Sunday, May 26, 2013

Question from Mary - Clarification of two pieces of information on Edward VI

I am working on a personal project and need two minor pieces of information on Edward VI. I know this information is found in "The Last Tudor King" by H.W. Chapman, but right now personal access to the book is not an option for me. Also, I was hoping someone may have more detail than is mentioned in Chapman's book.

1) What are the details of Edward getting lost while riding in Wiltshire c. 1553? He came across a child named Dew, from Bower Chalk. This child lived well into the 17th century and told people the story of meeting the king. What are the details of that story (or that story within a story-- who was "Dew")?

2) Years after Edward VI died, one of his desks was opened. What was found inside? I remember something about dog collars-- what else was in the desk? And how many collars? Who opened the desk when the discovery was made, when was this discovery made, and where?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.



Marilyn R said...


There are some very cheap paperback copies available on Amazon at the moment.

Foose said...

My copy is packed up in a box somewhere, but I can conjecture a couple of answers:

Chapman likely may have obtained her information on Dew from either Agnes Strickland, the grand old mistress of 19th-century Tudoriana, or from the original source Strickland cites - John Aubrey. Aubrey was a 17th-century antiquarian who loved to hunt down surviving eyewitnesses to history and flag various arcana that harked back to earlier times. In his book, Natural History of Wiltshire, we find:

"Old Goodwife Dew of Broad Chalke died about 1649, aged 103. She told me she was, I thinke, sixteen yeares old when King Edward the sixthe was in this countrie, and that he lost his courtiers, or his courtiers him, a hunting, and found him again in Falston-lane."

Strickland puts the date of Edward's encounter with Dew in 1552, based on the dates in his Journal, which do not mention Dew. Some editors of Aubrey have pointed out that Dew would have been six, not sixteen, if her reported age of 103 in 1649 is accurate. However, keep in mind that birthdates were somewhat shaky among the lower classes, old people regularly exaggerated their actual ages (or people around them did), as extreme old age was a mark of God's favor and set one apart from the herd. However, if she did accurately recollect an actual event, it seems there is no contemporary reference in King Edward's time to support her statement.

Foose said...

Per the dog collars, I have worked the Snippet view of Google Books to learn that Chapman does state that Edward's desk was opened after his death (a standard practice after the death of a king; an inventory was always made of his property by the responsible officials so they could deliver it to the new monarch); his "Journal" was the key item, but was surrounded, in Chapman's telling, by "coins, aglets, black and white buttons ... six red velvet dog collars with leashes of white leather.")

I thought the source for this might be the 1857 Literary Remains of King Edward the Sixth, which collects contemporary records and reproduces the post-mortem inventory made of his desk's contents, apparently derived from a manuscript of the Harleian Miscellany, MS. Harl. 7376, f. 30:

"Item, a deske covered with blacke velvet ... conteinynge theise percelles folowinge: -

-Item, a brouche of golde with a face of white agathe
-Item, xv triangle buttons of golde enameled, some blacke and some white
-Item, one teston of silver with K and E crowned
-Item, v small aglettes of golde triangle enameled blacke
-Item, xvj small buttons of golde enameled blacke
-Item, a till of Cypres in the side of the said deske, havinge in it an yncke boxe of silver and gilte without a cover and a duste boxe of silver and gilte with a cover, and xxxvij counters of silver and gilte
-Item, a litle stampe of iron
-Item, a purse of golde, redde silke and silver
-Item, ij litle boxes of silver gilte for duste and yncke"

Unfortunately it does not list the dog collars. However, a little further down the editors discuss Edward’s Quadrant, a sort of astrological/astronomical device that carries this footnote: “'The instrumente of Astronomye taken by the Kinges majestie the xijth of Novembre 1549, and likewise two other instrumentes, whereof his grace gave one to the lord Strange …' “On the same day, ‘a box with burnynge perfumes in it’ was ‘taken out to burne for the Kinges majestie’ and 'vj dogge collours of crymson vellat with vj lyhams of white leather' were delivered to him." [Italics mine: that’s “six collars of crimson velvet with six leashes of white leather” to us moderns.]

