Infantry Pay Rates in the Army of Gustavus Adolphus

In August 2007 I posed this question on Clann Tartan‘s e-mail list:

I have many times heard our military interpreters say the pike was the more “noble” infantry arm and that pikemen were paid more than musketeers–I think I have heard the figure 5 reichsthalers vs. 2 reichthalers per [month]. Does anybody have period documentation for this? I have not seen any.

I have done a lot of reading in the military history of the period. The general trend of the 17th century was that shot became more important than pike, and that the ratio of pikemen to musketeers in the infantry steadily declined. Also, King Gustavus strongly emphasized musket fire in his tactics. So it seemed quite implausible that he would pay pikemen so much more than musketeers. Continuing from my e-mail:

This comes particularly to mind because I read this morning in “The Captains’ Games”, chapter 7 of A Military History of Ireland, p. 150, that in 1603 pikemen in Queen Elizabeth’s army were (nominally) paid 8d/Day, while the rate for arquebusiers was 10d. Between 1603 and 1630 the emphasis on firearms, if anything, increased. So I find it hard to believe that in 1630 pikemen would be paid more than twice what musketeers got. Furthermore, there was a lot of interaction between the England and the Continent–Englishmen fought for Gustavus along with Scots. So I don’t think you can explain this as an English peculiarity.

One member referred me to Robert Monro’s memoirs, p. 324. Monro favoured pikemen over musketeers:

The Pike [is] the most honourable of all weapons, and my choice in day of battell, and leaping a storme or entering a breach with a light brestplate and a good head-piece, being seconded with good fellows, I would chose a good halfe-Pike to enter with.

This, of course, only says that some officers valued pikemen more than musketeers. It says nothing about whether this was official policy, and reflected in the pay rates.

According to Swords for Hire, p.23., King Gustavus set the pay rates for both pikemen and musketeers to be six riksdalers Swedish per month.

I have since found in Oman (pp. 59-60) the original pay rates for the Spanish tercios in 1534. In a company there would be

240 privates; the pikeman all had 3 escudos per mensem, but among the arquebusiers there were extra allowances for distinguished soldiers, which brought some of them up to 4 escudos per mensem.

Thus as early as 1534, the leading army of western Europe was already paying some soldiers armed with the arquebus, a weaker firearm than the musket, more than an ordinary pikeman would get. The idea that a century later a Swedish king with a special interest in firearms would pay pikemen 2 1/2 times what musketeers got is not only wrong, but absolutely absurd.