Biographies & Memoirs


“Elysabeth ye Quene”

As Queen, Elizabeth had her own household and administrative officers. They were an extension of the King’s court, and very much a part of it, although they operated separately, enabling her to fulfill her duties in her husband’s absence. Her household and estates were her legitimate sphere of influence,1 and it was through them that she could exercise patronage, but no queen could function without an army of officers and servants to support her, headed by her councilors and her chamberlain; and all were answerable ultimately to the King.2 They organized all her “matters and businesses” for her, from managing her estates and maintaining standards in her household to buying clothing, providing entertainment, and arranging pilgrimages and visits to her children. They were appointed by the Queen herself, or by the King or members of his council.

The Queen had her own council to govern her affairs, which comprised her chief administrative officers—her chamberlain, chancellor, receiver-general (who collected her rents and revenues), secretary, attorney-general, sergeants-at-law, knights carver, the clerk to her council, and several noblemen. It probably met in the chamber in Westminster Palace that had been used since 1404 by the councils of previous queens. The function of the Queen’s council was to give her advice, oversee the administration of her lands, deal with her legal business, and act as a court of appeal.3 These were areas in which she and her council enjoyed some autonomy and took their own internal decisions without reference to the King. The business they transacted would be administered by clerks and other officials. Elizabeth’s chancellor, Edward Chaderton, had been Treasurer of the Chamber to Richard III. Richard Eliot was her attorney, Richard Bedell her auditor, John Holland keeper of the council chamber, and John Mordant, her sergeant-at-law.4

Sir Thomas Lovell, who led the commons when they petitioned the King to marry, was the first treasurer of the Queen’s chamber, and treasurer of the King’s chamber and household. It was not uncommon for a man to serve both the King and the Queen in similar capacities. The Queen’s treasurer, unlike her council, was accountable to the Exchequer.5

John Yotton was the Queen’s secretary. Richard Deacons was her clerk of the signet, cofferer, accountant, and surveyor of her lands. In 1503 his salary was £10 [£4,860]. In addition, “for his costs lying in London about the Queen’s matters and business” and riding out to survey the Queen’s lands, he received £16.13s.4d. [£8,100]. Paper, ink, and sealing wax was provided for him at an annual cost of £3.6s.8d. [£1,620].6

Elizabeth’s most important personal servant was her chamberlain, to which office the King’s friend, the wealthy Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormond, was appointed “with the Queen’s good grace.”7 His task was to rule her privy chamber, and by August 1486 he had been rewarded for his “good and acceptable service to the King and his consort, to their singular pleasure.”8 His chief duty was to look to his mistress’s welfare and comfort. He appointed and supervised her staff, ensured that due ceremonial was observed in her household and whenever she appeared in public, and made sure that she was properly attired at all times.9 Much of his work was delegated, of course.

The Queen’s chamberlain had under him a vice chamberlain and many ladies, gentlemen, household officers, knights carver, esquires, valets, ushers, grooms, pages, and porters. Menial servants, such as kitchen staff, were employed by the King’s household, but the Queen had to pay their wages when her husband was away, and it has been estimated that Henry and Elizabeth were apart for an average of four or five months each year. When they were residing together she was obliged to pay £7 [£3,400] a day for their services. She also employed a personal chef, Brice, the “cook of the Queen’s mouth,” and a “gentleman of the pantry,” Richard Brampton.10

Sir Roger Cotton, Elizabeth’s master of horse, had responsibility not only for supplying and caring for the Queen’s horses, but also for her traveling arrangements. Elizabeth journeyed widely around England. Her main form of transport was a horse litter (also known as a chair or chariot), a covered but unsprung wagon, which was “appareled” in velvet at a cost of £22.9s.8d. [£11,000]. She also owned “palfreys and other horses,”11 and would have used the former for riding when she wasn’t pregnant.

