In the days following the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s clerks compiled a reckoning of the late queen’s expenses in the 5 months before her death, as part of the process of finalising the Queen’s Household. It also offers us an insight into Anne’s day-to-day life and concerns. A number of these items deserve some further explanation.
We can see that although Princess Elizabeth was living in her own household at Hatfield, Anne was still thinking of her daughter and doting on her, ordering quite a number of caps to be sent to the little girl. It also highlights the different standards of parenting in the 16th century; though we cannot be certain, it is believed that the ‘pair of pyrwykes’ refers to finger-straighteners – it is hard to imagine how such a device would not be incredibly uncomfortable or even painful. Perhaps that is why Elizabeth was so proud of her hands later in life, because of the suffering she went through to achieve them.
We also see Anne ordering materials and items for members of her household, including ‘for her Grace’s woman fool.’ There is speculation that perhaps this is Jane Foole, who is known to have served Catherine Parr and Mary I. It could be another lady fool, but if so, we have no other information about her outside of this one reference.
The total of Anne’s spending came to £68. 4s. 1½d. In today’s money, that would be around £44,527.99 – a fair sum indeed! To place it further into perspective, the ‘white satin cap laid with a rich caul of gold’ ordered for little 2 year old Elizabeth cost the equivalent of £2,619.29 in 2022. I hope Elizabeth was a very well-behaved toddler!
Hauntingly, the final day of expenses is the 28th April, just two days before Mark Smeaton’s arrest, four days before the May Day arrest of Henry Norris, and five days before Anne’s own arrest.
“The Queen’s reckoning, beginning in December, anno xxvii. Hen. VIII.”
12 Dec.: 40 yds. garnish of Venice gold for a nightgown, at 4s.
To Blase, her brotherer (embroiderer?), ½ lb.
Venice silver, 24s.
Stuff delivered to Floide, yeoman of her wardrobe, Stywarde her saddler, and Jervice, servant to Mr. Everest.
18 Jan.:—Boat-hire from Greenwich to London and back to take measure of caps for my lady Princess, and again to fetch the Princess’s purple satin cap to mend it.
23 Jan.:—25 yds. of cadace fringe, morrey color, delivered to Skutte, her tailor, for a gown for her Grace’s woman fool, and a green satin cap for her.
A purple satin cap, laid with a rich caul of gold, the work being roundelles of damask gold, made for my lady Princess.
19 Feb.:—Tassels of fine Florence gold to Hen. Cryche, clerk of the Wardrobe.
20 Feb.:—A pair of pyrwykes for my lady Princess, delivered to my lady mistress.
28 Feb.:—A button of silk and gold, delivered to Mrs. Coffyn.
10 March:—2¼ yds. crimson satin, at 15s., an ell of tuke and crimson fringe for the Princess’s cradle head.
13 March:—Crimson fringe for a chair, to Grene, her coffer-maker.
2 fine pieces of nydle rybande to roll her Grace’s hair withal.
17 March:—6 forfruntes wrought with laid work, delivered to Mrs. Margery.
20 March:—A white satin cap laid with a rich caul of gold for the Princess, 4l., and another of crimson satin, 3l. 13s. 4d.
2 rich tassels of Florence gold for your Grace’s beads, 10s.
a pound of starch, 4d.
20 April:—To Floide and Thos. Chapell, a fringe of Venice gold and silver for the little bed.
To Baven, the bed-maker, fringe for the great bed.
Green riband to garnish a pair of clavichords.
Green fringe to perform the green chair.
27 April:—Venice gold fringe and silk and gold points for a saddle for my lady Margaret.
2 round buttons of silk and gold for the bridle.
28 April:—Silver and gold fringe, black silk fringe, and gold and silver buttons for a saddle for your Grace.
2 leading reins with great buttons and long tassels.
Red fringe to mend the harness of the Queen’s mules.
A cap of taffeta covered with a caul of damask gold for the Princess, 4 mks.
And many other items.
Total, 68l. 4s. 1½d.