Gifts to the King

As you’re doing your holiday shopping, I thought you’d enjoy seeing this list of New Year’s presents given to Henry VIII on January 1, 1532.  A word about dating is necessary here: the new year officially began on March 25, but the custom of giving New Year’s presents on January 1 was still observed. Christmas presents weren’t given.

Those who gave the king a gift could generally count on one in return, usually in the form of a gilt cup, bowl, or pot. One person, however, was conspicuously excluded from the king’s bounty in 1532: the queen, Catherine of Aragon. As Eustace Chapuys reported, Catherine tried to give her husband a present, to no avail:

The Queen having been forbidden to write letters or send messages to the King, and yet wishing to fulfil her duty towards him in every respect, caused to be presented to him on New Year’s Day, by one of the gentlemen of the chamber, a gold cup of great value and singular workmanship, the gift being offered in the most humble and appropriate terms for the occasion. The King, however, not only refused to accept the present, but seemed at first very angry with the gentleman who had undertaken to bring it. Yet it appears that two or three hours afterwards the King himself desired to see the cup again, praised much its shape and workmanship, and fearing lest the gentleman of his chamber who had received it from the Queen’s messenger should take it back immediately—in which case the Queen might have it presented again before the courtiers (devant tout le monde), when he (the King) could not well refuse its acceptance—he ordered the gentleman not to give the cup back until the evening, which was accordingly done, and it was then returned to the Queen. The King, moreover, has sent her no New Year’s gift on this occasion, but has, I hear, forbidden the members of his Privy Council, as well as the gentlemen of his chamber, and others to comply with the said custom.

Chapuys also reported that Henry had not sent gifts to Catherine of Aragon’s ladies or to Princess Mary, although the list indicates that Mary did in fact receive gifts: two gilt pots, three gilt bowls with a cover, and a gilt layer.

The most important woman in Henry’s life in 1532, of course, was Anne Boleyn, and as Chapuys reported, she was not forgotten:

The King has not been equally uncourteous towards the Lady from whom he has accepted certain darts, worked in the Biscayan fashion, richly ornamented, and presented her in return rich hangings for one room, and a bed covered with gold and silver cloth, crimson satin, and embroidery richer than all the rest.

Eric Ives indicates that the “darts” were probably boar spears.

Here’s what others, ranging from an unnamed “dumb man” to Henry’s sister, gave to the king. Their gifts included Parmesan cheese,  various birds and beasts, gold and silver items, homemade items, and the always welcome, if unimaginative, present of money:

By the French queen [Henry’s sister Mary, Duchess of Suffolk], a pair of writing tables with a gold whistle.

Bishops.— Canterbury, 2 plain gilt pots, 111½ oz. York, 50l. in a purple velvet purse. Carlisle, 2 rings with a ruby and a diamond. Winchester, a gold candlestick; and the bishops of Durham, Exeter, Chester, Hereford, Lincoln, London, Llandaff, Ely, Rochester, and Bath, sums of money from 20 mks. to 50l. in purses or gloves; the bishop of Ely giving in addition a hawk.

Dukes and Earls.—Lord Chancellor, a walking staff, wrought with gold. The duke of Richmond, —. The duke of Norfolk, a woodknife, a pair of tables and chessmen, and a tablet of gold. The duke of Suffolk, a gold ball “for fume” (for perfume?), 8¾ oz. The marquis of Exeter, a bonnet trimmed with aglets and buttons and a gold brooch. The earl of Shrewsbury, a flagon of gold for rosewater, 9¾ oz. The earl of Oxford, 10 sovereigns in a glove, 11l. 5s. The earl of Northumberland, a gold trencher, 8 oz. 1 dwt. The earl of Westmoreland, a St. George on horseback, of gold, 1½ oz. The earl of Rutland, a white silver purse, 6l. 13s. 4d. The earl of Wiltshire [Anne Boleyn’s father], a box of black velvet, with a steel glass set in gold. The earl of Huntingdon, 2 greyhound collars, silver gilt. The earl of Sussex a doghook of fine gold. The earl of Essex, —. The earl of Worcester, a doublet of purple satin embroidered. The earl of Derby, 2 bracelets of gold enamelled blue, 5 oz. 3½ q.

