2014Happy New Year to you all. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that 2014 brings you love, happiness, success and as many good things as possible.

Although the Tudor New Year did not begin until 25th March, upper classes exchanged New Year’s gifts on 1st January. Tudor poet Thomas Tusser wrote about gift giving, saying, “At Christmas of Christ many Carols we sing, and give many gifts in the joy of that King.”

Historian Alison Sim writes of how gift giving was treated very seriously at the Tudor court, and that gifts had major political significance. There are still records today outlining the instructions for the reception of gifts at the court of Henry VIII. After the King dressed in his chamber, one of the Queen’s servants would bring him a gift from the Queen, and then he would receive gifts from other courtiers. While he was doing that, the Queen would receive gifts in her chamber.

The way that a monarch responded to a person’s gift was very telling of who was in royal favour. In 1532, Henry VIII refused Catherine of Aragon’s gift, while accepting the one from Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth I famously refused the Duke of Norfolk’s gift of a beautiful jewel in 1571, because he was in the Tower of London for being involved in a revolt against the crown. A monarch was meant to respond to gifts by giving the giver something in return, and it was expected that they would give them something more expensive than the item that had been given to them.

Here are a few of the gifts that were exchanged between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII at New Year:

  • New Year 1532 – Anne gave Henry “an exotic set of richly decorated Pyrenean boar spears” and Henry gave Anne hangings of cloth of gold, cloth of silver and embroidered crimson satin for her room and bed. The King refused the gold cup sent to him by his wife, Catherine of Aragon.
  • New Year 1533 – From Henry to Anne: “parcels of gilt plate, late of Sir Henry Guldeford, controller of the Household :—2 gilt pots with round knobs behind the lids, which came to Sir Henry as executor to Sir William Compton, weighing 133 oz. ; a pair of gilt flagons with the arms of France, 147 oz. ; 6 gilt bowls without a cover, 200½oz. ; 3 gilt salts with a cover of Parres touch,” which belonged to Sir Will. Compton, 77 oz. ; 12 gilt spoons with demi-knops at the end, 18 oz. ; a pair of parcel-gilt pots, 99½ oz. ; another, 97¾ oz. ; another, 71 oz. ; 6 parcel-gilt bowls without cover, 199¼ oz. ; the cover of the same, 19¾ oz. ; a basin and ewer, parcel-gilt, 77 oz. ; another basin and ewer, parcel-gilt, 64 oz. ; 11 white spoons with roses at the ends, 20¼ oz. ; 4 candles, white, with high sockets, 86½ oz. ; “a round bason of silver for a chamber, and a silver pot to the same, weighing together 138½ oz.” ; and a chafing dish, parcel-gilt, 39¾ oz.”
  • New Year 1534 – From Anne to Henry: “A goodly gilt bason, having a rail or board of gold in the midst of the brim, garnished with rubies and pearls, wherein standeth a fountain, also having a rail of gold about it garnished with diamonds; out thereof issueth water, at the teats of three naked women standing at the foot of the same fountain.” Anne Boleyn commissioned this rose water silver-gilt table fountain from Hans Holbein the Younger.

Here is Holbein’s design for the table fountain:
Holbein Table Fountain

Notes and Sources

  • Pleasures and Pastimes in Tudor England, Alison Sim
  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p148
  • LP vi. 6
  • LP vii. 9

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10 thoughts on “Happy New Year!”
  1. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2014 to everyone.

    One of the gifts the illuminator, Levina Teerlinc, received from Elizabeth I one New Year, was a pair of silver gilt spoons in return for a narrative miniature. Unfortunately we don’t have either the miniature or the spoons so we are unable to see how the queen valued Teerlinc’s work.

    Gift giving was certainly one way of finding out where you stood in the monarch’s favour. Records show that Teerlinc was retained on an annuity of £40 p.a. – far more than Hans Holbein – from 1546 until her death in 1576. Not bad for a woman artist in the 16th century.

  2. All the best for 2014. Happy Hogmanai! Happy Feast of Our Lady to which is dedicated 1st January.

    I thought that in Tudor times they were still using the old calander and made March 25th Feast of the Annunciation the New Year when they gave gifts between courtiers and King. In France today; it is New Year that is the big celebration day rather than Christmas.

    Well 5 days left of the 12 days of Christmas. Enjoy and peace to you and to the world.

  3. Happy New Year! All the best to fellow lovers of Tudor history in 2014.

    While I knew gifts were exchanged at the New Year in Tudor times, I didn’t know of the protocol behind them being accepted or rejected. My heart hurts for Catherine of Aragon; knowing her husband’s heart was elsewhere is one thing. Having a gift rejected outright is another.

    Did anyone else find it telling that Anne Boleyn’s gift from the King was meant for her bedchamber? 😉

  4. Bliadhna Mhath Ur!!
    (Happy New Year in Gaelic) to you Claire and all the A.B.F visitors.
    May all your hopes and expectations come true.

    Did anyone watch the Tudor Monastery Farm Christmas special last night? it was full of really interesting things.
    They really did ‘party’ the full 12 days. 12 days of feasting to cook for…and we become overwhelmed by one big meal to prepare, lol…actually I don’t mind it because I enjoy cooking, but thank goodness for electricity/gas. dishwashers, fridge and freezers, and every other kitchen gadget I own that makes the preparation of a large festive meal a thousand times easier than in those days. The women and cooks in those times must have been well and truly frazzled by the time twelfth night came, and they have my full admiration and respect. 🙂

  5. Happy New Year! I hope your celebration went well even if it was somewhat less frenetic than the Tudor variety.

    Lists of New Year’s gifts always fascinate me, not least because I can’t help wondering how many of them ever saw any actual use. I mean, how many shirts and silver-gilt bowls can one monarch go through? I can’t remember which year it was, but at some point while she was queen Anne gave all of her ladies palfreys and saddles, which must have been quite impressive even if (one presumes) the horses weren’t actually led into the palace in order to be presented.

  6. Happy New Year Folks!
    Sonetka, I always thnk things haventchanged much. A load of unexessaty stuff given for varous motives!
    What fascinates me is where did Anne get the money to pay for the stuff she gave to Henry? Her family must have been much wealthier than I realised, yet they are always referred to a minor “nouveau riche” nobility. Yet some of that stuff, like the Holbein equivalent of a modern indoor fountain, must have cost a vast amount. She comissioned one of the foremost artists of the day, the thing was made with very costly materials.. It would be like asking Damien Hurst to knock you up “a little gift” nowadays. Yet I noticed that most of the stuff that Henry gave her was secondhand! Had he bought these goods from the former owners,or simply seized them as recompense for some “misdeamenour?”

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