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Inside a Tudor lady’s house

Inside a Tudor lady’s house

2023-04-11 23:51:31

Have you ever ever questioned how a girl’s house in Sixteenth-century England can be adorned? What rooms, furnishings and furnishings may it have had? Two manuscripts digitised for the British Library’s Medieval and Renaissance Women mission reveal simply that.

Egerton Roll 8797 and a recent copy, Egerton Roll 8798, are inventories of the London home of Alice Smythe, drawn up quickly after her loss of life in 1593. Alice got here from an essential service provider household. Her father was Sir Andrew Judde (c. 1492–1555), mayor of London in 1550 and a grasp of the Skinners Firm. In 1555, she married one other Skinner, Thomas Smythe (1522–1591), an MP and a profitable service provider himself. Three years later, Thomas grew to become the customs collector for the port of London, a authorities function that introduced him huge riches and the nickname Buyer Smythe. We will simply see the couple’s wealth on this stock of their house, drawn up after Alice died, two years after Thomas’ personal loss of life.

A portrait of a middle-aged Elizabethan woman in dark clothing and a ruff, with a long gold necklace.

Portrait of Alice Smythe by Cornelius Ketel, c. 1580: Private Collection

On 30 June that 12 months, Richard Rogers, a goldsmith, Richard Osborne, a draper, and two service provider tailors, William Greenway and Hugh Sherriot, residents of London, appraised Alice’s home and its contents. The stock they created goes room by room by means of her home in Fenchurch Road, London, starting with the doorway corridor. This had a few lengthy tables, two candlesticks, and an image of the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth (2 shillings). Subsequent have been two parlours: the parents’ parlour, for on a regular basis use, had a hearth, chairs and a Bible, however the ‘finest’ parlour had extra elaborate decor. In addition to leather-based chairs and inexperienced curtains, the room additionally had three ‘Turkey carpets’ (£2 16s 8d). Textiles like this from Turkey and elsewhere within the Islamic world have been an indication of wealth and could possibly be discovered in lots of affluent Tudor houses.

The beginning of the inventory of Alice’s house.

The start of the stock of Alice’s home: Egerton Roll 8797

The bed room above the perfect parlour was adorned with tapestries and a portray of Moses assembly with Pharaoh (10 shillings). Within the subsequent room, which had a matted flooring, was a portray of Henry VIII and one in every of Cupid and Venus (6 shillings every). Beside this was a painted bed room with a featherbed, inexperienced rugs and curtains, and a virginal, a sort of small harpsichord.

Most of the different rooms upstairs have been equally nicely adorned, with extra ‘Turkey’ carpets, featherbeds, and inexperienced or purple curtains. There was a gallery crammed with work and stained glass. Within the room inside the gallery was one other sitting room with fourteen work of Alice and Thomas and their youngsters, suggesting the significance she positioned upon her household. Alongside these was a portray of the Roman heroine Lucretia, chests, and velvet and taffeta chairs.

Different artworks in the home have been an Arras tapestry of Joseph, and work of Loss of life and Satisfaction, Christ as a shepherd, and the Final Supper. The good chamber had an embroidered coat of arms and portraits of Queen Elizabeth, William Cecil, Lord Treasurer, the Virgin Mary on stained glass, and Holofernes. Alice’s house, with its assortment of work depicting Biblical figures, Classical myths and Tudor monarchs, is typical of a affluent English home on this interval. The good chamber’s contents got here to £14 16s 10d. In distinction, the bedrooms of the three maids totalled simply £4 19s 2nd. Alice had at the very least seven different servants every with their very own room. Exterior the principle home was a tennis court docket, a steady, a wash home and a nonetheless home. Within the yard have been just a few weapons: two billhooks and three pikes.

Amongst Alice’s valuables have been £23 10s 8d of rings together with one with a diamond and twenty-two rubies. Her different jewelry and plate got here to £183 14s 7d. One among these was diamond jewelry within the form of an ‘A’, in all probability utilized by Alice herself. Alongside this was £177 9s in prepared cash.

The title page of volume one of The Monument of Matrones, framed with scenes from biblical stories and the royal crest above.

Title web page of Thomas Bentley’s The Monument of Matrones, 1582: British Library G.12047-49.

Alice additionally gives the look of getting been a literate lady. She had 35s 8d of books, together with two chronicles, just a few Bibles, the Ebook of Widespread Prayer, and Thomas Bentley’s The Monument of Matrones. Revealed in 1582, this quantity contained prayers written by and for girls, together with Queen Elizabeth. Whereas the opposite books could have been shared by Alice together with her husband, this one would nearly definitely have been her personal.

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In all, Alice’s possessions got here to £1084 17s 1d, plus £1248 that was obtained from the executors of her husband’s will. The full can be price nearly £700,000 as we speak and this didn’t embody the worth of the home itself or another property she owned elsewhere. She owed money owed of £76 14s to numerous people, principally wages for her servants, the charge for having her will written, and cash for her physician. Alice left £438 17s 5d in funeral bills.

This stock takes us inside the home of a rich Elizabethan widow, giving us an perception into her pursuits, life-style and beliefs. The imported ‘Turkey’ rugs and Arras tapestries trace at London’s worldwide ties within the late 1500s, whereas the copy of Bentley’s Monument of Matrones tells us about Alice’s private spirituality; her work of classical figures and tales counsel an curiosity within the Greek and Roman previous. It helps us get better the story of a girl who has usually been overshadowed by her husband and who didn’t go away us many paperwork in her personal voice.

We’re extraordinarily grateful to Joanna and Graham Barker for his or her beneficiant funding of Medieval and Renaissance Women.


Rory MacLellan

Observe us on Twitter @BLMedieval

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