Cotton was assisted in his duties by John Reading, the clerk of the Queen’s aviary—her “avener.” In July 1486, Reading was paid £51 [£25,000] for various “expenses of stable,” and later that year he received further payments of £50 “for his expenses in waiting upon the palfreys and other horses of the Queen,” and “for the expenses of her horses and other necessaries of her stable,” and also “for the expenses of the Queen’s palfreys and offices.” Cotton himself received various payments for “harness and other necessaries.” Nicholas Mayor was the Queen’s saddler.12 Elizabeth’s privy purse expenses show that she had horses stabled at the royal stud at Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire, Havering, Essex, Fotheringhay, and Ham, near Richmond,13 and no doubt others were stabled elsewhere. The King gave frequent payments to Elizabeth for the support of her horses, in which she evidently took a keen and affectionate interest, given the many references to them in the records.

Nicholas Gainsford and Arnold Chollerton were “ushers of the chamber to the King’s most dear consort,” with responsibility for many tasks, the most important being controlling entrance to the Queen’s apartments. Gainsford, who was granted an annuity of £20 [£10,000] in June 1486, had served Elizabeth Wydeville in the same capacity, and his wife, Margaret Sidney, was in the household of both Queen Elizabeths in turn. Nicholas Matthew was a yeoman of the Queen’s chamber; in 1502 she recompensed him for the charges he had incurred after being injured by servants of Sir William Sandys. John Duffin, William Pole, John Field, Thomas Woodnote, and John Staunton were grooms of the chamber, and Edmund and Edward Calvert, William Gentleman, and John Bright pages of the chamber. Owen Whitstones was the Queen’s messenger, receiving £2 [£970] per annum.14

“The boys and pages of the Queen’s chamber” were sometimes handsomely rewarded with sums of £40 [£19,500]; it was the responsibility of the pages of the chamber to keep Elizabeth’s jewels securely.15 Her portraits show that she owned many costly pieces. George Hamerton was groom porter. William Denton was the Queen’s carver, as well as the King’s, and his high salary of £26.13s.4d. [£12,960] reflected the perception that carving meat was the attribute of a gentleman. Elizabeth also had her own cupbearers and servers.16

One grant from the King was made “in consideration of the true and faithful service which our well-beloved Richard Smythe, the yeoman of the robes with our dearest wife, the Queen, hath done to us.”17 The Queen’s wardrobe, where her clothing and personal household stuff were stored, was headed by Smythe, appointed on June 20, 1486,18 and was staffed by a groom, Ellis Hilton, and pages.19 The pages were busy men, for the Queen’s clothes, food hampers, and other effects were frequently transported from one house to another, whenever she changed residences, and they also had to make each set of lodgings ready for her.20 In 1502, for instance, Richard Justice, page of the robes, was dispatched from the Great Wardrobe at Blackfriars to Westminster to fetch a gown for the Queen. Richard Deacons gave him 8d. for hiring a boat; 5d. “for conveying all the Queen’s lined gowns from London to Westminster by water, and for men’s labor that bare the same gowns” to and from the water; 5d. “for bringing the Queen’s furred gowns”; 4d. for conveying “such stuff as remaineth there”; 4d. for “going from Westminster to London for black damask, and for a frontlet of gold for the Queen”; and 6d. for making a new key for the “great standard” at her wardrobe of the robes and mending two locks. His expenses totaled 2s.8d. [£70]. His duties also included mending and hemming Elizabeth’s clothes.21

John Coope was keeper “of the Queen’s stuff of her wardrobe of the beds” at Baynard’s Castle. John Belly and William Hamerton (probably a relation of George) were “yeomen of the Queen’s stuff of her wardrobe of the beds,” John Brown was groom of the beds, and Henry Roper, Benjamin Digby, Thomas Swan, and William Paston were pages of the beds, and were each paid £1.13s.4d. [£810]. Elizabeth bought William Paston his wedding clothes in 1502. The pages of the beds were responsible for seeing that the Queen’s bed was properly arrayed and made up. Her wardrobes had a clerk to help with administration.22

Lewis Walter was the Queen’s bargeman, with responsibility for the twenty-one oarsmen who rowed her barge—gaily decked out in her colors of blue and murrey—along the Thames, where most of the royal palaces were situated.23 Transport by river through London was quicker, as the streets were so narrow and overcrowded.

