The 1542 Inventory of the Palace of Westminster

'First oone Gowne of purple Satten furred with Pampilion/the Sleves and border set with oone hundred and thertye diamondes set in golde and a hundred thertye and oone Clusters of Peerle.’

It is fitting that the first few entries in the 1542 inventory of the Palace of Westminster deal with the small selection of Henry VIII’s clothes that were kept there. These clothes, including the King’s Parliament robes, act as a reminder that the first significant office held by Sir Anthony Denny (1501–49) within Henry VIII’s household was that of Yeoman of the Robes. By 1542, Denny had progressed significantly. He had been previously Second Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and had also held the office of Keeper of the King’s New Palace of Westminster (also known as Whitehall) for six years.

The inventory reflects aspects of the lives of three key individuals: the King, the Keeper and the Clerk who compiled and updated the document. Denny’s inventory is the largest surviving inventory taken of Henry’s possessions during his lifetime. There are no comparable inventories of objects held by the keepers of Greenwich, Hampton Court, Oatlands, Windsor or Nonsuch taken between 1509-47. The scope and size of the document is highly significant. The inventory has 4,156 entries (a small number of which duplicate information) that are listed by object type rather than location. While the information forms a cohesive whole, relating as it does to Denny’s period as keeper, it can also be divided into six distinct sub-sections: firstly the moveable goods in Denny’s charge in 1542, followed by items that came into Denny’s hands between 1542-46, items set aside to form a wardrobe of the beds for the lady Elizabeth, items found to be missing from Denny’s charge at the time of Henry’s death, a summary of silk dispersals and a record of the money going in and out of the privy coffers.

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