Everyday Life in England Under Henry VII

John Dauncey of Winchester


I, John Dauncy of Winchester, am the son of Charles Dauncy, an Earl of some land and influence. I live in a modern brick manor built in the perpendicular style, and my parents maintain forty-five[1] servants[2]. I am the eldest of only three children, the others having died young, and my elder brother having succumbed to the plague in London. My family now consists of my father, my mother, and my two younger sisters, although my eldest sister is soon to be married. Being the son of a noble I do not pursue any trade but the administration of affairs on my father's estates, a responsibility that he is gradually passing more of tome. Although our mode of living may seem somewhat extravagant, and we frequently overspend, such display is necessary for those of our rank, to maintain our social position, and to keep our staff loyal (Dyer 1989: 89-90). We derive most of our income from rents on our estates, and a small amount from other business interests, particularly the importation of luxury goods from the continent. I feel that this, although not the traditional income source of those of our rank, is necessary if we are to maintain the standard of living to which we have become accustomed.

Country Pursuits:

Living on a country estate with its own deer park, I spend some time hunting for deer, bustards and foxes (Hart 1972: 32-33) - usually I hunt on horseback, but sometimes on foot. However I will also hunt hare, fox, badger, otter, bear, and goat. In addition to these four footed beasts I enjoy Falconing, and with my favourite goshawk I will hunt heron, bittern, wild duck, partridges, pheasants, and woodcock, and also other birds of the air which take my fancy at the time (Hart 1972: 33). With me on my hunts I will usually take my greyhounds, spaniels and a bloodhound (Emisson 1964: 84) to chase and retrieve my quarry.

Our estate has a well-maintained stable, and when not inclined to hunt, I enjoy riding.

Martial Pursuits:

As well as hunting and riding I spend no little time training at arms. By ruling of our king, Henry VII, all men must train with the bow, and this I do. I also train with rapier and dagger and have employed an Italian fencing master to teach me the fine art of defence (Hart 1972: 24). My father at first laughed at this, stating that an Englishman is better employed using the heavier small sword, but I believe that a rapier can be more effective, being a faster weapon.

Gentler Arts:

I also enjoy gentler arts. As befits any gentleman I have spent no little time studying music, and am proficient on the lute, flute, and viol and sing a fine tenor (Fraser 1996: 38-39). I own a number of instruments, I also write and arrange some music. Soon I would like to purchase a pair of Viginals[3] and learn to play it. We also keep an organ in our house (Emmison 1964: 72).
As well as playing music, I take great delight in dancing, and do so at any opportunity offered at feasts or balls. During my brief time at court I learned many of the new dances that are now in vogue, as our king greatly loves to dance.

At celebrations held at our manor, we have oft times employed musicians, players and a clown (Emmison 1964: 78).

When not engaged in these pursuits, I will often invite others to our Manor for games of chess, drafts, or cards.

When younger I was sent to Oxford University to gain an education as befits a gentleman. There I studied the classics, and also dabbled in a little law, although I had no proficiency for it. As a result however I enjoy reading and have a keen interest in ecclesiastical works, as well as the classics. I purchase books from both English presses and from overseas.

I also spend some time visiting other members of our extended family on their estates, especially for occasions such as twelfth night.

Recently, in order to pursue my interest in classics, and to engage in some of my father's affairs, I have travelled to Italy, and am currently staying in the house of a Florentine silk merchant.

The Church:
The church plays a large part in the lives of all my family and of the servants and workers on our estates. We have our own chapel on the estate, attended by the family, in the upper gallery, with the servants attending in the lower section of the chapel. We observe all fasts, consuming not the flesh of beast or fowl throughout Lent, and on Fridays and Saturdays. I also enjoy discussions of religious matters with my father, mother and our parish priest.



Hart, R (1972) English Life in Tudor Times, Wayland Publishers, London

Emmison, F.G. (1964) Tudor Food and Pastimes - Life and Ingatestone Hall, Ernest Benn Ltd, London

Fraser, A (1996) The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London

Power, E (1924) Medieval People, The Folio Society (1999ed), London

Dyer, C (1989) Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge



1 Sir William Petre of Ingatestone Hall maintained 30 servants, a number which was certainly not overstaffing. My father, being an Earl, and not one of the ‘New Men’ would have maintained considerably more, especially as he would be expected to keep a liveried retinue of at least twenty men when attending the King at court (Emmison 1964:63).

2 On our estate we would employ 2 gardeners, a hunter/falconer, a park keeper, a brewer, 5 cooks, a butler, 4 horse keepers, 2 stable boys, 4 carters, 2 cart-lads, 3 lackeys, and 9 other menservants, including a clerk of the kitchen. My mother also employs a housekeeper, a nurse (for the younger children), and 6 maids. Other staff are taken on as need dictates. (Figures estimated from Emmison 1964:60-64)

3 A pair of virginals refers to only one instrument (Emmison 1964:71).