Lewis Gough, John Rede, Richard Chollerton (probably a relation of Arnold), and Thomas Barton, who accompanied Elizabeth’s daughter Margaret to Scotland in 1503, were the Queen’s footmen. They wore gowns of tawny damask, doublets of yellow Bruges satin, and jackets of black velvet.24

Elizabeth had her own medical team. She did not forget the debt she owed to Dr. Lewis Caerleon, who had served her mother and been so active on their behalf during the dangerous days of 1483, and received him into her service as her physician.25 He died around 1494–95.26 Robert Taylor was her surgeon,27 but the word then meant one who works with instruments, inferior to a physician, although surgery had for some time been a recognized branch of medicine. Many surgeons were also barbers, who acted as dentists and performed blood-letting, operations, and amputations (the red and white barber’s pole represents a limb in a bloody bandage), all of course without anesthetics. John Pickenham and John Grice were the Queen’s apothecaries.28

She had her own chaplains, who administered to her spiritual needs. One was Henry Haute, her maternal kinsman. Another, Jacques Haute, also related, was her servitor. One of Elizabeth’s chaplains, Christopher Plummer, later became confessor to Katherine of Aragon.29 Elizabeth’s confessor in 1502 was Dr. Edmund Underwood.30 One example of the Queen operating within her permitted sphere occurred in the autumn of 1498, when, upon the death of Giovanni de’ Gigli (who had written the epithalamium on her wedding), she put forward her confessor as a candidate for the vacant see of Worcester. When Pope Alexander VI wrote to the King suggesting his own nominee—Gigli’s nephew, Silvestro—Henry replied that he had already promised the see to the Queen’s confessor. In the end, however, it went to Silvestro de’ Gigli.31

In 1501, Elizabeth took her half brother, Arthur Plantagenet, Edward IV’s illegitimate son by Elizabeth Lucy (née Waite), into her household, possibly through the good offices of Margaret Beaufort. That year, Margaret mentioned doing the King’s pleasure “for the bastard of King Edward’s,” which, she said, she “would be glad to fulfill to my little power.”32 Older than Elizabeth by three to five years, Arthur Plantagenet was “the gentlest heart living,” according to the future Henry VIII, who liked him enormously—until Arthur fell foul of him in 1540. Elizabeth would have known him well in childhood, for he was raised at her father’s court. In 1472 the Exchequer accounts record that the King’s tailor was paid for robes for “my lord the bastard”—probably a reference to Arthur. But after that he disappears from the record, and it may be that when his father died, he went to live with his mother’s family near Southampton. The next mention of him occurs in 1501, when, as “Arthur Waite,” he entered Elizabeth’s service as her carver.33 He was probably the “Master Arthur” (occupation not specified), paid a handsome salary of £26.13s.4d. [£12,960] in 1503.34

Most of the members of the Queen’s household were men; the women who served her were those who kept her company or attended to her personal needs. Her life was governed by ceremonial and ritual, even in private. She was rarely alone; there was always someone in attendance or within earshot—usually her ladies, gentlewomen, and female servants, who were naturally chosen from the higher ranks of society. These were the women whom the Queen saw daily, in whose company she spent much of her life, and who might, with luck, become her friends.35 They had to be congenial to her, and virtuous, for their conduct would reflect upon her.

Places in the Queen’s household were much sought after, for they provided women with status and an independent income, as well as perquisites, pensions for good service on retirement, and privileged access to their mistress—and sometimes the King himself—from which could flow the lucrative benefits of patronage. Effectively they were career women, and if they were as efficient as they were well-connected, they could look forward to years in royal service.

