Sunday, June 18, 2017

Question from Arthur - Wealth of an early Tudor Baron or Earl

Hi, I am writing a novel set around 1495 to 1500.

If anyone can tell me what the most likely wealth for a baron or earl would be in this period.

I realise its variable and would depend on things like how many estates were owned and what they produced and offices held personally.

I am working the idea that they would have maybe 20-30 manors in various places and maybe a castle or two. Is this too many or two few for those kind of ranks?

I don't want my family to be exceptionally wealthy, like just have enough income to maintain themselves as people of their status should, but not be like super rich...

Is there any resources anywhere that show the income for one manor estate for a year for example which I could probably multiply 20-30 times to get a round about figure. The actual amount wont really known but I just want to a rough idea to be able to make comparisons.



PhD Historian said...

Yours is a very challenging question, largely because of the variables still possible. But there is at least one resource that can assist you with income from land: The Inquisitions Post Mortem. They have been published as a multi-volume calendar and include the reign of Henry VII. In effect, the state took an inventory of any wealthy deceased person’s properties and recorded the income value of those properties, in much the same manner as do probate courts and tax authorities today. The individual inventories are rarely complete, but they do give a general idea of an individual’s income from at least some of the land they owned. From there, you just need to decide how many manors your character owns and what each manor may be worth. For example, John Radcliff, Baron Fitzwater (died late in 1499) held at least 7 manors in Essex that produced an annual income for him of roughly £ 66 ... not a massive sum, but quite reasonable for a local baron.

20-30 manors would be an adequate number for a baron, and perhaps even for an earl, unless he were an earl of quite high standing. Ownership of a true “castle” would be unlikely, though it is definitely still possible. But you said you do not want your character to be super wealthy. If so, and given the time period in which you have set your novel (circa 1500), I recommend setting the number of manners at something less than 30 and the total annual income at less than £ 200. Anything more than that and you character will be pressing closer to the upper reaches of the ladder of wealth. Bear in mind that you are dealing with an era in which "super wealth" could be defined as an annual income of just £ 1000. Even the king himself had a total revenue in 1500 of only about £ 110,000.

Arthur Koray said...

Thanks that's really useful. Exactly what I needed....:)

I was thinking they would probably lease the castle rather than own it outright. It seems to me to make more sense. Plus they would only be small castles I think, maybe more along the lines of fortified manors.

Arthur Koray said...

Ok reading the The Inquisitions Post Mortem and it keeps saying nameXXX was seized of this manor or that what does that mean?

PhD Historian said...

It is a fancy was of saying "in actual possession of" a manor. To be "seized of" a manor is to have full and complete possession, without any legal hindrances or encumbrances. It is an arcane complexity of English law regarding real property, but one can potentially be the "owner" of a property without being "seized of" that same property. For example, if a wealthy man dies and leaves the entirety of his estate to his eldest son, that son is said to be "owner" of the property. If, however, the deceased stipulated in his will that his widow could enjoy the use and rights of a particular piece of real property throughout the remainder of her life, then the son-and-heir "owned" the property used by his widowed mother but was not "seized" of it.
Again, it is a complex and arcane legal principle, but think of it as "possession."

Arthur Koray said...

thanks that makes sense now I was thinking seized as in taken away but it seem a awful lot of property taken away when people i know lol