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THE PRIVY PURSE ACCOUNTS OF HENRY VII 1491 to 1505

Is there anyone else like me who enjoys a good nosy around someone’s privy purse accounts.  They can tell us so much about that person.  For example, Henry VII’s Privy Purse Accounts.  From them we can glean, for example,  how did Henry spend his time relaxing , after doing a hard day’s usurping?    Well it would seem Henry liked DANCING Not himself , of course, but watching others..for example:

September 5th 1493.  ‘To the young damoysell that daunceth £30’ .   She must have been good, £30 being an outrageously inflated amount..and indeed,

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this young lady fared rather better than ‘a litelle madden that daunceth’ who received a mere  £12 on the January 7th 1497 – but still, nice work if you can get it,  considering that on June 8th ‘the maydens of Lambeth for a May’ received a measly 10s to share out between themselves.  Henry’s enjoyment of watching dancing was just not limited to  damsels and maidens for he also enjoyed Morris dancing – well if you can call it dancing – for on January 4th ‘for playing of the Mourice dance’ earned the participants £2.

MUSIC – Another favourite way of whiling away the time for Henry.  Numerous payments for ‘mynystrels’ are recorded including on February 4th 1492 including  ‘a childe that played on the record’ received £1 and  the ‘mynystrels that played in the Swan’ received 13s and 4d.  Interestingly Richard III ‘s mother, Cicely Neville’s minstrels, received the sum of £1 and to ‘children for ‘singing in the gardyn’ at Canterbury 3s and 4d.

BLING.. Henry evidently was a man who loved bling –  paying out £3800 for ‘many precyous stones and riche perlis bought of Lambardes for  the ‘garnyshing of salads, shapnes and helemytes’, 27th May 1492.   Henry certainly had a thing for decorating his armour and helmets for in June 30th 1497 £10 was paid to the Queen to cover her costs of ‘garnyshing of a salet’.   Now whether the Queens attempts were not up to scratch or perhaps she tired of the project for a few days later on August 9th John Vandelft, a jeweller was paid £38.1s.4d for the ‘garnyshing of a salett’.  Was this the same salet, I  know not, and how many salets would one man require?  No doubt he looked a sight for sore eyes unfortunately no details survive of said salets however may they have looked something on these lines except more blingy..

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or this….IMG_4002.JPGor perhaps something more  modest ?

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Your guess is as good as mine dear reader.

JEWELS

Of course Henry liked jewellery in general and not just  for adorning his armour.  This would have been silly  because it could have got damaged if he had found himself in the midst of a battle without a convenient pike wall to hide behind as well he would have stood out like a sore thumb but I digress… On June 12th 1495 a further payment of £2560 was made to ‘Lumbards’  for ‘diverse juels’. In June 1498 a payment of £2000 was paid for ‘Delivered and sent over the see for sertayn juels of gold, £2000’.  On 30 July of the same year a further payment of £2648.9s ‘for sertayn jules bought in France’.    However he was not always so extravagant paying out smaller sums now and again, for example, June 24th ‘for an ouch sett with Perle and stone £100’ and May 16 to Robert Wright for a ‘ring with a diamond £20’.

PETS

Henry, it is said, loved greyhounds.  He had two favourites…IMG_3998.JPG

 a descendant of one of Henry’s favourite greyhounds..Morton 

 

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 Bray…from the same litter… these dogs predecessors liked nothing more than fawning around their Master..as dogs do.

Henry loved his greyhounds so much so he would pay damages for any destruction caused by said pets…..hence on 13 March 1495,  4s was paid to ‘Rede for a colt that was slayn with the Kings greyhounds’.  Details of greyhounds purchased include a payment of 14s 4d to ‘Cobbe of the stable for a grey hounde’.  And ‘to the one that brought the king a whit greyhound from Brutan, £1’.

Henry also liked birds, Popinjays are mentioned several times so they must have held a certain appeal for him paying ‘Richard Dekon for a popyngchey £6 13s 4d’ on 14th January 1498.

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A popinjay descended from Henry’s favourite bird  who was known as Buck.  Buck was not very bright but brightly coloured and flamboyant..

SENSE OF FAIR PLAY

Henry, despite what his traducers say, did possess a sense of fair play.  Yes he did.  For example he paid out in February 27th 1495 , £15.19s for Sir William Stanley’s burial at Syon.  This was as well as the  £10 that was given to Sir William ‘at his execution’ on the 20th February.  You cannot say fairer than that.   It should also be remembered that he paid for a ‘tombe’ for King Richard III on the 11 August 1495,  the not to be sneezed at amount of £10 1s.  This was only a third of what had been paid to the young damoysel that daunced its true,  but why be petty?  On Dec 8th 1499 ‘Payed for the buriell of therle of Warwick by  iiij bills, £12.18s 2d’.  I can find no trace of a payment for the burial of Warbeck, perhaps he was simply cast in a hole or mass burial site (1).   Henry could hardly have been expected to shell out for every traitors burial.

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Austin Friars from an original study by John Preston Neale 1801

THE QUENES DEBTS

Another misconception is that Henry was an indifferent and cold husband.  This is not on.   Perhaps he was merely cross having regularly to either pay off the Queens debts, mostly incurred through gambling or give her loans. On November 30th 1493 ‘delivered to Master Chaderton by thanks of William Hungate to pay the Quenes detts £1314 lls 6d’.  He also lent her £100 at Shene on the 2 April 1494.  A further £2000 was ‘delivered to the Queen’s grace for to pay her detts which has to be repayed’ on 1 February 1497.  I should think so too!.

