British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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2                                  new year's day.                        [Jan. 1t.
and by their household and courtiers, was reduced to a solemn formula.
Agnes Strickland, in her Lives of the Queens of England (1864, vol. ii. p. 83), quotes the following extract from a MS. of Henry VII.'s Norroy herald, in possession of Peter Le Neve, Esq.: " On the day of the New Year, when the king came to his foot-sheet, his usher of his chamber-door said to him, ' Sire, here is a New Year's gift coming from the queen;' then the king replied, 'Let it come in,' Then the king's usher let the queen's messenger come within the yate" (meaning the gate of the railing which surrounded the royal bed, instances of which are familiar to the public in the state bedrooms at Hampton Court to this day, and it is probable that the scene was very similar), "Henry VII. sitting at the foot of the bed in his dressing-gown, the officers of his bed-chamber having turned the top sheet smoothly down to the foot of the bed when the royal personage rose. The queen,* in like manner, sat at her foot-sheet, and received the king's New Year's gift within the gate of her bed-railing. When this formal exchange of presents had taken place between the king and his consort, they received, seated in the same manner, the New Year's gifts of their nobles. ' And,' adds the herald, assuming the first person, ' I shall report to the queen's grace and them that be about her, what rewards are to be given to them that bring her grace New Year's gifts, for I trow they are not so good as those of the king.' "
There is in the possession of the Marquis of Bath, Longleat, a manuscript, which contains a list of moneys given to King Henry VIII. in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, as New Year's gifts. They are from archbishops, bishops, noblemen, doctors, gentlemen, &c. The amount which the king's grace complacently pocketed on this occasion was 792l. 10s. lOd.N. &. Q. 4th S. vol. xi. p. 8.
Honest old Latimer, however, says Hone (Every Day Book, 1836, vol. i. p. 7), instead of presenting Henry VIII. with a purse of gold, put into the king's hand a New Testament, with a leaf conspicuously doubled down at Hebrews xiii. 4, which, on reference, will be found to have
* Elizabeth of York,
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