2016 Anne Boleyn Files Advent Calendar

December 14: Gifts to gild the coming year…

A big thank you to Sandra Vasoli, author of the Je Anne Boleyn novels and Anne Boleyn's Letter from the Tower for joining us today on the Advent Calendar with some information of New Year's gifts.

During Tudor times, gifts were traditionally given as a way to celebrate the departure of the old year, and in anticipation of a new, promising one. In the Elizabethan Court, the Sovereign awarded costly items to her family, her favourite courtiers, and her key staff. In exchange, the nobility with which she was closely connected offered her presents as well, many of them requiring a large outlay of money.

The gifting itself was an event of great ceremony. It would usually take place on New Year’s morning – that is, January 1st. The Queen would receive a stream of givers bearing their treasures in her Presence Chamber, after which feasting would be the order of the day. One’s place in the favour of Queen Elizabeth I could be determined by her enthusiasm, or lack thereof, for the offered gift. It was by the selecting and giving of such tokens that political ascendancy was sought. Every gift, both given and received, was carefully recorded in ledgers.

In the Inventory of Jewels and Plate of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1574, (kept in the British Library -Stowe MS 555) a mind-boggling list of incomparable treasures, all belonging to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, is recorded for posterity. Each page carries a description of riches which were held either in the Queen’s Palaces, or in the Royal Jewel House at the Tower of London. The ledger is of a large size, the handwriting is meticulous, and every page bears the signature of the Queen’s trusted Secretary, William Cecil, Lord Burghley.

This marvelous inventory provides a mere glimpse into her wealth, and the glorious beauty of the treasures Elizabeth was known to have adored.

“Newyeres giftes givon to her majesty Elizabeth anno 1574”
The first item is of crystal with embellishments.

Photo of the page heading “Spones and fforkes of gold” – these were gifts commonly given to beloved staff and members of court

The sign-off by Lord Burghley, acknowledging the whereabouts of every item on the page.

Sandra Vasoli