3 December 2003
ELIZABETH I, Queen of England (1558-1603). Letter signed ('Elizabeth R') to Sir John Spencer [of Althorp], Windsor Castle, 31 August 1567, written in brown ink in a clear and regular secretary hand, signed at the head, 1½ pages, folio, integral address leaf, papered seal (slight wear in folds, leaf slightly soiled).
Fine letter with flourishing signature giving instructions for collecting the revenue for the first public lottery in England.
'Where we have com[m]anded a certaine carte of a Lotterie to be published by our Shirif of Countie in the principall townes of the same, of which we send you certen copies for the further execution thereof it is expedient to have somme persons appointed of good trust to receave suche particular sommes as our subjects shall of their owne free disposition be ready to deliver upon the said lotterie who also shall w[it]hout faile be dewly authorised and their adventures shall happen w[i[thout either deceypt or delaye'. Spencer is to confer with the bearer of the letter, and then to choose collectors. Out of every pound sterling he is to be allowed sixpence to pay the collectors and those who bring the proceeds to the Chamber of the City of London and to issue books of numbers and tickets. The letter includes assurances of the good use to which the proceeds will be put ('Anything advantagious is ordered to be employed to good and publique acts and beneficially for o[u]r Realme and o[u]r Subiects'), and orders to counter any accusations of misuse and to cause to be arrested and punished those who persist in 'slanderous reports'. As a final incentive, for every five hundred pounds sent to London a further 50 shillings will be allowed to him.
The lottery was organised to raise money for the repair of harbours, but lack of public support delayed the first draw until 1569. There were to be 400,000 lots, each costing 10 shillings with a top prize worth £5,000. The prizes were to be paid in a combination of gold, plate and merchandise such as tapestries, linens and fine fabrics (John Ashton. History of English Lotteries, 1893).
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