The point is that the dog accoutrements were not found in the king’s desk, apparently. If this source is correct, they appear to be entirely separate from the after-death inventory and instead were given to Edward in a separate incident back in 1549. Chapman may have conflated them by mistake (this stuff is difficult to read) or by intention, to make the boy-king appear more pathetic and appealing in death, a dog lover cherishing his pets’ fashion accessories to the end, snuffle, snuffle. (Although Chris Skidmore and Jennifer Loach agree he did appear to like greyhounds.) The source for the dog collars’ note is also from the Harleian, MS. Harl. 1419, f. 117b.

Mary said...


Thank you so much! And thank you for taking the time to track down such wonderful detail. It was exactly what I needed.


Mary R said...

What is a teston? I would guess that the E would stand for Edward but what about the K?

Foose said...

The testons are more usually rendered in modern studies as testoons. They're a type of silver coin first issued by Henry VII, and apparently revived in a big way in 1544 - according to Christopher Edgar Challis' The Tudor Coinage:

"The emergence of the testoon in 1544 as a regular denomination is largely unexplained but may not be unconnected with the speed at which the mints were required to produce silver coin."

The testoon carried a portrait of the king, hence the name - "teston" from the old French teste (tete). Challis notes that "New profile busts were also introduced on the debased coins struck in Edward's name from 1549 onwards ..." Hence the "K" stands for "King," and "E" as you correctly observe, for Edward.

The desk appears to have been a portable writing desk, and most of the materials found inside (boxes for "yncke" (ink) and "duste" (probably sand for for blotting the ink), and the little "stampe of iron") are obviously writing-related.

The buttons are a puzzle, but the aglets are interesting. A sort of metal tag that can loop through a hole, typically they were used by men of the period to fasten the points of their hose. Maybe it was useful to have a ready supply on hand for wardrobe emergencies. However, Thomas Seymour the Lord Admiral, while confined in the Tower, allegedly used an aglet to write a secret letter (or at least so Bishop Latimer alleged). So I wonder if the idea originated with Seymour, or if perhaps aglets were accepted "workarounds" for situations where sharpened quills were not available. The aglets in the desk were gold, however, so they would seem too valuable for use in this way.

Foose said...

Actually, I have to backtrack, lest I find myself as guilty of jumping to conclusions as Hester Chapman (but in extenuation she writes a cracking good Gothic novel!).

I went looking for an image of the testoon in question. However, having waded tentatively into various numismatic journals and their microscopic analysis of the Tudor coinage, I can't find an image or written description of an Edward VI coinage that matches a "K and E crowned."

I did find that "K" and "E" might be the marks of the mints involved in making various coins, but it is noted that "K" and "E" were never found on the same coins (although the marks of several other mints might be on a single coin).

In thinking about it again, the key point is that the desk is a writing desk and the contents (except for the buttons, the brooch and the testoon) are clearly related to that task. There was no other loose money in the desk (the "purse of golde" I think refers to the material composing the purse, not money in it, which would have been duly accounted for). Therefore, possibly the testoon is not a coin in circulation, but something connected with the writing task.

Possibly it might be a sort of seal - obviously not the Great Seal, but maybe some sort of workaday seal (I don't know enough about the procedure of royal writing to say definitely). The description of Edward's seal for the Court of Common Pleas runs, "The King in royal robes ... on either side are the initials E K crowned." (This is from an 1890 catalog on a Tudor exhibition). I don't think the genuine seal for that court would be lying around in Edward's writing desk - or it would have been itemized as such - but it may have subscribed to a pattern that was used for less important seals. It's also not a perfect match for the item described in the desk inventory, which says "K and E" - Edward's seal is "E K."

The other possibility is that the testoon was some kind of medal or token - the fact it was called a "testoon" indicates that the king's image was on it. But further than that, I can't say.

Mary R said...

Hi Foose, Thanks for researching this. You've come up with some interesting possibilities!