Friday, January 1, 2016

Queen Elizabeth I - New Year's Gifts 1575-1576

c 1575 Queen Elizabeth I 1533-1603 original attributed to Nicholas Hilliard

An explanation of these lists appeared on the Museum of London blog.  Thought I would share it here to give a background on these amazing lists.

In Elizabethan London, New Year’s Day was the big time to give and receive gifts, particularly at court. The tradition appears to date back to at least the 13th century but under Queen Elizabeth I it reached new heights in terms of the extravagance and range of the gifts given.

Courtiers and members of the Queen’s household were expected to present her with gifts. As can be imagined competition to impress the Queen was fierce and there must have been immense pressure to come up with gifts that were valuable enough (many resorted to giving money, usually gold coins, in extravagant silk purses) or useful (she received many perfumed gloves and gold-trimmed hankies) or just intriguing.

In the latter category are many animal jewels, such as an emerald, diamond and ruby serpent with a pendant pearl, given in 1581 by the Countess of Oxford or a golden cat playing with mice and again decorated with diamonds and pearls given the same year by Lady Howard. One can imagine the emerald and diamond salamander or the pearl ship pin from the Cheapside Hoard being equally acceptable New Year’s gifts. The Queen loved puns and many of these jewels would have held hidden meanings and witty jokes for her amusement.

A number of rolls or lists detailing the gifts she received for New Year still survive and give a fascinating glimpse of life in the Elizabethan court. Many of the queen’s admirers liked to give her a gift which would remind her of themselves. Sir Christopher Hatton, whose portrait is on display in the Cheapside Hoard exhibition, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, frequently used a knot motif and so in around 1585 he gave Elizabeth a headdress, decorated with expensive golden knots. In 1574 the fan that the Earl of Leicester gave her was decorated with bears, part of his device. Others gave gifts that they hoped would get them noticed and some of these were rather fabulous. For example, on New Year’s Day 1581 Sir Walter Raleigh presented Elizabeth with a crown set with Peruvian emeralds which he had captured in a raid on the Spanish fleet the previous year. However, the rolls show that she also received plainer gifts such as a quince pie from John Betts, who was a pastry servant, or a box of lute strings or eighteen larks in a cage.

In return the Queen would give gifts too, and whilst these were sometimes generous in the extreme, more often than not they were of a lower value than those she received. Often she would give an image of herself, such as the cameo portrait of the Queen which Hatton is shown holding in his portrait. A similar, though smaller cameo can be seen on display as part of the Cheapside Hoard. But if you wanted to impress the Queen it seems to have been much more a case of five gold rings rather than a partridge in a pear tree!

New Year's Gifts for Queen Elizabeth: 1575-1576

Newe-yere’s Giftes charged upon the Ladye Howarde.
First, a juell, being a crosse of golde conteyning vi very fayre emeraldes, whearof two bigger than the rest, the one of the biggest being cracked, and iii large pearles pendaunte. Geven by therle of Leycetor. 8 oz.
Item, a gyrdell of gold, contayning xvi agathe heddes, and xv troches of perle, ii perls in every troche. Geven by the Counties of Lyncolne.
Item, a juell of golde, being a shippe, sett with table dyamonde of fyve sparcks of dyamondes, and a smale perle pendaunte. Geven by the Lorde Howarde.
Item, a juell of mother-of-perle, garneshed with golde, sett with two sparcks of dyamondes, and vi smale sparcks of rubyes, with iii mene perles. Geven by the Lord Straunge.
Item, a payre of braceletts of golde garnished with iv jacents and iv agathes. Geven by the Ladye Howarde.
Item, a payre of braceletts of golde set with agathe hedds, and other stones graven. Geven by the Ladye Stafforde.
Item, a cheyne of golde. Geven by the Counties of Bedforde. 6 oz. 3 qa. dim.
Item, a coller of golde, being two serpents, the hedds being ophall, a peramyt of sparcks of dyamondes, in the top thearof a strawbury with a rock rubye. Geven by Mr. Secretary Walsingham. 5 oz. dim. qa.
Item, a juell, being a cristall sett in golde with twoe storyes appeering on bothe sides, with a smale perle pendaunte. Geven by Mrs. Blaunche Parrye.
Item, a flower of golde, having a butterflye, two white roses, and garnetts. Geven by Mrs. Elizabeth Knowles.
Item, a booke of golde, with leaves in it of paper and parchement to write in. Geven by Sir Henry Lee. 8 oz.
Item, a juell of agathe garnished with golde, sett with two sparcks of dyamondes and xvi sparcks of rubyes, with a pendaunte of golde enamuled redd, and sparcks of smale rubyes, and a flye of ophall upon it. Geven by Mr. Henage.
Item, a small ring of gold, with a phenex of ophall, and a rose of viii smale rubyes. Geven by Mrs. Townesend.
Item, a juell of golde, being two cheyryes with a butterflye of ophall. Geven by Mrs. Marye Sydney.
Item, a juell of golde, contayning 4 emeraldes without foyle, and vii smale perles. Geven by Mr. Lavyson, Goldsmithe.
Item, a riche juell, being a clocke of golde, garnished with dyamondes, rubyes, emeraldes, and perles, with one very fayre rubye in the bottome, and a fayre emeralde pendante sett in golde, and two mene perles pendaunte, all 9 oz. 3 qa. Geven by Mr. Hatton, Capitayne of the Garde.
First, oone sault of silver guilt, squared with iiii pillers and two bolles of cristall. Geven by he Ladye Mary Sidney.
Item, some toothe-pickes of golde. Geven by Mr. Snowe.
Item, some litell beare glasses, in a case of mother-of-pearle, and in a box of crimson silke embroudered with golde and silver. Geven by Mr. West.
Item, a saulte of agath, garnished with golde, steeple fashion; in the toppe [with a pyramyde on the top of the cover, enamuled grene and red] a jasper with v smale pearles set, and iiii smale pearles pendaunte. Geven by Mr. John Harrington.
Plate received at sundry tymes of sundry persones.
First, oone coller of golde of the order of St. George, with a George hanging at it. Bought of the Lady Chandoies Dowyer. 37 oz.
Item, oone chalice with a patten of silver guilt, received from the Deane of Westminster, being parcell of the deficience set upon persone Thurlande. 34 oz.
Item, tenn dosen of knotts lyke strawes. Geven by Mr. Hattoun, anno 18° Reginæ Elizabethæ.
Item, a border containing vii buttons or troches of gold, in every of them iii smale rubyes, and viii buttons or troches of golde, in every of them iv mene perle. Geven to her Majestie by the Lady Cheyney in Progress-tyme, anno xviii° prædict. — Theise are no Newe-yeres Giftes.

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