take the King's (or Queen's) shilling

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take the King's (or Queen's) shilling

old-fashioned To fight in a war in the name of England and it's King (or Queen, depending on the ruling monarch of the time). Many Irish soldiers who took the King's shilling in World War I either died in battle or returned home to a country that now viewed them as traitors to the revolutionary cause.
See also: shilling, take

take the King's (or Queen's) shilling

enlist as a soldier. British
It was once the practice to pay a shilling to a man who enlisted as a soldier.
See also: shilling, take
References in periodicals archive ?
In the interim I had been accepted by the Royal Marines and went to the Bristol Recruiting Office where I took the Oath of Allegiance, I was paid a day's pay, I had taken the Queen's shilling and there was no turning back.
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