Supplying the Elizabethan Court

An elaborate hierarchy maintained the royal household of Elizabeth I, writes Alan Haynes, but there was much pilfering and graft among the purveyors of domestic goods.

The Elizabethan court was a microcosm of Elizabethan society; the ruler and the courtiers living in some luxury, while underpinning them was a complex world of servants and menials. It was, of course, like all monarchies expensive and wasteful, with privileges fossilizing into traditional demands on royal funds. If magnificence came as naturally to the monarch as conversation, then as Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell had found in the reign of Henry VIII, the task of keeping the size of the household - the ‘domus providentiae’ - and its expenditure within bounds was alarmingly difficult.

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