This web edition of the Chamber Books of the early Tudor kings encompasses the content of all the extant Chamber Books from early in the reign of Henry VII to the end of John Heron’s tenure as Treasurer of the Chamber in 1521. It also includes an antiquarian abridged copy of the books made by Craven Ord (1756-1832), which contains some payments from a now missing payment book of the Chamber covering the dates 1492-1495.

The Chamber was a department of the royal household concerned with the king’s most personal needs. It had also become under Edward IV (reigned 1461-70, 1471-83) the primary instrument of royal finance, as income streams were diverted into the Chamber from the more bureaucratic Exchequer, and a small number of personal servants handled the revenues of England under the eye of the king. This system was largely abandoned on Henry VII’s accession, but within a few years was revived and made more efficient, both through Henry VII’s close personal attention, and the longevity of one or two key officials, notably John Heron, under-treasurer of the Chamber from early in the reign and from 1492 the treasurer of the Chamber until 1521. It was his responsibility for keeping the accounts, now known as the chamber books, some of which are in his own handwriting, though he did manage a small number of clerks. This combination of direct personal service to the monarch and handling most of the crown’s revenue explains the incredible variety of entries in the Chamber Books, from small payments for strawberries to massive subsidies to foreign allies, as well as the financial instruments known as bonds and recognisances.

The Documents

A total of nine payment books, three receipt books, and one slim volume of receipts and payments of Henry VII’s queen, Elizabeth of York, exist and have been transcribed in this edition. Most are held in The National Archives (TNA), with four, including Ord’s volume, held at the British Library (BL). Together they comprise nearly 4,500 pages of information that give a personal insight into the rulership, diplomatic engagement, rhythms of court life and pastimes of the first two Tudor kings.

The payment books average between 400-500 folios, with the front section detailing payments made out of the Chamber and the back section of the book containing miscellaneous information of interest to the king. In Henry VII’s payment books this miscellanea is frequently divided by tags sewn on to the pages, dividing the information into headings of ‘Obligations, Recognisances, Tailes, Wards, Liveries and Memoranda’.

The books are as follows:

  • TNA, E101/413/2/1 July 1487 – July 1489                       Receipt Book
  • TNA, E101/413/2/2 Sept 1489 – Oct 1495                      Receipt Book
  • TNA, E101/413/2/3 Oct 1502 – Oct 1505                       Receipt Book
  • BL, Add Ms. 7099 Oct 1492 – 1509                                 Antiquarian copy
  • TNA, E101/414/6 Oct 1495 – Oct 1497                           Payment Book
  • TNA, E101/414/16 Oct 1497 – 1 Oct 1499                      Payment Book
  • TNA, E101/415/3 Oct 1499 – 1 Oct 1502                        Payment Book
  • TNA, E36/210 Mar 1502 – Mar 1503                               The Queen’s Book
  • BL, Add. Ms. 59899 Oct 1502 – Oct 1505                        Payment Book
  • BL, Add. Ms. 21480 Oct 1504 – Oct 1505                        Payment Book
  • TNA, E36/214 Oct 1505 – 1 May 1509                            Payment Book
  • TNA, E36/215 April 1509 – Oct 1517                              Payment Book
  • BL, Add. Ms. 21481 April 1509 – Oct 1517                     Payment Book
  • TNA, E36/216 Oct 1517 – 1521                                      Payment Book

 

The Additional Manuscripts 21480 and 21481 are copies. The former contains only thirty folios of payments and the rest of the book is concerned with usual back of book miscellanea, the latter is a complete copy.

Prior to this digital edition, only excerpts of the payment books have been published in S. Bentley’s Excerpta Historia (1831) which relied upon Ord’s abridged copy of the Chamber Book payments. As is apparent from Ord’s copy of the extant Chamber books, he was not the most diligent of transcribers, and his payments are littered with misreadings, careless mistakes and dubious interpretations of the material. The queen’s book is the only one printed in its entirety in N.H. Nicolas, ed., Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York (1830) but there are omissions and a few errors within, probably as a result of the poor condition of the original document

 

Editorial method.

NB – A more detailed description of the editorial processes and decisions taken will be published on this website in due course.

The editorial team have endeavoured to reproduce accurately not only what was on the page, but also reflect the intended sense of the writing. Hence redacted words have been extended, though all editorial interventions are colour coded so that the reader is in no doubt as to where intervention has taken place. All extensions have been made in accordance with the conventions to be found within the document, so for example, Candle[mas] and Christ[mas] are given as Candel[mes] and Christ[mes], Alex[ander] becomes Alex[aunder] and so on. Where there is no established convention within the documents then the word has been extended in accordance with modern spelling.

 

The only change from the original text is with the consistent capitalisation of names, places, days of the weeks and months in this digital edition, which was not done consistently in the original. It is nearly impossible in many cases to decide whether a given letter was intended as a capital or not, particularly in the case of ‘M’ and ‘N’, and so adopting this methodology made it easier to maintain a level of consistency throughout the documents and ensure that the meaning of the original was conveyed into the digital edition. This convention extends to feast days where the feast contains a name, such as Andrewtide or Michaelmes, but not to other feasts such as Easter. Titles such as ‘sir, lord’ etc., have been transcribed as lower case unless they were written with a capital in the original.

 

Whilst faithful reproduction of all pen-strokes is plainly impossible, we have reproduced as much as it is possible to do so, including marginalia graphics, insertions and deletions where they occur. All marginalia has been reproduced and anchored to its relevant section of the body text. This was a particularly arduous task when transcribing the materials in the back of the Chamber Books, as these were working documents with (frequently overlapping) marginalia denoting payment increments and other information such as this example from E101/415/3, f.  141r

 

Similarly, punctuation has been transcribed exactly as it appears in the original text and has not been modernised in any way. Double ‘f’, though it usually denotes an intended capital, has been transcribed exactly how it appears unless it prefaces a name, place or date.

 

Given that by the end of Henry VII’s reign there were at least two and perhaps three scribes working for John Heron, it is impossible to state with any certainty which folios were written by whom. What we have tried to do is note changes in the scribal hand. Henry VII’s own handwriting, conversely, is rather distinctive and his occasional insertions and marginalia have also been noted. The sign-manuals of both Henry VII (who changed his signature on a single page covering August 1492, E101/413/2/2, fo. 36r below) and Henry VIII (which evolved over time, see examples on the British Library website from 1509 on f. 9r and 1511 on f. 53r of Add Ms 21481) have also been noted.

Each folio was transcribed as a separate file and marked up in xml to allow for easy manipulation and searchability and the creation of a modernised text. A consistent mark-up policy was adhered to by all of the editors. The project’s partners at Sheffield HRI then applied modernisation algorithms to the text in order to generate a second version that has modern spellings. The algorithms use dictionaries, syntax and orthography rules as part of its decision-making process, as well as drawing on existing spelling regularisation tools such as VARD. Work on the modernised text is still ongoing.