Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Queen Elizabeth I - New Year's Gifts 1576-1577
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: 1576-1577
New-yere’s Gifts charged upon Lady Howarde, 1575-6
First, a coller of golde contayning 13 peeces, whearin are 13 greate emeraldes and 13 peeces of golde, with 13 troches of perles, 5 perles in every troche, and in every peece 4 small rubyes. Geven by therle of Lecetor.
Item, six dosen of buttons of golde, whearof 3 dosen being men, and 3 dosen fyshes. Geven by therle of Warwicke.
Item, a juell of golde, being a dove, whearin is three emeralds, the biggest of them pendaunte without foyle, two table rubyes, two table dyamondes, the rest garnished with 4 smale rubyes. Geven by therle of Bedforde.
Item, a payre of braceletts of golde, being 20 peeces, whearof 16 sett with blacke stones and 4 smale perles in a troche. Geven by therle of Hartforde.
Item, a fayre juell of golde, with three personages in it standing under a tree. The same juell garnished with smale dyamondes, in the midell a large rubye, and beneathe it a lesse rocke rubye, with a ragged perle pendaunte. Geven by therle of Ormonde.
Item, a juell of golde, being an oyster garnished with 4 smale rubyes, one dyamonde, and an ophall. Geven by therle of Surrey.
Item, a cheyne of golde garnished with smale perle, 11 oz. dim. qa. Geven by Vycount Gormanstone.
Item, a juell, being an agathe hedd, garnished with golde and a lorell garlande garnished abowte with sparcks of rubyes, and a pendaunte of golde garnished with 8 sparcks of rubyes, with an ophall in the midest. Geven by the Countyes of Oxforde.
Item, three dosen of buttons of golde, being acornes. Geven by the Countyes of Warwicke.
Item, a carkenet and a payre of braceletts of golde sett with amatastes and carnewe hedds. The carkanet contained 18 peeces, and the bracelet 16 peeces. Geven by the Counties of Lyncolne.
Item, a juell of golde, being a payre of braceletts, contayning 20 peeces of golde, goldsmithe’s worke enamuled; whearof 10 peeces, in every peece a rubye; and 10 peeces, in every peece 2 perles. Geven by therle of Kyldare.
Item a juell of golde, being an agathe of Neptune sett with 6 very smale rubyes, 2 very smale dyamondes, and 3 cowrse perles, whearof one bigger than the rest. Geven by the Ladye Burgheley.
Item, a payre of braceletts, which may serve for a carkenett, fully garnished with ophales and rubyes very fayre, enamulated with an ophall pendaunte. Geven by Mr. Hatton, Capitaine of the Garde.
Item, a tothe and eare-picke of golde, ebing a dolphin enamuled with a perle pendaunte, 16 smale rubyes being but sparcks, and 5 sparcks of dyamonds. Geven by the Ladye Cheake.
Item, a juell of golde, whearin is sett a white agathe, and sett with 4 smale sparcks of rubyes and a smale perle pendaunte. Geven by Mrs. Blaunche Parrye.
Item, a juell of golde, being a pomaunder, on eche side a smale poynted dyamonde; and a smale perle pendaunte. Geven by Mrs. Catherine Paston.
Item, a juell of golde, being a table, thearin is a salamaunder of ophalles garnished with 18 smale dyamondes, and a pendaunte with ophales and rubyes. Geven by Mr. Thomas Heneage, Threasorour of the Chamber.
Item, a ring of golde with 6 ophalles and very smale rubyes. Geven by Mrs. Heneage.
Item, a juell of golde, being a little bell enamuled, and garnished with small sparcks of rubyes, the clapper being a corse perle. Geven by Mrs. Townesende.
Item, a cheine of pomander slightly garnished with golde. Geven by Captaine Laightoune.
Item, six smale tothe-picks of golde. Geven by Mrs. Snowe.
First, a jugge of christall garnished with silver guilt, with a phenix in the toppe within a crown. Geven by the Lord Henry Semer. 23 oz. qa.
Item, oone standishe of silver guilt, with boxses for ink, dust, and counters, all over silver guilt. Given by Mrs. Dale, the Master of the Requests Wife. 37 oz. qa.