As civil war loomed in England between Parliament and King Charles I, both sides were anxious to assert control over the military. In March 1642, Parliament had issued the Militia Bill, and had done so in the form of an ordinance, allowing them to bypass the issue of royal consent. This declared that Parliament could appoint the commanders of the armed forces. Charles responded by reviving the medieval practice of issuing 'Commisions of Array', whereby the lords-lieutenants of country could gather armies in the case of an emergency. It became one of the first real tests of the allegiance of the ordinary people, who were forced to choose whether to obey the Militia Bill or the Commissions of Array.
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