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Richard II's treasure

the riches of a medieval king

Use of the treasure

At any one time part of a royal treasure was in use and part was in store. Some inventories, such as the great 1379-80 inventory of King Charles V of France (1364-1380), describe valuables according to the places they were kept, palace by palace and room by room. The Richard II inventory is not structured in this way. Richard's valuables, whether or not they were in his immediate possession, are all listed together, without any reference to their whereabouts. The main division in the treasure roll is between the secular objects which are listed first, and the chapel goods which follow. Furthermore, no distinction is made between Richard's goods and those intended for his queens (Anne of Bohemia and Isabelle of France). The king 'owned' the queens' possessions, but valuables were distributed between their separate households.

Treasure in current use

There are a few scraps of evidence from within the inventory about the times and places when and where certain valuables were in use. The little queen, Isabelle, wore some of her jewels at Eltham Palace. Several gems were lost there, grounds for royal displeasure and the dismissal of her French governess. Isabelle 'gave' Richard two magnificent brooches from her trousseau at Nottingham and at Woodstock, probably in 1397 or 1398. Vessels in precious metal in use in the king's 'hostiell' (the wider household) are also separately listed (see household plate).

From other sources, we know that most of the sacred plate was in the overall charge of the dean of the king's household chapel. This institution travelled with the king wherever he might be, in England, in Scotland, in Wales and Ireland and in France. Clearly only a selection of this vast store of gold and silver was transported on each journey, but besides vestments and hangings, every kind of liturgical vessel would have been needed to celebrate the royal mass and other daily offices with suitable magnificence. It is impossible to know which of the sumptuous liturgical vessels or the wonderful gold and jewelled images of saints (the image of St Michael, for instance), such as those given to Richard at Ardres in 1396, were actually in use at any one time.

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