Elizabeth’s mother once had just five ladies-in-waiting, but Spanish ambassador Rodrigo de Puebla was astonished to discover that “the Queen has thirty-two ladies, very magnificent and in splendid style,”36 who attended her even in private. Eighteen of them were noble-women.37 In 1502–03, Elizabeth had seven maids of honor, who each received salaries of £6.13s.4d. [£3,300], while sixteen gentlewomen each got £3.6s.8d. [£1,620] per annum. There were also three chamberers—women who attended the Queen in her chamber or, more specifically, bedchamber.38

All the Queen’s unmarried sisters waited on her. Cecily was her chief attendant until her marriage in 1487, when she was replaced by Anne. Next in precedence came Lady Elizabeth Stafford (d. after 1544), who served as first lady of the bedchamber from 1494, at the latest. The daughter of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, by Katherine Wydeville, she was Elizabeth’s first cousin. She married Sir Walter Herbert, who died in 1507, and then George Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon. The highest paid of the Queen’s female attendants, she received a salary of £33.6s.8d. [£16,300].39

Margaret, Lady Pole, was another of the Queen’s cousins. Her husband, Sir Richard Pole, was a kinsman of Margaret Beaufort and great-grandson of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. He had been in the service of the future Edward V at Ludlow, and fought for his cousin Henry Tudor at Bosworth. His marriage to Margaret had been arranged to bind another Yorkist claimant to the royal house. Elizabeth’s aunt, Mary FitzLewes, Lady Rivers, widow of the executed Anthony Wydeville, was also one of her favored attendants.40

These close relations ranked above the ladies-in-waiting, married women who waited daily upon Elizabeth; some were there because their husbands served the King in his Privy Chamber. Impeccable courtesy, discretion, and social skills would have been expected of them, and indeed of all the women and girls who served the Queen. The ladies-in-waiting were her constant daily companions in her privy chamber; they attended her on ceremonial occasions and in private, and their function was to provide pleasant and decorous companionship at all times. They had to have “a vigilant and reverent respect and eye,” so that they might notice by their mistress’s “look or countenance what lacketh, or is her pleasure to be had or done.”41

Elizabeth’s ladies were required to be accomplished in dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, and other pastimes beloved by their royal mistress. Besides music and watching players and other entertainers, Elizabeth took pleasure in her gardens, and enjoyed gambling at games of chance, dice and cards.42 Playing cards, which originated in China, became popular in Europe in the late fourteenth century. The four suits we know today originated in France around 1480, and so would have been known at Henry VII’s court. It was in the fifteenth century that kings, queens, and knaves began to feature on the cards. The “knave” derives from the German knabe, meaning a male child or prince.

An old tradition, probably apocryphal, has it that the image of the queen of hearts in a pack of playing cards represents Elizabeth of York. It is said that, after her death, Henry VII ordered her image to appear on every deck of cards, in commemoration of the love they had shared. Certainly the long-lappeted gable headdress resembles the type she is known to have worn, and the queen of hearts is usually shown holding a Tudor rose. But others have claimed that the lady is meant to be Helen of Troy, and still others argue that the figures on playing cards represent no one in particular.

Dancing was often practiced in the Queen’s chamber in preparation for court entertainments, or just for its own sake. The ladies would also have been diverted by the antics of Elizabeth’s fools, Patch and William. Henry VII once bought new shoes for Patch, and Elizabeth paid for William to be boarded out for several months while he was sick; she also bought coats, shirts, and shoes for her fools.43

Every married woman in Elizabeth’s train was expected to put the Queen’s needs before those of her family, for royal service meant spending long periods at court. Time off was allowed for confinements, but once the baby was established with a nurse, the mother would return to court.

Next in rank after the ladies-in-waiting came the maids of honor, unmarried, well-born girls who were often appointed by the recommendation of the ladies-in-waiting, or through the influence of their relations or friends at court. The usual age for appointment was around sixteen. Since Edward IV’s reign, beauty had been a prerequisite, since it would enhance the appearance of the Queen’s entourage, and attract suitable husbands for the girls in question. Ambitious parents would compete to place their daughters in the Queen’s household, for she and the King were better placed than anyone to arrange advantageous marriages for them, upon which they might be promoted to the rank of lady-in-waiting. Maids of honor were therefore expected to be virtuous, for their mistress was in loco parentis, and no scandal could reflect upon her name.

