Spendthrift King's Accounts Found

The chance discovery of a 14th-century parchment charting the financial habits of Richard II

An eight-foot-long fourteenth-century parchment roll has recently come to light, revealing the extravagant spending of English royalty on silks, satins, embroideries, brocades and cloths of gold.

The parchment, which has just been handed over by Buckinghamshire County Council Record Office to the Public Record Office in London, turned up in a chance find among some post-medieval deeds of the Barrington family estates at Westbury near Buckingham. It discloses the spending habits of Richard II who was deposed and replaced in 1399 by Henry IV, founder of the Lancastrian dynasty, and is in fact an account roll of the Great Wardrobe, one of the departments of the royal household.

Written in Latin, and still clearly legible (despite having lost a portion – including the date – at the beginning), the roll itemises payments made by an official named William, on labour and materials used to provide articles of apparel to the king's requirements over a period of some fifteen months or more. The cost of curtains and can- vas for the royal falcons' cage are included in the accounts.

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