Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Question from Colleen - What was a large amount of money in Tudor times?

I am writing a historical novel set in the time of Henry VIII's marriage to Katharine Parr. I've found information on money in Tudor times, but I can't really figure out what was considered a HUGE amount of money. The premise of my story consists of a father selling his young daughter to an earl for an obscene bride price, but I don't know what an obscene bride price would be and I'd like my story to be accurate. Thanks!


PhD Historian said...

I am not an economic historian, but I can offer a few financial figures. During the sixteenth century, an annual income of 40 pounds was sufficient to qualify one for knighthood. That was "upper-middle class." Income for titled nobility derived almost exclusively from land (rents, primarily) and the revenues of governmental office, though there were exceptions. An earl might draw an income ranging anywhere from several hundred pounds to one or two thousand. In rare instances, someone like Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, might have a much higher income as a royal favorite. In regards to dowries and "bride prices," Henry Grey, while Marquis of Dorset, transferred to Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, the guardianship of his daughter Jane Grey together with the right to bestow her in marriage. IN exchange, he received 500 pounds in immediate cash and a promise of an additional 1500 pounds, all as a "loan." The sum seems not to have raised eyebrows at the time. You might check the online catalogue for the library of your closest university and search under keywords "England", "marriage", "early modern", and dowries" for books that deal specifically with the topic.

Liam said...

Henry VIII left his daughters Mary and Elizabeth an income of £3,000 a year, I think. That was probably a pretty big sum.