Also residing in the Queen’s household, but not in her service, were the daughters and gentlewomen of her ladies, many of whom made good marriages through living at court. All the women attendant upon the Queen and her ladies had accommodation and board at court, as well as stabling for their horses. In addition to their salaries, they received new liveries and clothing at Christmas and Whitsun, and for coronations, royal weddings, and funerals. They were given gifts by the King and Queen at New Year and at other times, often in recognition of good service, and if they were lucky they were granted annuities and pensions, which could be quite substantial.44

The names of many of Elizabeth’s female attendants are known, although it is not possible to determine in what capacity they all served. They are listed in alphabetical order in Appendix II. Some had clearly been appointed at the behest of the King or Margaret Beaufort. Several served Elizabeth for many years, and were later rewarded for good service; some were entrusted with positions in the households of the royal children. The Queen’s personal household, like the court, was composed of people who were often related to her and/or to one another, making it almost a familial organization.

Elizabeth’s female attendants would have dressed her, for help was essential, given the elaborate clothing worn by high-ranking ladies of the period. Queens were not expected to perform even personal tasks for themselves, so they also washed and bathed her, and attended her when she used the privy or close stool, wiping her with a clean cloth afterward. It was taken for granted that body servants, who were required to be of gentle rank, would be in attendance even for the most intimate of functions.

It was a mark of rank to look clean and smell pleasant. Since the thirteenth century, kings and queens had the luxury of piped hot and cold water from a cistern, and Elizabeth was fortunate in that she had many servants, but not everyone at court was fastidious, and sanitation was poor: hers was a world scented with herbs, spices, and flowers—variously spread or sprinkled on rush matting, napery, food, bedding, and parts of the body—so that offensive smells might be camouflaged. Good manners dictated that the upper classes washed on rising, before and after meals, and on retiring for the night; the royal chamberlains would be at hand at those times with a basin and a towel of fine Holland cloth. Yet it is not known how often, or how thoroughly, people actually washed themselves. Elizabeth’s father, Edward IV, had his head, hands, and feet washed every Saturday, which suggests there was a difference between the ideal and the reality. The rich did take baths fairly often, using a wooden tub lined with cloth and covered with a canopy. The bather sat on a bed of sponges, which were also used to wash her with herbs, rosewater, and soap, and was attended by servants who spread mats for her to stand on and who stood ready with towels. Toothpicks and cloths were used to clean and buff teeth, and Elizabeth’s attendants would have tidied her hair with an ivory comb.

All the Queen’s ladies were expected to be expert needlewomen, as much of their time was spent working with costly materials and threads of silk and gold, embroidering altar cloths, hangings, bedding, and garments, or sewing clothing such as fine shirts. These might be given as New Year’s gifts. Elizabeth Lock was the Queen’s silkwoman, and also made items for the King. At Christmas 1502, Elizabeth paid her for “certain bonnets, frontlets, and other stuff of her occupation for her own wearing.”45

Like many aristocratic women, Elizabeth enjoyed embroidery. She employed a French embroiderer, Robinet, who got board and wages, and hired other embroiderers,46 but embroidered the King’s garter robe herself, using Venetian gold that Henry had purchased,47 and in 1502 she paid 8d. [£16] for an ell of linen cloth “for a sampler.” A sampler at that time was an embroidery specimen or template that could be copied.48

Much time was devoted by the Queen and her ladies to making, mending, embellishing, or trying on clothes. In an age of outward display, appearance counted for much, and it was expected of them to enhance the splendor of the court by the resplendence of their attire. Elizabeth’s ladies were required to dress almost as lavishly—and expensively—as she did: despite strict sumptuary laws restricting the wearing of certain materials to certain ranks, their dress was to reflect their employer’s status rather than their families’. The rich materials and long trains worn at court reflected the wealth and status of their wearers, for such fabrics were dear. Needless to say, it cost a lot to equip a girl for royal service.

