25 August 2016
The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) was incorporated by Royal Charter on 25 August 1537
On this day in history, 1537: The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) is incorporated by Royal Charter by King Henry VIII. The HAC is the oldest surviving regiment in the British Army, and the second most senior, and is considered one of the oldest military organisations in the world.
Today the HAC is a registered charity whose purpose is to attend to the 'better defence of the realm', this purpose is primarily achieved by the support of the HAC Regiment and a detachment of Special Constabulary to the City of London Police. The word 'artillery' in 'Honourable Artillery Company' does not have the current meaning that is generally associated with it, but dates from a time when in the English language that word meant any projectile, including for example arrows shot from a bow, or, to take a modern example from infantry units, mortar bombs.
Regiments, battalions and batteries of the Company have fought with distinction in both World Wars
The HAC can trace its history back as far as 1087, but it received a Royal Charter from Henry VIII on 25 August 1537, when Letters Patent were received by the Overseers of the Fraternity or Guild of St George authorising them to establish a perpetual corporation for the defence of the realm to be known as the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows,Crossbows and Handgonnes. This body was known by a variety of names until 1656, when it was first referred to as the Artillery Company. It was first referred to as the Honourable Artillery Company in 1685 and officially received the name from Queen Victoria in 1860.
From its formation, the company trained at a site it had occupied at the Old Artillery Ground in Spitalfields and at The Merchant Taylors' Company Hall. In 1622, the company built its first Armoury House at the site of the Old Artillery Gardens.
In 1638, Sir Maurice Abbot granted the company use of lands at its current site south of Bunhill Fields Burial Ground on City Road.
The Company served in Broadgate during the Gordon Riots of 1780 and in gratitude for its role in restoring order to the City, the Corporation of London presented 'two brass field-pieces', which led to the creation of an HAC Artillery Division. These guns are on display in the entrance hall of Armoury House.
Pictured: Armoury House, Finsbury, London, the headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) © Peter Thwaite, CC BY-SA 2.0.