Journal Article

A Gift Inventory from the Reign of Henry III*

Benjamin Linley Wild

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXV, issue 514, pages 529-569
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/ceq155
A Gift Inventory from the Reign of Henry III*

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This Note takes as its subject a unique inventory of gifts from the reign of King Henry III of England. Covering a seven-month period between November 1234 and June 1235, the inventory records nearly 200 objects that were exchanged by Henry, his subjects and visiting dignitaries. The inventory, which is almost certainly the earliest and fullest record of royal gift-giving to survive from medieval England, shows how Henry III used objects (chiefly belts, brooches and cups) to signal and smooth the start of what historians term his ‘personal rule’. Henry is known for his (often profligate) largesse. Charting the disbursal of gifts at royal palaces and during his kingdom-wide perambulations, the inventory suggests Henry’s munificence was more calculating. The inventory also contains the earliest explicit reference to New Year’s gift-giving in medieval Europe. After the fall of his former guardian, the bishop of Winchester Peter des Roches, Henry III used this feast to unify his court and draw a line under recent turmoil. Gifts to the imperial representatives, who escorted Henry’s sister Isabella to Worms for her marriage to Emperor Frederick II, are also described. A transcription of the inventory is appended to the Note.

Journal Article.  14623 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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