Saturday, April 26, 2008

Questions from Tabitha - Misc.

I am a HUGE fan of tudor times, I am so glad I found this site I like to learn alittle more everday. I would appreciate any help with these questions.

1. I seen on a previous question that the maid of honors and lady in waitings sometimes didn't get paid, but if they did what would have been an amount earned for their work?

If possible, please convert english money into US dollars and also how much would that be in todays money.

2. In tudor times things were so proper in many ways, why was it necessary for so many people to watch the consummation of a marriage, and who had the right to watch?

3. Does anyone know how much money england had when Henry VIII died? And how much when ElizabethI died? I think I seen it in a book once that Henry inherited millions upon his succession in 1509, I thought it would be interesting to see the difference between 1509 to 1547.

I know I have 3 questions, I hope thats ok.



kb said...

I can give you some information about your first question. Maybe others will address the others.

Ladies and gentlewomen of the Privy and Bed Chamber were paid £33 6s 8d/year. The wages were set early in the century and didn't change. Maid of Honour wasn't supposed to be a paid position but there are financial records showing some payments around £20/year.

More important than the wages was room and board and allowances for stabling horses and housing for personal grooms and maids. Once sworn to the chamber these costs were born by the royal household. Also monarchs handed out gifts, for example clothing, fabric, etc. Ann Knollys, later baroness De La Warre, became a Maid of the chamber when 13 and received several pairs of shoes from Queen Elizabeth over the course of the Ann's first two years at court.

And then of course there were other 'gifts' one only received by being close to the monarch. For example Margaret Douglas, countess of Lennox was sometimes referred to as the Chief Lady of the Chamber for Mary I. She did not get normal wages. However, in 1554 she did get the entire wool license which would have been significantly more than any wages.

As for translating these amounts to current US dollars - I can't manage that but I hear there are web sites that perform calculations adjusted for time etc. Perhaps someone else will suggest them.

PhD Historian said...

KB did an admirable job with the first question, so I will tackle the second and give a partial answer to the third.
Regarding the witnessing of consummations of marriage, I suspect you have confused the common ritual of "bedding" with the physical act of sexual consummation. In the early modern period, it was fairly common practice in parts of Europe, including England, for the wedding party to escort the bride and groom to the bed on the first night. The couple were ceremoniously undressed and placed in bed together and the drapery that hung around beds was drawn. This was known as "bedding." The actual physical act of sexual consummation was not witnessed, to my knowledge. Instead, and especially among the propertied classes, the bed linens were sometimes inspected on the following morning for evidence of sexual activity. (You can read more about the bedding ritual in David Cressy's "Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England," Oxford Press, 1997). Sexual consummation made the marriage religiously valid and much more difficult to dissolve later. Henry VIII, for example, was able to wed Katherine of Aragon (and Katherine to contest the later annullment) because Katherine claimed that her early marriage to Arthur Tudor was never sexually consummated. Members of the wealthy classes were soemtimes married at an early age and consummation delayed, especially if the bride was under about 14. Such early and unconsummated marriages were easy to dissolve when and if a better opportunity came along. E.g.: the marriage of Katherine Grey in May 1553 was later dissolved on grounds of non-consumamtion and her former husband went on to remarry a wealthier woman.
Regarding the wealth of England in 1509 and 1547, while I do not have the estimated figures immediately at hand (they can be found in numerous general works on Tudor history, especially those of GR Elton and Roger Lockyer), it is indeed true that Henry VII amassed a comfortable financial reserve and left England to his son Henry VIII in a good economic position. Henry VIII, however, spent large sums of money fighting wars in France and on other pursuits (especially his divorce), draining the treasury. England was on a much less secure financial footing at his death in Janaury 1547. The economy of Europe in general, however, was not as strong in 1547 as it had been in 1509, so it would be incorrect to lay at Henry VIII's feet all of England's financial trounbles in 1547.