Lords.—Lord Chamberlain, a pair of silver gilt candlesticks. Darcy, 6l. 13s. 4d. in a crimson satin purse. St. John’s, a gold salt and a dozen of carpets. Lisley, 20l. lacking 6d., in a blue satin purse. Edmond Haward, —. Dawbeney, a piece of cameryk. Awdeley, a goodly sword, the hilt and pommel gilt and garnished. Stafford, a gold doghook. Mounttague, a piece of camerik. Mountyoie, an ivory coffer, garnished with silver gilt. Mountegill, a garter, buckle, and pendant of gold. Curson, 12 swans. George Grey, —. Rocheford [Anne Boleyn’s brother George], 2 “hyngers” gilt, with velvet girdles. Wyndesour, a gold tablet with a small chain. Delawarre, —. Hussey, 7l. 10s. in a black purse. Morley, a book covered with purple satin. Souche, a fine shirt of camerik.

Duchesses and Countesses.—The old duchess of Norfolk, “The birth of our Lord in a box.” The young duchess of Norfolk, a gold pomander. Lady Margaret Angwisshe, —. Lady marques Dorset, a great buckle and pendant of gold. Lady marques Exeter, a gilt cup with a cover. Countess of Shrewsbury, —. Lady of Salisbury, 2 pieces of camerik. Countesses of Kent, a corse for a garter. Wiltshire [Anne Boleyn’s mother], a coffer of needlework, containing 6 shirt collars, 3 in gold and 3 in silver. Westmoreland, a brace of greyhounds. Huntingdon, 2 shirts. Worcester, 2 shirts with black work. Rutland, a piece of camrik. Derby, a black velvet girdle with gold buckles, pendants and bars.

Ladies.— Lady Powes, a dozen hawk’s hoods of silver. Sandes, a gilt cup with a cover. Rocheford [Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister-in-law], 2 velvet and 2 satin caps, 2 being trimmed with gold buttons. Fitzwilliams, a comb of “ybanes.” Mountegill, a diamond ring. Old lady Guldford, a garter with gold buckle and pendant. Young lady Guldford, a fine shirt. Lady Shelton, a garter of stoole work. Old lady Bryan, a dog collar of gold of damask with a lyalme. Lady Stannope, a regestre of gold. Verney, a regestre for a book. Lucye, 2 greyhound collars with studs and turrets, silver gilt. Kyngston, a shirt of camrik. Russell, a shirt wrought with black work. Russell, of Worcester, a shirt wrought with gold. Calthrop, a box with flowers of needlework and six Suffolk cheeses. Wyngfeld, a fine shirt. Cambage, a shirt with a black collar. Oughtrede, a fine shirt with a high collar. Browne, a shirt of camerik. Mary Rocheford, a shirt with a black collar.

Chaplains.—Abbots, viz., Glastonbury, —; Westminster, “Our Lady Assumption, and a crimson velvet purse, 22l. 10s.”; Reading, 20l. in a white leather purse Peterborough, 20l. in a purse like a call of gold; St. Alban’s, 30 sovereigns in a purse, 33l. 15s.; Ramsey, 20l. in a white bladder purse. The Master of the Rolls, —. The abbot of Abingdon, 20l. in a white leather purse with gold buttons. The abbot of St. Mary Abbey of York, 22l. 10s. The prior of Christchurch of Canterbury, 20l. in a glove. The prior of Tynnemouth, —. Peter Vannes secretary, 2 cushions very fine with needlework. The dean of the Chapel, a white satin purse with 7l. 17s. 6d. The dean of St. Stevens, a red leather purse with 10l. Dr. Fox, almoner, a piece of arras. Dr. Lupton, 10l. in a red leather purse. Dr. Rawson, 7l. in a red velvet purse. Mr. Sidnour, 20 mks. in a red leather purse. Dr. Wolman, 11l. 5s. The Princess’s schoolmaster, a book. The archdeacon of Richmond, a standing cup. Dr. Bell, a ring with a ruby graven.

Gentlewomen.—Mrs. Hennege, a shirt.