FASHION SENSE.  

Several mentions are made of purchases of clothing.  January 6th 1494 ‘for an ostrich skin for a stomacher £1 4s.  This is the only mention of an ostrich skin being used for that purpose. So Henry was definitely a fashion guru.  No depiction survives, unfortunately, of the said stomacher but I have found a picture of an ostrich skin hat which may provide a clue as to what the garment may have looked like:

 

s-l1600.jpgAll the above I have gleaned from Excerpta Historica Samuel Bentley.  There are many  interesting examples of the expenses, too many to mention here.  Having said that that I cannot close without mentioning:

January 6 1494 for ‘clothing mad for Dick the fole £1.15s.7d’  (Dick or Dikks the foule gets several mentions)

February 10 1492 ‘to a litell feloo of Shaftesbury £1

January 20th 1495 the ‘immense bribe’ of £500 that was ‘delivered to Sir Robert Clifford by thand of Master Bray ‘(who else!) for basically payment for the betraying of Sir William Stanley.  Further to this £26 13s 4d paid to William Hoton and Harry Wodeford ‘for the bringing of Sir Robert Clifford in rewards’ i.e. this was a reward given to the persons who had so successfully negotiated with Clifford (2)

And finally I would love to know what happened regarding the 6s 8d  paid for ‘the burying of a man that was slayn in my Lady Grey Chamber’ 27th May 1495?

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(1) Perkin Warbeck’s body after it had been separated from its head, was taken to Austin Friars Church, where it was buried with ‘other gallow birds on the west side of the nave’ Perkin, a Story of Deception Ann Wroe p499. (Austin Friars Church was later destroyed by a bomb during the 2nd World War and hardly any traces remain save for a small garden area).

(2) Excerpta Histórica: or, Illustrations of English History Samuel Bentley pp 100.101

 

 

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The Mediaeval Mews

Falconry in medieval times was exceedingly popular, particularly amongst the nobility. Probably originating in the middle or Far East (both China and Persia are credited with the first recorded accounts of falconry nearly two thousand years ago, but it may be even older) while the earliest known practise in England occurred well before the arrival of the Normans.

The masters who captured, trained and cared for the birds were much prized and honoured, as were the birds themselves. Falconry was both a favoured sport and a means of hunting food, especially fresh meat for the winter months. Although the vast popularity has diminished in recent times, and today’s attitude is more towards the preservation of these raptors in the wild, the love of the sport is still considerable. The capture of hawks and falcons for sale in medieval times was legal under particular circumstances and in some places, whereas today it is definitely not, and falconers must breed their own birds in captivity. However, even back then poaching wild birds was forbidden and there were severe punishments and considerable imprisonment handed out for anyone who damaged nests, eggs or young birds.

The mews was a quiet and ordered place where the birds perched in silence on their individual stands, tethered by their jesses, and their heads hooded (thus the word hoodwinked was adopted). A hooded bird sleeps, as do birds in the wild when they tuck their heads beneath their wings. Indeed, it is now interesting to remember that birds are the direct descendants of the theropod dinosaurs, (including T Rex) and of course eagles and other birds of prey are the most direct line. To be able to ride out with a dinosaur on your wrist, is certainly a rare and special pleasure, although naturally this particular aspect was unknown to the medieval world.

During the Middle Ages, some much loved birds were treated as honoured companions, were taken to church by their owners, and were included in their master’s prayers. King Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor in the early 13th century, was an ardent falconer, wrote a definitive book on the subject, and was famously painted with his falcon at his side. It is further recorded that many lords turned to falconry after tragic events in their personal lives, and treated the sport as a form of solitary and thoughtful therapy.

One of the other principal differences back then was the strictly ordered status of particular birds of prey, and the limitations placed on who might properly fly them. In England, as in many other western countries, only those of a certain rank were permitted to fly certain birds. The beautiful gyrfalcon was the bird of kings, and few mews would own such a bird. The peregrine falcon was for the exclusive use of the king’s sons, whereas other falcons were allotted to dukes and earls. The baron flew a hawk, and knights, squires and others were permitted lesser birds. The ladies flew merlins, priests flew sparrowhawks, and ordinary mortals were able to hunt only with kestrels.

How strictly these rules were kept, we cannot know. Certainly other laws of status regarding, for instance, clothing and materials, were clearly flouted on a regular basis. However, the rules governing falconry were probably adhered to by most.

The acquisition and training of birds of prey was then, and still is, a highly expensive business, but for those who practise falconry, it seems that the pleasures far outweigh the difficulties. Many birds of prey are monogamous, and eventually come to consider the falconer their mate. And I have known falconers who cheerfully believe this in return. The same was certainly true in the Middle Ages. The head of the medieval mews was the Master or Lord Falconer, who was truly the master of the art. It was a life-long commitment.

Others employed in the mews were the cadgers and these were often retired Master Falconers, still working with the birds they loved. The term ‘old codger’ originated from the Cadger of the Mews, as did the verb ‘to cadge’. Other terms (some of which we may mistakenly think modern) also come from falconry – the boozer, for instance, is adapted from the word ‘bowzer’ which is the term for a drinking bird of prey. Many of our words today come from old habits, sports and behaviours such as mill grinding (to prove your metal) and cock fighting (cock-sure and cockpit) even though the original practises are no longer popular.

Falconry, however, remains popular, especially in some countries. Once every castle had its mews, and every lord practised the art to some degree. That level of enthusiasm is unlikely to return, but a close relationship with birds of prey is one that I consider unmatched in sport.

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