One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The right of troops to be billeted in free quarters (also in extended use); (also) the necessity for troops of having to find free quarters; the obligation or imposition of having to provide free board and lodging for troops.
Mid 17th century; earliest use found in City Alarum. From free + quarter.
free quarter/ˌfriː ˈkwɔːtə/
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