Friday 4 January 1660/61

Office all the morning, my wife and Pall being gone to my father’s to dress dinner for Mr. Honiwood, my mother being gone out of town. Dined at home, and Mr. Moore with me, with whom I had been early this morning at White Hall, at the Jewell Office,1 to choose a piece of gilt plate for my Lord, in return of his offering to the King (which it seems is usual at this time of year, and an Earl gives twenty pieces in gold in a purse to the King). I chose a gilt tankard, weighing 31 ounces and a half, and he is allowed 30; so I paid 12s. for the ounce and half over what he is to have; but strange it was for me to see what a company of small fees I was called upon by a great many to pay there, which, I perceive, is the manner that courtiers do get their estates.

After dinner Mr. Moore and I to the Theatre, where was “The Scornful Lady,” acted very well, it being the first play that ever he saw. Thence with him to drink a cup of ale at Hercules Pillars, and so parted. I called to see my father, who told me by the way how Will and Mary Joyce do live a strange life together, nothing but fighting, &c., so that sometimes her father has a mind to have them divorced. Thence home.

36 Annotations

First Reading

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Will and Mary Joyce do live a strange life together" this is the second time in the last few days that Pepys' father has badmouthed this couple,but no details, really frustrating... gossip is an art after all!

Emilio  •  Link

"he is allowed 30; so I paid 12s. for the ounce and half over what he is to have"

This transaction is somewhat cryptic to me, but I suppose that Montagu received some sort of voucher from the King for a piece of gilt weighing up to 30 oz, so that Sam only has to pay for the weight in excess of that?

Also, this is not just the second time Sam has dissed the Joyces:

26 Jan 59/60: "Will did heartily vex his father and mother by staying. At which I and my wife were much pleased."

29 Jan 59/60: "I heard by my brother Tom how W. Joyce would the other day have Mr. Pierce and his wife to the tavern after they were gone from my house, and that he had so little manners as to make Tom pay his share notwithstanding that he went upon his account"

1 June 1660: "[My wife] writes word how the Joyces grow very rich and very proud, but it is no matter, and that there was a talk that I should be knighted by the King, which they (the Joyces) laugh at."

20 July 60: "I did this time show so much coldness to W. Joyce that I believe all the table took notice of it."

So far Sam has had nothing good to say about them; I picture them as the sort of obnoxious couple who regularly take advantage of others' politeness, and who Sam tries to have as little to do with as possible.

Alan Bedford  •  Link

"The Scornful Lady" was a comedy written by Beaumont and Fletcher, first acted about 1615 and first published in 1616. Sam saw this play on 27 November, where it was discussed in the annotations.

vincent  •  Link

Then "The Scorn-full Lady"

Mary  •  Link

'what a company of small fees...'

The transaction over the gilt tankard seems fairly straightforward, but these 'small fees' less so; is Sam being called upon to make up the difference in payment for the gifts to other prominent men, and if so, why does he feel obliged to do so? He doesn't specify Naval Office or Exchequer men (with whom he has some professional connection) just 'courtiers'.

If the additional payments were for the benefit of men who might look to Sandwich for patronage, one wonders whether Sam has had prior warning that he may be called upon in this way or whether he's exercising his own discretion on Sandwich's behalf.

David A. Smith  •  Link

"what a company of small fees I was called upon to pay"
Following Mary, I think Yes, Sam is indeed 'expected' to pick up the small overages. It's one more reminder that The Nobility Are Different, and I think it's deliberate selective amnesia on their part. Such folks may be mean and miserly with their own capital, then make up their generosity out of the public fisc, an attitude especially easy to adopt when king = state. But casual commingling of personal and political may (spoiler alert!) get our King into future trouble ...

David A. Smith  •  Link

"sometimes her father has a mind to have them divorced"
If I'm following the family tree correctly, Mary is a cousin (Sam's mother's niece) and Will an in-law, the sort of full-mouth-laugher whom we all suffer at extended-family get-togethers. This diary note ups the stakes (thanks, Emilio, for the chronicle!): Mary's father (Sam's uncle-in-law?) is now talking divorce.