As Queen, Elizabeth was expected to dress more magnificently than any other woman. The measure of a monarch’s standing was judged by the conspicuous display he and his family maintained, and clothing was an outward sign of rank, which was why sumptuary laws were regularly—and sometimes ineffectively—passed, and anyone wearing apparel above their station was liable to a fine. The King instructed the Great Wardrobe and his own chamber to issue Elizabeth with the more expensive items that she needed, which was a great boon in view of her limited income. The Great Wardrobe also supplied clothing, normally of black or tawny, for the ladies and gentlewomen of the Queen’s household, although peeresses in attendance were expected to wear their own rich attire. The King did not stint on such items, recognizing the importance of outward display,49 but Elizabeth had to pay the cost of transporting her clothes whenever she changed residences.50

The chief item of dress worn by women was the gown, which had a fitted bodice, a natural waistline, and a flowing skirt. Sleeves were usually narrow until ca. 1500, when they became fashionably wider; in 1502, Elizabeth ordered her tailor, Robert Ragdale, to line a gown of black velvet with wide sleeves with black sarcenet.51 Narrow sleeves had cuffs, sometimes of fur, as can be seen in Elizabeth’s portraits, and fur was often used to trim the neckline, line the gown, or as a border on the skirt. During Elizabeth’s lifetime the square neck replaced the boat-shaped or V-shaped necklines of her younger years. She seems to have favored black above other colors, black then being one of the costliest dyeing processes and therefore a symbol of status, but she also owned gowns of crimson, purple, gold, and other hues.52 Some of her gowns were of wool; some had a deep contrasting border at the hem, as can be seen in the Whitehall mural (see Appendix I), where it is of ermine, or purfils, which were decorative edgings. One russet velvet gown had a purfil of cloth of gold and damask; another of purple velvet had a purfil of cloth of gold.53

Beneath the gown was worn an undergown called a kirtle. Kirtles were not usually made of the rich fabrics in gowns, unless they were on display when trains were looped up at the back: they could be of silk or worsted, and like outer gowns were often lined with wool. Elizabeth’s privy purse expenses show payments for several kirtles and the hemming of one of damask.54

Gowns and kirtles were made for the Queen and her ladies by tailors of the Great Wardrobe, or by professional tailors. Elizabeth’s tailors were Robert Johnson of the Merchant Adventurers’ Company, Robert Ragdale, Stephen Higham, and Robert Addington; Thomas Staunton was her cutter.55 However, she and the women attendant on her made their own body linen, which comprised smocks (the basic undergarment), kerchiefs (for the neck or nose), and head rails (coifs). Heavy fabrics could only be brushed or sponged, so smocks were worn next to the skin to preserve gowns and kirtles from sweat stains and keep them fresh. Smocks could be changed and laundered frequently, although that might have meant weekly. The Queen’s laundress, Agnes Dean, was paid £3.6s.8d. [£1,620] a year.56 In 1486, Thomas Fuller, mercer of London, provided Elizabeth with “linen cloth” for body linen such as smocks; this cost £8.2s. [£4,000].57 She also owned petticoats of scarlet and linen, and socks of white fustian.58

It has long been thought that women in this period wore no undergarments apart from smocks and hose, but in 2012 well-preserved linen underclothing resembling a bra and (male?) thong, thought to date from ca. 1480, were found in a vault in Lengberg Castle, East Tyrol. Hilary Davidson, fashion curator at the Museum of London, believes it is “entirely probable” that similar garments were worn in late medieval England.59 If so, it is credible that Elizabeth might have owned something similar. One would not normally expect to find any surviving due to their flimsy nature, so the Austrian undergarments are unique examples.

