King Edward IV’s Last Christmas….

Reconstruction of Christmas at Eltham 1482Historic England (illustration by Peter Urmston)

In the 14th century it became a royal tradition to spend Christmas at Eltham, and by 1482, Edward IV also held his Christmas there.

Antique Print of Eltham Palace

The top picture is an imagined scene of this Christmas in the great hall (pictured immediately above) with Edward, his queen and perhaps some of his sons and daughters at the dais.

It is hard to say from the 1482 scene whether or not there is anything unusual about Edward’s attire, but, according to Edward the Fourth by Laurence Stratford, 1910:-

“….Christmas 1482 was spent at Eltham, where the King ‘kept his estate all the whole feast in his great chamber, and the Queen in her chamber, where were daily more than 2000 persons served.’ (Stowe, Annals, London 1619)  A contemporary writer has left us a graphic account of the prosperous appearance of the Court at this season:  ‘You might have seen, in those days, the royal Court presenting no other appearance than such as fully befits a most mighty kingdom, filled with riches and with people of almost all nations, and (a  point in which it excelled all others) boasting of the most sweet and beautiful children,’ (The Continuators of the Croyland Chonicle (translated and edited by H. T. Riley in Ingulph’s Chronicles, published Bohn) the issue of the King and Queen….

“….One of the guests appears to have been Andrew Palaeologus, a member of the fallen house of Constantinople. (Ramsay, Lancaster and York, 1892, ii. p 448) The King appeared ‘clad in a great variety of most costly garments, of quite a different cut to those which had been usually seen hitherto in our kingdom. The sleeves of the robes were very full and hanging, greatly resembling a monk’s frock, and so lined within with most costly furs and rolled over the shoulders as to give that Prince a new and distinguished air to beholders, he being a person of most elegant appearance, and remarkable beyond all others for the attraction of his person.’ (Cont. Croyland, pp 480-1)….”

Oh, if only the colours and fabrics had been described! I have some difficulty in picturing how, exactly, these clothes were so startlingly new and different. However, this certainly doesn’t sound like a man whose health would deteriorate so much that he would die only four months later, on 9th April 1483. I always thought his decline was long and slow, aided and abetted by obesity and years of riotous living. Surely such a man could not have been described as ‘a person of most elegant appearance’ at Christmas 1482?

Eltham Palace, showing the moat and position of the great hall

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