Mary  •  Link

' have them divorced.'

L&M footnote states that this would have been by a decree of divorce issued by an ecclesiastical court and would not (unless the whole marriage were pronounced a nullity) have given rights of re-marriage.

Pauline  •  Link

"what a company of small fees I was called upon to pay"
I think these fees are in addition to and unrelated to the overage. They might be (very roughly) comparable to paying a sales tax today. That little extra your purchase requires that goes to fund the state or municipality — or, in this case, the courtiers. Not unlike the fees Sam collects at the Privy Seal Office.

How would we define courtiers? Defined and undefined positions at court? Excluding the lords and clerks?

And the Jewell Office? Part of the Exchequer?

And what do the numbers in the footnote mean? “the 23rd, 24th, 26th, and 27th of Charles II”

Nix  •  Link

"23rd, 24th, 26th, and 27th of Charles II" —

Porbably a reference to regnal years. As in “reign”, not “kidney”. English statutes and some other legal records historically were dated by regnal years rather than (or in addtion to) anno domini.

vincent  •  Link

Jan 1649 was beginning of CRII's reign [ interregnum was just an absence of king] so this year does make CRII's 12th? year .

upper_left_hand_corner  •  Link

"weighing 31 ounces and a half, and he is allowed 30"

Does Sam choose this plate at the Jewell office? Is this like an advertisers showroom or the Home Shopping Channel? If so, I wonder if the items might be subtly made or chosen to weigh slightly larger than round-number amounts, in order to increase the number of small fees that various people might have to pay.

Pauline  •  Link

"made or chosen to weigh slightly larger than round-number amounts, in order to increase the number of small fees"
I wouldn't think so. Isn't "plate" made and offered as a means of storing money value? Its weight determines its value. If it weighs slightly more than a value in question, there would be "change" given, overage paid. Making it heavier would make it cost more up front too. I still think the small fees Sam mentions are unrelated to the overage.

Does the design add value?

vincent  •  Link

price vs weight vs design; my guess it was very little value added for design as 1 oz of gold was worth in 1655: £2 10s 3?d. excess 1.5 ozs penalty being only 12 s.

tc  •  Link

Weight of gold...

I wonder what the actual "gold" of Sam's day was in terms of degree of refinement and purity. While today we are familiar with 14 karat, 24 karat, etc. perhaps someone knows if "gold" in those days was assayed quite to the extent we know today.

(Karat = a twenty-fourth part; 24 karat = pure gold)

I am reminded of the story of the beautiful "solid gold" trophy the Kaiser had made in the glory days of pre-WW1 yachting, which was presented to the winner of a Transatlantic race, I believe. When The Great War broke out, the trophy was given to the British government to be melted down and the proceeds to go to the war effort...but it was discovered that the beautiful gold trophy was lead...

I suspect unscrupulous operators in Sam's day pulled a few tricks like that.

E  •  Link

"what a company of small fees I was called upon to pay"

Hmm, I think I know what he means. In developing countries, official “free” health care is unaffordable for many people because of such extras. You need to pay off so many people such as the clinic’s gatekeeper, the clerk in charge of the queue, and the doctor’s receptionist. You then get the doctor’s examination for free, but services like writing a prescription can cost extra, and you hope she is not going to ask for tests which if you are lucky will be the same sort of “free”. (Paying for the prescribed medicine is another question altogether.)

Part of the real evil of systems running on bribes is the fact that they involve a flow of cash from the poor to those with power. It sounds as though Sam doesn’t feel too stung — presumably “my Lord” will reimburse him.

E  •  Link

I chose a gilt tankard, weighing 31 ounces and a half, and he is allowed 30

Upgrading your gift gives you a bigger status symbol to display as your token of the King's favour.

vincent  •  Link

'tis why the French serated the gold coins at this time to stop gold from being nicked.[so true tc][ where there is mook, there is money , where there is money there is a thief ]
O cives, cives, quarenda pecunia primum est;
Virtus post nummos.
Citizens, citizens, the first thing to acquire is money. Cash before conscience!
Epistles bk. 1, no. 1, l. 53

Grahamt  •  Link

This means gold-plated (silver) rather than solid gold, I believe, or has the meaning changed over the years?