Coifs were worn beneath hoods, which were usually in the English gable style. During this period they had long lappets, frontlets, and a black veil, and were usually of black velvet or silk with decorative, sometimes bejeweled, trims. “Frontlets of gold” are itemized in Elizabeth’s privy purse expenses,60 and Henry VII once made her a gift of them.61 Elizabeth’s headdresses were usually bought from Mrs. Lock, her silkwoman, who made her bonnets, hoods, and frontlets. Joan Wilcock of Yorkshire, another silkwoman, supplied the Queen with a bonnet on May 25, 1502, and “certain bonnets, frontlets, and other stuff” in January 1503, for which she was paid £20 of a bill totaling £60.6s.5d. [£29,300], Elizabeth signing the bill with her own hand.62

Cloaks were worn as outer wear. Elizabeth owned several, and her privy purse accounts also mention stoles (large shawls). She also purchased laces, ribbon, and lengths of sarcenet in eight colors to make girdles and tippets (shoulder capes). Late in 1502, Richard Weston brought her “certain harnesses of girdles” from France costing £4.10s. [£2,190].63 The Queen’s shoes were bought by the dozen, single- or double-soled pairs with tin or latten (copper alloy, like brass) buckles costing a shilling [£25]. It is often claimed that she could not afford expensive buckles for her shoes, but in fact she bought the same kind as her wealthy mother-in-law. At Christmas 1502 she bought buskins, which were knee-high boots of leather or silk, usually with turned-down tops.64

In the first year of their marriage, Henry VII saw to it that Elizabeth was suitably accoutred as befit a queen. On February 10, 1486, she was provided with ten yards of black velvet at 16s. [£400] a yard, and twelve yards of purple velvet at 21s. [£510] a yard, for two gowns. For the first Easter after her marriage, she was lavishly supplied with luxury fabrics and trimmings. Hildebrand Vannonhawe, furrier, was paid £44.2s. [£21,500] for “forty-nine timbers of ermines, for the furring of one gown of the Lady Elizabeth, Queen of England, at 18s. [£440] the timber.” The Queen’s skinner, Richard Story, was paid £31.14s. [£1,600] for powdering these ermines65 and stitching them to the gown. Elizabeth had gowns and kirtles of white damask cloth of gold trimmed with powdered ermines.66 In 1502 another of the Queen’s skinners, Master Hayward, was paid for furring a crimson gown for Princess Margaret and adding cuffs of pampilion, a fur that may have come from Pamplona, Navarre.67 John Exnyng, grocer of London, supplied three yards of green cloth of gold “for the use of the lady the Queen” for £13.10s. [£6,600]; and Richard Smythe, yeoman of her wardrobe, bought Elizabeth “black silk of damask and crimson satin” costing £11.5s.6d. [£5,500]. Above this, the King commanded his wife to be given “ten verges [yards] of crimson velvet” and the sum of £90 [£44,000].68 Such prices give us a good idea of how expensive—and sumptuous—the clothing of the upper classes was in Tudor times.

Four months later, in July, Elizabeth’s wardrobe was further embellished. Hildebrand Vannonhawe received £42.2s. [£20,500] for forty-nine “timbers of ermines for a gown for the Queen,” and another fifteen timbers were bought for the same gown for £10 [£4,860] from Gerard Venmar. Both were probably Flemish merchants. John Exnyng was paid £13.10s. [£6,600] for three yards of green cloth of gold, all “to the Queen’s use.” Richard Smythe bought “divers silks” for £11.5s.6d. [£5,500]. By 1487 there were “divers workers and furriers working for the lady the Queen,” all of whom were paid wages.69

Over the years, the King gave Elizabeth occasional, sometimes very personal gifts of money, jewels, ornaments, furs, gowns, frontlets, crimson satin for a kirtle, robes furred with miniver, fur-lined night boots, gold wire for trimmings, a communion cloth, beds, and household essentials such as hammers. He also purchased a lion “for the Queen’s Grace,” costing £2.13s.4d. [£1,300], which was no doubt sent straight to the royal menagerie in the Tower.70 But having outlaid a fortune on his wife’s wardrobe, Henry evidently expected her to make things last, and her accounts show that her gowns were continually mended, turned, “new-bodied,” or newly trimmed, for which her tailor, Robert Addington, was paid 4d. [£8], and rehemmed for 2d. [£4].71 A degree of contriving must have gone into ensuring that she did not disappoint when she appeared in public.

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