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Elizabeth of York – her privy purse expenses

Henry_VII_in_Mourning-1.jpgHenry Vll and his children in mourning for Elizabeth of York.  An idealised presentation of Henry.    His children ,  Margaret and Mary  sitting in front of the fire while a young Henry weeps into his mother’s empty bed.  From the Vaux Passional, a 15th century manuscript.

And so on this day Elizabeth gave birth to her son Arthur.  Arthur’s life was destined to be short and he died on 2 April 1502.  And so the fickle wheel of fortune turned once more with Arthur’s parents feeling the same pain, despair and shock that are recorded as having engulfed Richard lll and his Queen, Anne Neville on the death of their small son Edward.  Perhaps Henry’s pain was cushioned somewhat by the knowledge that he had a spare heir, Henry Jnr.

Elizabeth is often quoted as having said, an in attempt to comfort Henry that they were young enough to have another child. (1)   Whether she said this or not – how would such a personal conversation be known to others?  –  as sure as eggs are eggs, Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant soon after , a pregnancy that we all know resulted in her death.  So thus in another strange coincidence Henry also lost his wife a few short months after the death of their son as did Richard.

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Elizabeth’s  bronze effigy on her tomb, Westminster Abbey, Torrigiano

It is said by some that Henry’s and Elizabeth’s marriage was a happy one, they both growing to love one another over the years.  Alternatively you will read that she was considered by some to have been kept subservient and that Henry was not uxorious.  You will have to form your own opinions over that  one dear reader.   Either way she has my sympathy with regard to her mother-in-law,  the formidable Margaret Beaufort,  to whom Henry remained close.   Indeed a certain yeoman of the crown John Hewyk ‘grumbled that he would have spoken more to the Queen  had it not been for that strong whore, the King’s mother ‘.(2)  with a Spanish observer  writing that ‘she is kept in subjection by the mother of the king. (3).   However there are some examples that demonstrate that Elizabeth was not entirely a  push over  nor totally ‘eclipsed’ by her mother-in-law    Rosemary Horrox gives us one such example where a Welsh tenant appealed to Elizabeth over an injustice involving the king’s uncle,  Jasper Tudor,  which led to Elizabeth ‘responding with a firm letter to the said Jasper. (4)    Bravo Elizabeth!

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Portrait by an unknown artist c 1503

Although much  has been written about her death and funeral ,  and I won’t go into that here,  interesting as it is,  nothing much is known about her personal feelings towards her husband,  the demise of the House of York,  the treatment of her mother, Elizabeth Wydeville,  and her ‘retirement’ in to Bermondsey Abbey,  the fates of her brothers or the identity of Perkin Warbeck.   However her Privy Purse Account have survived and perhaps some thing of her nature and true feelings may be gleaned from them.

Sir Nicholas Harris Nicholas, writing in 1830, was  editor of  The Privy Purse Expenses which also include   a memoir.  Sir Nicholas seems to have been a little in love with Elizabeth,  whose motto was ‘Humble and Reverent’ attributing to her ‘most if not all of the virtues which adorn the female character’.   He notes that her expenses consist chiefly of rewards to persons who brought her presents with often the reward being of greater value.  ‘Nothing was too contemptible to be received, nor was any person deemed too humble..Among the articles presented to Elizabeth were fish, fruit, fowls, puddings, tripe, a crane, woodcocks, a popinjay, quails and other birds, pork, rabbit, Llanthony cheeses, pease cods, cakes, a wild boar, malmsey wine, flowers, chiefly roses, bucks, sweetmeats, rose water, a cushion, and a pair of clarycords’.  All the bearers of these gifts would never go away empty handed.

There were disbursements for servants wages, for preparing her apartments when she removed from one place to another,  which she did frequently, for conveying her clothes and necessary furniture, for messengers, for the repairs of her barge and the pay of the bargemen, for her chairs and litters, the purchase of household articles, for silks, damasks, satins, cloth of gold, velvet, linen, gowns, kirtles,  petticoats for her own use or for the ladies she maintained;  for jewellery, trappings for horses, furs, gold chains and for the charges of her stables and greyhounds;  for the support of her sister Lady Katherine Courtney and her children, including the burial of some of them;  for the clothing and board of her Fool, gambling debts and so much more.  Sir Nicholas notes that ‘her Majesties revenue was not adequate to cover all these demands and she was ‘not infrequently obliged to borrow money’.  A look at Henry’s Privy Purse accounts shows that he, perhaps  being a good egg or because it was the least he could do under the circumstances,  frequently bailed his wife out although it was expected  these loans were to be repaid.

