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Richard II's treasure

the riches of a medieval king

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Gifts and donors

The names of English and French donors are attached to many objects listed in the treasure roll, although the provenance (source) of the vast majority of the 1,206 entries is not stated. The roll does not tell us whether a particular gift was to Richard II or to Isabelle or to them both. This can sometimes be deduced by thinking about the type of object, the context in relation to adjacent entries, or by matching a given object with another French or English document. The occasion for a gift is not stated either, but this can sometimes also be worked out.

Many gifts to which the names of donors are attached celebrated the truce and the marriage of 1396. Gifts were regularly exchanged on 1 January (the equivalent of our present day Christmas presents). Hanapshanap - a cup, goblet or beaker  with inscriptions such as 'Happy New Year' recorded in the roll were no doubt given on one or another New Year's day. Rich textiles or other types of object were often presented at New Year or on other occasions. The roll does not record anything which is not made of precious metal.

French donors

The named French donors are almost all immediate members of the French royal family, King Charles VI, Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, the king's brother, Louis, duke of Orléans (1372-1407), his uncles, Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy (1342-1404) and John, duke of Berry (1340-1416). A single gift, probably at the time of the truce and marriage, is assigned to John de Montfort, duke of Brittany (1344-99), a relative by his marriage to Joan Holland (d. 1384), sister of Richard II's half brother, Thomas, 5th earl of Kent.

Richard had to reciprocate, as etiquette demanded, with gifts of equal or greater value. Richard's gifts to Charles VI at Ardres can be identified. His other presents to Charles between 1397 and 1399 were no doubt equally sumptuous. In 1399, Charles rewarded Richard's messenger, Sir Thomas Clanvow, with a covered gold cup and a gold collar, and the two esquires in his suite with silver-gilt cups, for bringing Richard's New Year's gifts to France.

A portrait of Jean De Berry

Jean de Berry. Detail from January, Très Riches Heures of Jean de Berry. Paris, c. 1411-16 (Chantilly, Musée Condé, ms. 65, f. 1v)

The most valuable gifts recorded were from Charles VI. The total of those listed comes to over £5,070, excluding gifts to Thomas of Woodstock, which had been seized by Richard by the time the roll was compiled. The gifts of the dukes of Berry (worth £1,840) and Burgundy (worth over £900), were also immensely costly. Some of these objects, mainly reliquary images or other liturgical objects such as paxespax - tablet of precious metal, ivory, etc., decorated with a sacred image, for transferring the kiss of peace at the mass from the celebrant to the clergy and laity , marked the peace negotiations and marriage of 1396, but some could have been New Year's gifts. New Year's day was a religious as well as a secular feast, the occasion, for example, of Isabeau of Bavaria's gift to Charles VI in 1405 of the Goldenes Rössl.

A miniature gold coffer weighing only 3½ oz. from Jean de Berry seems to have been for Isabelle. It was listed among other objects which were certainly hers. So, too, was probably another larger coffer, sent by Isabeau of Bavaria. The coffer was crystal, mounted in gold, decorated with little pearls and red and blue enamel roses. It had a little gold key and was valued at £26. These precious imports, large and small, were one significant route by which the objects arrived in England, displaying the techniques of goldsmiths, work which were reaching the high point of their achievement in Paris in the years around 1400. Examples include the Goldenes Rössl and the Holy Thorn Reliquary.

English donors

Some clues to the dates of gifts from English donors emerge from the treasure roll. Richard II's gifts to Isabelle and hers to the king date from the period of their betrothal and marriage, 1396-99. All three of the Lords Appellant executed or exiled in 1397, and some of their wives, are named as donors. These gifts predate their arrest in July, and were probably made no later than New Year 1397. Other magnate donors are recorded under more than one name, both before and after the new titles they were awarded in September 1397.

The tomb of John of Gaunt

The lost monument of John of Gaunt. After William Dugdale, 'A view of the monuments ... as they stood in September 1641', in The history of St Paul's cathedral in London ... (London, 1714)

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Apart from gifts exchanged between the king and the little queen, the richest of those listed were from members of the English royal family, headed by Richard's most powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (1340-99), claimant in right of his second wife, Constance, to the throne of Castile. Gaunt's gifts, hanapshanap - cup, goblet or beaker  and ewers and pairs of great basins, were worth a minimum of £950. The heraldry decorating some of these objects belonged to Anne of Bohemia's lifetime; others displayed hart and broom, the English and French badges, dating, therefore, to between 1396 and Gaunt's death in February 1399.

Richard's other surviving uncles, Edmund, duke of York (1341-1402), and Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester (1355-97) (see Lords Appellant), also gave fine presents. So too did his half-brother, John Holland, earl of Huntingdon (c. 1352-1400), and duke of Exeter (1397), and his cousin and presumed heir, Roger Mortimer, earl of March (1374-98).

Among Richard's cousins and other relatives by marriage, the largest donor was his favourite, Edward, earl of Rutland and duke of Aumale (1397), the future duke of York (c. 1373-1415). His gifts were worth together over £530. One object may have especially gratified the king. It incorporated a kneeling figure of Richard II himself, with the saints to whom he was especially devoted, St John the Baptist and St Edward. In contrast Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV (1366-1413), is infrequently named. The total value of the three gifts of his which are described is under £19.

Gifts from courtiers reflected their income and status. Several of Richard's closest friends among the chamber knights are named in the roll as donors, but on a modest scale. The income of the higher nobility, such as Thomas Mowbray, the earl marshal (1366-99), on the other hand, meant an obligation to especial generosity. Mowbray was closely involved in the marriage negotiations of 1395 and 1396. His gifts totalled about £450.

Noblewomen are also named; their gifts were perhaps mainly to Isabelle. The gifts of Katherine Swynford (c. 1350-1403), the third wife of John of Gaunt (1397), added up to around £62, while the recorded single gifts of some of the prominent women at court were valued at sums between 26s. 8d. and £6. Even the richest widows were clearly not expected to match the levels of expenditure of their male counterparts. Margaret of Brotherton (c. 1320-99), the countess marshal, and duchess of Norfolk (1397), and Joan, countess of Hereford (d. 1419), each produced gifts worth about £80.

Some English and Irish bishops were recorded as donors, especially Richard's intimates, such as his physician, Tideman of Winchcombe, bishop of Worcester (1395-1401). It is not always possible, however, to be certain which bishop is meant, if more than one person was appointed to a see during the 1390s. Other clerics with a close connection to the king are clearly identified. The dean of Richard's household chapel, the dean of Windsor and the king's almoner who was responsible for distributing his charitable donations in money or in kind, all gave various types of objects in precious metal. So, too, did William Colchester, the abbot of Westminster (1386-1420), a trusted councillor.

Office-holders and administrators, some of them clerks, were involved in gift-giving, not merely the very great, such as the treasurer of England and the chancellor, but men such as John Lincoln, the king's secretary (1397-99), and a keeper of the privy seal, probably the ambitious Richard Clifford (keeper 1397-1401), who had risen as keeper of the Great Wardrobe, and later became bishop, first of Worcester and then of London. John Macclesfield, who was keeper of the Great Wardrobe from 1397 to 1399, made several gifts. John Lufwyk, keeper of the Privy Wardrobe from 1396, who was entrusted with the king's jewels and plate during the Irish expedition of 1399, and was named as an executor in Richard's will, presented a pair of silver-gilt bottles worth £14, one enamelled with a lion, the other with an eagle. The citizens of London, Calais, Chester and Salisbury all gave cups or other gifts, probably at the visit of the king and queen.

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