More Expenses Revelations…

I hadn’t meant to do anything more about Henry VIII – you must be as sick of him as I am by now. But two things fell into my hands – some fabulous photos by Stephen of the weekend’s Tudor Days at the Old Royal Naval College – and some wonderful accounts that prove mad expenses claims by public figures is nothing new.

Of course – Henry himself hardly lived in sackcloth and ashes. Greenwich Palace was massive – and had so many servants and hangers-on it was hardly surprising that people took advantage.

Rules allowed a Duke parking-space for twenty four horses, and four for a knight. Dukes were also allowed seven servants and a knight one. But even with these generous allowances, abuse of the rules was widespread. People brought relatives along for the ride and far more servants than they were supposed to have, and most of the time the authorities turned a blind eye to the practice.

Money was often given to the poor, and the Kings almoners would also distribute leftover food and ‘broken victuals.’ Not every needy person queueing up necessarily was.

Gratuities were also given to anyone who brought the king a present – marmalade, pomegranates, orange pies etc. Large sums were spent on costumes, jewellery and ‘jocalia’ for the lords and ladies, some of which was used again; some merely spirited away.

But the name that would have cropped up in Ye Daily Telegraphe for seriously juggling expenses was that of Henry Courtney, Marquis of Exeter.

Courtney had impeccable lineage (despite his father having spent a short spell in Tower- but then who hadn’t…) He was a popular guy at court – chivalrous and valiant at tournaments, always up for a laugh and the only gentleman who had access to the King at all times. There were even rumours at one point that he would succeed Henry if no son arrived. Okay – he, too, did time in the Tower, but that was de rigeur. No one took much notice of that

But, oh – those expenses. Here are some highlights of his Greenwich outgoings (we’ll forget the flippin’ second-home expenses at Richmond for now or we’d be here all day…) We’ll start with some of his entertainment allowance expenditure:
  • A Goose, 8d
  • Two dozen pigeons, 20d,
  • Eight quails, 2s. 8d
  • Three dozen sparrows, 9d
  • Carraways and biscuits, 6d
  • Pears and nuts, 4d
  • Damsons, 1d,
  • Peaches, 2d
  • One gallon and three quarts of wine, 19d

Moving on to expenses wholly and neccessarily incurred whilst attending the royal family:

  • Drinking at the King’s Armoury, 2d
  • Gambling losses at Greenwich at tennis, cards, shooting, and ‘shovelboard in the Queen’s chamber.’(undisclosed amount)
And finally, some of those expense-claims Have I Gotte Newes For Thou writers have been patiently waiting for – all, interestingly, hat-related:
  • Return boat hire to fetch his nightcap, 4d
  • To a lad at Charlton for lending his cap when the King threw snowballs, 4d
  • Return boat hire to get a valentine of gold for his cap (undisclosed amount)

But whatever may happen to today’s politicians when exposed, it’s unlikely they’ll be beheaded for treason. Poor old Courtney was executed for – well, for being a pot and calling calling the kettle black. He rather stupidly aligned himself to one Cardinal Pole who wrote a book comparing Henry to Nebuchadnezzar. It didn’t go down well.

The lesson is, as always, if you’re going to play with fire, don’t get caught…

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