The Will of Dame Jane Chamond, d. 1550-1551, and Tudor Sumptuary Laws

“In the name of the blessed Trinitie, Father, Sone, & Holy Gost, I Dame Jane Chamond, widowe, beyng in perfyte minde & memorie, thankes be gyven to Almyghty God, my creator & onely Redeemer, perceavyng by Faith and Creation my naturall liffe to be transitorie, holy myndyng Repentaunce, in most humble maner aske Almyghty forgiveness, and also of all the worlde. And here, under the protection of God, make & declare here my last will & testament in this manner following: First I give & bequeth my soule unto Almyghty God, my bodie to be beried in the Church of St. Androwe of Stratton, in the south yield (aile) of the Churche theare, in the place betwixt my first husband Sir John Arundell, Therys, Knyght, and Sir John Chamond, Knyght, my second and last husband. Also I do give and bequeth to my eldest son Sir John Arundell, Treryse, Knyght, all such somes of money as he oweth me for fyve thousand & haulf poundes of white tynne which he had of me: and also the two cheynes of gold which I have allredye delyvered hym. And also all sych other somes of money & other things that he hath had of myn or owith me, my part in that parte of the premisses, that he bestoew to the mariage of his doghters at his pleasure. And also besydes the mreises, I doo give and bequeth to my said sone Sir John Arundell Trerys, my basin and ewer of silver; also I give and bequeth to my doghter Dame Juliane Arundell, wiff to my said sone, my best velvet gowne, furred & edged with white martens. Also I give and bequeth to my daughter Margaret Chamonde, wiffe to my son Richard Chamonde, Esquyer, my best saten gowne & my best velvet kirtell. And as to the rest of my goods, moveable and unmoveable, not gevyn nor bequethed, I doo give & bequeth to my said sone Richard Chamone, partly therwith to marry his children; and hym the same Richard Chamonde I doo make my hole & sole executor, to dispose such part of my said goodes for the wealth of my soule, as he shall think best, & pay my debtes & chardgies for my funeral. Dated & gyven the first day of Januarye, in the fourth yere of the Reigne of our Soverayng Lord Edward the Sixt, by the Grace of God, &c. Which will and testament was made in the presence of Sir John Chamonde, Richard Prideauxe, Esquyor, Sir John Lill, clerk, then her Chaplain, Martyn Poyle, Gent. John Kympthorne her servuant, & desired to be witnes hereunto by the same Jane Chamonde.

Proved at Exeter 9 March 1552. Property sworn to the amount of 188 pounds, 0 shillings, 10 pence.”

-From “Collectanea Topographica Et Genealogica, Volume 4”, edited by Frederic Madden, Bulkeley Bandinel, John Gough Nichols, p. 172-174

Portrait of an anonymous English lady, 1555 - from the Ashmolean Museum

Portrait of an anonymous English lady, 1555 – from the Ashmolean Museum

Footnote: “Daughter of Sir Thomas Grenville; and widow first of Sir John Arundell, of Trerice. The pedigree of Arundell of Trerice in Collins’s Peerage, 1741, vol. iv. page 183, is perfectly incorrect ; another line of the family having apparently been confused with it. The correct descent, and the names of wives and children, are given in C.S. Gilvert’s Survey of Cornwall, 1817, vol. i. p. 538 : but this will proves that Sir John Arundell, who married Jane Grenville, was dead some time before 1550 l and that the monument of a Sir John Arundell, at Stratton in Cornwall, on which his figure is represented in brass, lying between his two wives, attributed by Mr. Gilbert to the husband of Jane Grenville, is that of her son, who married first, Mary, dau. and heiress of John Beville of Garnake; and secondly, Julian, daughter of James Eresby, and widow of ________ Gamlyn. Below the feet of the first wife, stand the sons, Richard, John, and Roger Arundell; under the second are ranged the daughters, Margareta, Marie, Jane, Phelipe, Grace, Margeri, and Annes Arundell. The inscription is, “Here lyeth buryed Syr John Arundell, Trerise, Knyght, who, praysed by God, dyed in the Lorde the xxv daye of November in the yeare of oure Lorde God a MCCCCCLXI, and in the III and VII yeare of his age, whose soule now resteth with the faythfull Chrystians in our Lorde.” Of the thirteen children here named, we find in the pedigree, as the only surviving son by Julian Eresby, John, who succeeded at Trerice ; and these daughters : Margaret, wife of Robert Becket, esq.; Grace, wife of John Trengough; Margery, wife of ______ Dunham ; Mary ; and Jane ; and by Mary Beville, Roger, who married Elizabeth, dau. of Tobert Tridenham, Esq. and had issue John son and heir 1597 ; Katharine, wife of Richard Prideaux ; and Jane, wife of William Wall, Esq.”