Stewart  •  Link

Sterling Silver, Gold & Gilt

To tc, Vincent and Graham

English silver and gold have been tightly controlled since at least 1300 and this is probably the best system of consumer protection in history. The penalties were such that there were remarkably few abuses.

Sterling standard silver is and was an alloy of 925 parts per thousand of pure silver, with added or residual amounts of copper, etc.

Gold was generally 22 carat or 22/24 pure, until 18 carat was introduced in 1798, as pure gold is too soft to be worked usefully.

Gilt does mean sterling silver gilded with pure gold - this by coating the piece with an amalgam of gold and mercury and then burning the mercury off - very attractive but very deleterious to the health of the workmen involved breathing the poisonous mercury fumes.

A piece of (silver) plate was charged by weight with two amounts, one per (Troy) ounce for the actual weight of bullion used, and the second also per ounce for the workmanship, less for plainer, more for ornate.

Since the coinage passed at the actual bullion content of the coins (or close to it) we know what an ounce of silver was worth, so the "overage" was approximately eight shillings for the ounce and a half of bullion, and four shillings for the "making".

The relatively high value of the bullion to the wages of the craftsmen made silver plate a very attractive way of storing value up against a rainy day, while enjoying both the use and display of the piece - Pepys becomes something of an addict to fine plate.

Pauline  •  Link

Thank you, Stewart!
Very helpful

tc  •  Link

Ditto, Pauline, your thanks to Stewart!

One of the best things about this site is the sharing of such knowledge.

vincent  •  Link

"gilt" thanks Stewart: and I always thought it was a way of turning a young sows [known as a gilt ME]ear into silk purse.{known as guilding a lily-sorry!} [guilding: ME gilden to overlay with thin layer of gold ;another meaning from old English: make bloody{such a luverly english word} or unnecessary ornamentation]

Glyn  •  Link

A good entry Stewart.

Now you have to work out where in "Background Information" to copy it, so that the data doesn't get lost.

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Divorce was no simple thing back then, and as stated above, did not give either of the people involved the right to marry again. It involved two court hearings, the second one being with testimony from the witnesses to the adultery, but the wife not being allowed to appear. And finally an Act of Parliament was required, which was very expensive.

It was easier to put a rope around the wife's neck (since she was legally the husband's property), take her to Smithfield, and sell her, and this occasionally happened. Presumably this was optimally done with prior arrangements for her lover to be there ready to buy her at a very good price as compensation. While this required everyone to cooperate and act like grown-ups (which is rarely the case as we all know), it was the most efficient way of settling matters to everyone's best interests.

All this unfairly presumes the wife's guilt. Since she was the property of the husband and had no rights, his fidelity was unimportant.

For more information see…

Milton caused great scandal during the Interregnum by writing pamphlets about Divorce in 1643-44, but for whatever reasons, nothing came of it. I guess Cromwell and Co. had other things on their minds than allowing people the opportunity to be happy.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Milton caused great scandal during the Interregnum by writing pamphlets about Divorce in 1643-44, but for whatever reasons, nothing came of it. "

Many Puritan ministers presided over re-marriages of the innocent parties in divorce for adultery. Milton, however, went much further than that in his demands. In demanding the right of absolute divorce for both parties to any marriage, he extended the grounds to include incompatibility; he also sought to remove divorce from public jurisdiction, and return it to private hands.…

My guess is the tug of property-law kept divorce a matter of public jurisdiction.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"to choose a piece of gilt plate for my Lord, in return of his offering to the King (which it seems is usual at this time of year, and an Earl gives twenty pieces in gold in a purse to the King)."

L&M: New Year gifts were regularly exchanged between the King, on the one hand, and peers and office-holders, on the other, their value being nicely graded by status. at this time the King spent c. £2000 p.a. on them. (L&M note)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

As Terry says, divorce continued to be rare, expensive and difficult for centuries.

I was reading up on the history of Nottingham today and found these stories:

"In 1779 a man sold his wife and children in the Market Place. The woman was aged 17 and she with her two children was put up for sale and sold for 27/6, but that is not the worst.

