johnson shared the office with "William Fox, Esqr, second son of the said Sir Stephen Fox." (P.R.O., C. 66/3209, No. 8.) "His majestie hath granted the office of receiver and paymaster of his forces to Nicholas Johnson and William Fox, esqs." (Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, I, p. 30.)"
  5. ^ Gater, G. H.; Wheeler, E. P., eds. (1935). "Office of the Paymaster-General". St Martin-in-The-Fields I: Charing Cross. Survey of London. Vol. 16. London: London County Council. pp. 17–27 – via British History Online.