Thursday, September 10, 2015

Queen Elizabeth I - New Year's Gifts 1587-1588



1588 Queen Elizabeth I 1533-1603 by George Gower

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: 1587-1588

Anno 30° Reginæ Elizabethæ

New Year’s Gifts presented to the Queen in 1587-8.

Item, one cup with a cover of cristall, fashioned like a dragon, slytely garnished, with golde, and sett with several small rubyes. Geven by Sir Chrystopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor, 38 oz.—Item, one cup of assaye of silver guilt, made ovall fashione, with a handle garnished with peyses of golde, ine eache of them a sparck of a ruby. Geven by the said Lord Chanshelor, 9 oz. 3 qa.
Item, one cup of cristaull, fashyoned like a beast, slytely garnished with golde, with a cover of golde garnished with pesys, with sparks of rubyes on their topes. Earle of Sussex. In all, 20 oz. di.
Item, one cup of crystaull, made ovall p fashione, slytely garnished with golde, with a cover of golde garnished with froggs, waspes, and deyses; on the top of the cover a bunch of flowers, 13 oz qa.
Item, one lyttle coup of crystaull, slytely garnished with golde, with a braunche of deyses in the tope. Lord Lumney. In all, 15 oz. 3 qa.
Item, one lyttle cup of cristaull, graven, slytely garnished with golde, with a lyke braunch of dasyes in the tope, 9 oz. qa.
Item, one porrynger of white porselyn, garnished with golde, the cover of golde, with a lyon on the toppe therof; all geven by the Lord Threasorour, 38 oz.
Item, one plate of golde, graven on the one syde with astronomy, and on the other syde with a shippe called the Trymphe, with a case of murry vellat, embroudered on thone syde with a shippe, with a strynge and tassels of Venis golde, sylver, and silke. Geven by the said Lord Threasorour, 63 oz.
Item, one cup of grene pursselyne, the foote, shanke, and cover silver guilte, chased lyke droppes. Geven by Mr. Robert Cecill, 15 oz.
Item, one spone and a forke of ogolde, the handle of the spoune corral, garnished with one lyttle diamonde, and one lyttle ruby, the forke garnished with too lyttle rubyes, too lyttle perles pendant, and a lyttle coral. Geven by the Countees of Warwicke, 4 oz. dim qa.
Item, one cup of pursseline, thone syde paynted red, the foote and cover sylver guilt. Geven by Mr. Lychfelde, 14 oz. qa.
Recived by Mr. Thomas Knyvett.
Item, one cheine of golde, weing one hundredth threescore and one ounce, being of the goodnes of 21 karrets and three grayns, 181 oz.
Receved of Mr. Kyllygrewe.
Item, one chayne of gold, being of the goodnes of 21 karrets two graynes and a quarter, and weing one hundredth fyvetye-seven ounces three qa. 157 oz. 3a.
Received of Mr. Mychaell Stanhop.
Item, one coup fashyoned lyke a skallop, the foute, shanke, and bolle of aggath garnished with golde, enamyled, set with three perls and three table dyamonds; on the foute three lesser perles, and three lyttle dyamonds on the shanke; the cover of golde inamyoled, sett with three round agatts, foure perls, three table rubyes, one fayrer than the other, three starres of dyamonds of sundry coutts, with one ruby in the myddest of either; and sundry small dyamonds upon the cover, having in the top thereof two antique horses of agatt; and a rynge of golde garnished aboute with small rubyes and a table dyamonde withoute foylle, and an agath wihtout the cover; weing altogether twenty-one ounce and a half and quarter. Geven by Mr. Cavendyshe, 21 oz. dim qa.

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