Knights.—Sir Wm. Fitzwilliams, treasurer of the Household, a black greyhound and tirrets of gold. Sir Henry Guldford, comptroller of the Household, a gold tablet. Sir Bryan Tewke, treasurer of the Chamber, six “soufferanes” in a red satin purse, 6l. 15s. Sir Hen. Wyatt, 11l. 5s. in a red leather purse. Sir Edw. Nevyle, a piece of cloth enclosed within a Turkey box. Sir John Daunse, five sovereigns in a white paper, 5l. 12s. 6d. Sir John Gauge, a gold tablet hand in hand. Sir Arthur Darcy, a pair of virginals. Sir Edw. Seymer, a sword, the hilts gilt with “kalenders” upon it. Sir Wm. Kyngston, a bonnet with gold aglets and buttons. Sir Edw. Baynton, a black velvet cap garnished with aglets and buttons of gold, enamelled white, and a brooch upon it. Sir Antony Browne, a gold tablet with a dial in it. Sir John Aleyn, a salt with a trencher for eggs, silver gilt, 24½ oz. Sir Ric. Weston, a casket and a tablet of Mary Magdalen. Sir John Nevyle, a woodknife with a sheath and girdle of velvet. Sir Fras. Bryan, a black velvet bonnet with a chain, aglets, and a brooch of gold. Sir Thos. Cheyne, a gilt cup of assay, 7 oz. Sir Ric. Page, —. Sir Nic. Caroo, a gilt cup of assay, 7 oz. 1½ q. Sir Thos. Palmer, a tablet of gold, with a devise of Adam and Eve, and an hanging pearl thereat. Sir John Russell, a box for perfume, silver and gilt. Sir Edw. Guldeford, a falcon. Sir Geo. Lawson, 2 “rakkyng geldynges;” one grey, the other black bay. Sir Nic. Harvey, a ring with a seal of a George with a dial in the same.

Gentlemen.—Henry Norres, a cup with a cover, gilt, 49 oz. 1½ q. Robt. Amadas, 6 sovereigns in a white paper, 6l. 15s. Mr. Sulliard, a gilt salt with a cover. Cromewell, a ring with a ruby; and a box with the images of the French king’s children. [John] Wellisborne, “a pair of carving knives, containing 8 pieces,” with ivory hafts, garnished with silver and gilt. Thos. Hennege, a silver gilt cup, 27 oz. 1½ q. John Calvacant, a gilt chest with 44 alabaster pots, and a box full of fine thread. Geo. Ardyson, a piece of fine cambric. Domyngo, a ring set with a pointed diamond. Penyson, a shaving cloth wrought with “leyd worke,” and a comb case of ebony. Dr. Bentley, a gold tablet with a pomander. Chr. Myllinour, a gold brooch with a flower. Wm. Knevett. Thos. Warde, a woodknife. Young Weston, 5 javelins. Bastard Fawkonbrige, a black silk girdle, with buttons and tassels. Wm. Lokke, mercer, a cupboard of plate. Antony Cassydony, triacle and a cheese of Parmasan. Jerome Molyne and Mathew Barnard, a pair of beads with perfume. Goron Bartinis, Italian, a gold ring fashioned like a rose. Alerd Jueller, a goodly shaving cloth. Lee, gentleman usher, —. Rawlyns, a spear of Calais, a sword with a sheath of black velvet. Antony Antonys, —. Fras. Borrone, milliner, a brooch of gold. Harman Hull, an Easterling, a leopard. Lucas Gunner, a standish of alabaster. Wm. Kendall, a case with 47 figures gilt. Hubbert of St. Kateryns, 3 partriches of Portingale and Marmylade. Thos. Flower, a salt silver gilt standing upon a dragon, 21 oz. A dumb man, a jowl of sturgeon. Vincent Woulf, 2 long and 2 round targets. Bartholomew Tate, a shaving cloth embroidered with gold, and an ivory comb case. Thos. Alford, a cambric shirt. Skydmour, 6 doz. trenchers. Stephen Andrew, a beast called a civet.

So did these presents to the king give you any ideas for your shopping list?


Calendar of State Papers, Spain

Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn

Letters and Papers of Henry VIII

Neil Samman, The Henrician Court During Cardinal Wolsey’s Ascendancy, c.1514-1529. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wales, 1988.

3 thoughts on “Gifts to the King”

  1. It’s almost a bit ridiculous, right? Luckily he had someone else to write the ‘thank you’ notes! I do enjoy reading these things because it is an interesting insight to what was a kingly gift. Thanks for sharing!

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