"In 1852 a similar sale took place. On April 25 a man named Stevenson living in Millstone Lane brought his wife into Nottingham Market Place with a new rope round her neck and standing near the sheep pens on Beastmarket Hill, offered her for sale: "Here is my wife for sale" he announced, "I shall put her up for 2/6, the rope is worth 6d."

"Ultimately she was bought for 1/- by a man named Burrows, and they all went to the Spread Eagle which was in the old Sheep Lane in the Market Street to sign the articles of agreement, the lady being the only member of the party who was able to sign her name ..."


Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

Just a correction to SDS's 2019 link, above, about wife-selling; it should be…

Also, it is not from an 1808 History of Nottingham but from ‘An itinerary of Nottingham: The Market Place’ by J Holland Walker (1931).

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Isn't that a marvelous website, MartinVT? -- I almost wish Pepys had lived in Nottingham.
Thanks for sorting out my links and credit -- it took me years to master this, and fear there will be more mistakes to come!

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Does Pepys choose this plate at the Jewell office? Is this like an advertisers’ showroom or the Home Shopping Channel? If so, I wonder if the items might be subtly made or chosen to weigh slightly larger than round-number amounts, in order to increase the number of small fees that various people might have to pay."

I love this question! The Home Shopping Channel?!?!?

Just as the monarch had The Wardrobe as a place to safely park currently out-of-season or ceremonial clothing, and unused furniture, tapestries, etc. they also had a Jewel Office.
The monarch didn't keep the crown jewels in his closet -- they were supposedly under lock-and-key at the Tower (ask Col. Blood about that in 20 years.).

Obviously not eveything was at the Tower: but the ceremonial silver wasn't on open shelves in the kitchen either. The good stuff was locked up and inventories kept, and when something was needed, it was checked out and checked back in.

Now comes along New Years, and the traditional exchange of gifts.

Pepys tells us the gift situation had been standardized: there are stories about nobles giving Queen Elizabeth everything from knitted stockings onwards -- the more the noble wanted, the bigger their gift.
By 1660, Earls are expected to hand over 20 gold coins in a purse.

Their exchange is a visit to the Jewel Office where something can be picked out which appeals to the Earl or his assign as in this case, from Charles II surplus.
Did Charles stock the Jewel Office with suitable objects? I bet he did -- plus he let things go that he had received and didn't fit his needs (too small, too old fashioned, whatever).

Were they made to order? Probably -- I'm sure the goldsmiths knew the gift ratio requirements and had appropriate things in stock when the gift buying committee arrived in November.

Charles II is exchanging gifts with hundreds of nobles and ambassadors. This is a practical way of controlling his expenses (and making sure the exchange worked in his financial favor) while also guaranteeing everyone got something of value to them.

Plus no gift wrapping is involved.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A while back I posted that we should not think of John Pepys Snr. as being horribly poor.…

Here's another example of the senior Pepys' social standing: The Honywood family are well-to-do and minor gentry. They wouldn't be staying in a slum.

William Crosby  •  Link

Apropos of Sarah's post on marital disunion above I am reminded of Thomas Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge which opens with a famous episode in which a poor hay trusser, Michael Henchard, sells his wife, Susan, by impulsively putting her up for auction in a public market. Susan is purchased by a sailor, with whom she departs, and they subsequently live as husband and wife.

MartinVT  •  Link

Thanks SDS for further describing the gift exchange system, which was well-established by this time. Besides resulting in some financial gain for the monarch, it should be noted that a system like this served to strengthen bonds between the monarch and all his noble minions (and others like foreign diplomats). Montagu hangs out with the king pretty often, but quite a few of the nobles might not see the king all year. So this more or less obligatory exchange guaranteed that each noble paid homage, and got something in return that he could display as a reminder to him and his own subordinates and guests of his relationship with the king. If you think of it, an absolute ruler has no means of enforcing his rule other than retaining the loyalty of henchmen, so for the British monarchy this system helped cement that loyalty. (Though even by this time, the monarchs could not be called absolute rulers.)

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