The accounts which cover the last year of Elizabeth’s life are too detailed to go into her but I list here a few :

MAY 1502 Item to Frary Clerc of St Johns for the buryeng of the men that were hanged at Wapping mylne  8 shillings

There are several examples of money being given to servants of her father, King Edward, who had perhaps fallen on hard times such as ;

JUNE 1502 Item ..and to a pore man in aulmouse somtyme being a servant of King Edwards IV   2s. 4d.  as well as cloth to a woman who had been nurse to her brothers –

Help was also given to people who had served other members of  her family :

DECEMBER 1502 item 3 yards of cloth delivered by commandment of the Queen to a woman what was ‘norice’ to the Princes brothers to the Queen grace

DECEMBER 1502 Item to a man of ‘Poynfreyt saying himself to lodge in his house Therl Ryvers in tyme of his death in almous  12 shillings’

For herself, other than her gambling debts , Elizabeth seemed to keep an eye on the purse strings with numerous mentions of her gowns being repaired.

DECEMBER 1502 item to the Quenes grace upon the Feest of St Stephen for hure disport at cardes this Cristmas 100 s.

She appeared to wear a lot of black during the period these accounts cover when  presumably the court were in mourning for Arthur –  an example being

NOVEMBER 1502 Item ..to Henry Bryan for 17 yards of black velvet for a gown for the Queen at 10 shillings 6d the yard.    13 yards of black  satin  delivered to Johnson for a riding gown and a yard  of black velvet for an edge and cuffs for the same gown.  Item black bokeram for lining  of the same gown, sarcenet for ‘fentes’ for the same gown and an elle of canvas for lining of the same gown –   although on a lighter note in

JUNE 1502 Item ..to William Antyne coper smyth for spangelles settes square sterrys dropes and pointes after silver and gold for garnisshing of jakettes against the disguysing lvj viiij d.

AUGUST 1502 ..to my Lady Verney for money by hur delivered by commaundement of the Queen to Fyll the Kinges paynter in reward   3s. 4d.  Item to John Reynold payntour for making of divers beestes and othere pleasires for the Quene at Windsore 10 s.

A short, interesting appraisal of Elizabeth including her expenses were included by Ann Wrote in her biography of Perkin Warbeck.  ‘The queen seems to have been a gentle passive creature.  Her world was one of frugally mended gowns, whicker baskets and works of charity.  She had little money of her own her allowance being one eighth of the king’s and she often gave it away. On Maundy Thursday she distributed new shoes to poor women but her own shoes cost no more than 12d each and had cheap latten buckles…Ayala writing in 1498 thought her’ beloved because she is powerless’ and believed as many did that her formidable mother in law kept her in subjection. Although Margaret  Beaufort showed her kindness she was undoubtedly a stronger character.  A citizen of Nottingham once tried to speak to Elizabeth when she visited that city, their pleasant conversation was stopped by that ‘strong whore’, Henry’s mother,  and Elizabeth acquiesced’ .(5)

Later it is poignant to read about the costs of trying, vainly,  to save her life when she was stricken  after giving birth to her last child, Katherine.

Itm To James Nattres for his costes going into Kent for Doctour Hallysworth phesicon to comme to the Quene by the Kinges commaundement.  Furst for his bote hyre from the Towre to Gravys ende and again iiij s, iiij d.   Itm to twoo watermen abiding at Gravys ende unto suche tyme the said James came again for theire expenses viij d.    Itm for horse hyre and to guydes by night and day ij s.iij d.and for his awe expenses xvj d.’

Elizabeth’s midwife Alice Massy was not forgotten; her wages being 12 shillings.

And thus Elizabeth,  with exemplary timing,  died on the anniversary  of her birthday, 11 February.  Its said that Henry took her death badly and it would seem that his behaviour and attitudes took a turn for the worse after he had been widowed but that is another story.   Perhaps theirs was not a passionate love,  duty having bound them together,  but I do get the impression from their Privy Purse accounts that they did rub along together quite nicely.

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  1. Collectanea v.373-4 Leland
  2. Records of the borough of Nottingham 1882-1956 W H Stevenson and others.
  3. CPS Spain 1485-1509, 164
  4. Elizabeth of York, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Rosemary Horrox
  5.  Perkin Warbeck: a Story of Deception Ann Wrote pp 458.9

 

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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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