British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Jan. i.]                     new year's day.                                       3
been worthy of all acceptation, though not, perhaps, well accepted.
A manuscript roll of the public revenue of the fifth year of Edward VI. has an entry of rewards given on New Year's Day to the king, officers, and servants, amounting to 155l. 5s., and also of sums given to the servants of those who presented New Year's gifts to the king.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the custom of presenting New Year's gifts to the sovereign was carried to an extravagant height. Indeed, Dr. Drake is of opinion that the wardrobe and jewelry of Queen Elizabeth were principally supported by these annual contributions on New Year's Day. He cites lists of New Year's gifts pre­sented to her from the original rolls published in her " progresses " by Mr. Nichols ; and from these it appears that the presents were made by the great officers of state, peers and peeresses, bishops, knights and their ladies, gentlemen and gentlewomen, physicians and apothecaries, and others of lower grade, down to her Majesty's dustman. The presents consisted of sums of money, costly articles of ornament for the queen's person or apartments, caskets studded with precious stones, valuable necklaces, bracelets, gowns, embroidered mantles, smocks, petticoats, looking-glasses, fans, silk stockings, and a great variety of other articles. The largest sum given by any of the temporal lords was 20l.; but the Archbishop of Canterbury gave 40l., the Archbishop of York 30l., and the other spiritual lords, 20Z. and 10Z. Dr. Drake says, that although Elizabeth made returns to the New Year's gifts, in plate and other articles, yet she nevertheless took sufficient care that the balance should be in her own favour.
In the reign of James I. the money gifts seem to have been continued for some time, but the ornamental articles presented seem to have been few and of small value. No rolls, nor, indeed, any notices of New Year's gifts presented to Charles I. seem to have been preserved, though probably there were such. The custom, no doubt, ceased entirely during the Commonwealth, and was never afterwards revived, at least, to any extent worthy of notice. Mr. Nichols men­tions that the last remains of the custom at court consisted
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