I find this will so interesting in many ways. First, I love the spelling. Spelling wasn’t standardized until much later; and it seems as though you could really write so much faster if you could simply spell things the way that seemed best at the moment. (I know, some people still do this. lol) Second, I love all the commas and run-on sentences. I’ve been told before that I’m a “comma monster” and use way too many commas in my writing, a fault I really try to stamp out. However, I think this is proof I’m just a reincarnation of a Tudor person and thus commas may be used like flowers dotted throughout the landscape… the more flowers, the more beautiful the field. And the more commas, the more beautiful the writing. Right? Right? … No? Boo.

What I really adore about this, however, are the bequests. It sounds like her son John Arundell, my 13th great-grandfather on my mom’s side, was something of a borrower… he seemed to “owith” her a lot of money. I also enjoyed the descriptions of her gowns, especially the “best velvet gowne, furred & edged with white martens” that she bequeathed to my 13th great-grandmother. I’ve included a chart of sumptuary laws – laws that governed who could legally wear what – from Tudor England below, as this will was written “the first day of Januarye, in the fourth yere of the Reigne of our Soverayng Lord Edward the Sixt, by the Grace of God, &c.” It really helps you to understand Dame Jane’s place in the pecking order of society. And I wonder why she left each daughter that particular gown: was it because of personal taste? Or perhaps the gown with the furs had been a gift from Arundell rather than Chamdon, and she wanted to pass it down to that daughter-in-law… I wonder if there was any status implicit in the bequests as well. I don’t know enough about rank in Tudor society or sumptuary laws to guess.

Sumptuary laws during the Tudors, through Elizabeth I.

Sumptuary laws during the Tudors through the time of Elizabeth I.

The sumptuary laws were intended to reinforce distinctions of rank and power, and covered dress and food as well – but apparently didn’t always work as well as one might hope:

"Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England" by Maria Hayward, p 20

“Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England” by Maria Hayward, p 20

Edward VI tried to revise the laws to promote plainness of dress in 1552, and Elizabeth I added her own stamp in 1574 by adding dress for females to the laws. Elizabeth, it seems, didn’t want excessive rivals in ostentation of dress, and wasn’t above making a law to ensure it.

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“Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England” by Maria Hayward, p 20

“Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England” by Maria Hayward, p 20

The full listing of Elizabeth’s sumptuary statue of 1574:

“The excess of apparel and the superfluity of unnecessary foreign wares thereto belonging now of late years is grown by sufferance to such an extremity that the manifest decay of the whole realm generally is like to follow (by bringing into the realm such superfluities of silks, cloths of gold, silver, and other most vain devices of so great cost for the quantity thereof as of necessity the moneys and treasure of the realm is and must be yearly conveyed out of the same to answer the said excess) but also particularly the wasting and undoing of a great number of young gentlemen, otherwise serviceable, and others seeking by show of apparel to be esteemed as gentlemen, who, allured by the vain show of those things, do not only consume themselves, their goods, and lands which their parents left unto them, but also run into such debts and shifts as they cannot live out of danger of laws without attempting unlawful acts, whereby they are not any ways serviceable to their country as otherwise they might be:

Which great abuses, tending both to so manifest a decay of the wealth of the realm and to the ruin of a multitude of serviceable young men and gentlemen and of many good families, the Queen’s majesty hath of her own princely wisdom so considered as she hath of late with great charged to her council commanded the same to be presently and speedily remedied both in her own court and in all other places of her realm, according to the sundry good laws heretofore provided.”

Sumptuary statue is here, including the ladies’ part.

Last but not least, for anyone who’s stumped by traditional English money (as I am), here is a link to the very informative Wikipedia entry for “Pound sterling”, including quite a nice history.

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