December 25, 2019|Reports

“Marmalade, Spuds and a Bag of Gold” – Dr Cheryl Butler

A glass or two of sparkling wine, festive snacks and a fascinating insight into Tudor Christmas gift giving which didn’t finish until Lady Day (March 25th) – what could be a better way of getting into the Christmas spirit? Fifty five members of the Wickham and Wickham History Societies braved the rain and wind on Tuesday 10th December to hear Dr Cheryl Butler talk about the Tudor Christmas in Southampton.

Last year we heard about Georgian and Victorian Christmases at Uppark. This year Cheryl drew on the amazingly detailed records surviving in Southampton’s archives listing Tudor gifts given and received in the sixteenth century. Gift giving was the prerogative of the wealthy – there are no records of the poor giving gifts, they enjoyed the time off from work and some might benefit from gifts of clothing from their employer and donations of food for Christmas feasting. Gift giving was done primarily as a transaction to gain or retain favour with the royalty, local patrons and nobility. Queen Elizabeth’s very detailed records of every gift she received survive to this day.

Southampton’s merchants had an important edge in gift giving – they controlled the port of entry for the Venetian trading fleet which brought in the oranges for the luxury called marmalade (then a much more solid paste or block) and later the newly arrived exotic South American potato. Ornately embroidered bags of gold completed the ideal gift for a Tudor nobleman. The provenance of this gold might be glossed over as Southampton was also an important base of Francis Drake and other privateer captains.

There were lots of challenging questions for Cheryl – how on earth did gifts of “royal fish” get to London without poisoning the Queen?

Some time, drinks and snacks later we left to clear skies and a (nearly) full moon. Finally a special thank you to Brian Edgeworth who finally stepped down this year from his traditional role as mulled wine and cocktails maker.

Do you have something to contribute to the society?