Auctions | February 23, 2018

Duchy of Cornwall Accounts for 1483 at Bonhams

35 RICHARD III AND EDWARD V - DUCHY OF CORNWALL Compotus or Receiver's Rolls for Cornwall and Devon copy.jpgThe accounts for the Duchy of Cornwall for 1483 - a momentous year in English history - are to be sold at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale in London on 21 March. They are estimated at £4,000-6,000.

The records were taken to Bonhams offices in Exeter for valuation, having been bought as part of a job lot at a local auction in Devon. They were drawn up on the orders of Richard III who came to the English throne in June 1483. His brother Edward IV had died earlier that year, and Richard had been appointed Protector to his 12 year old nephew, who succeeded his father as Edward V.  When Edward V was denounced as the product of an unlawful marriage, he was stripped of the crown and Richard declared the legitimate king in his place.  Edward and his brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London, where they were later famously murdered, traditionally on the orders of Richard III.  

The Duchy of Cornwall was created by Edward III in 1337, specifically to produce an income for the heir to the throne.  It covered, and still covers, areas outside Cornwall -mainly in Devon, including Plympton, Tavistock and Exeter. The accounts for sale are for the period Michaelmas, 22nd year of Edward IV’s reign to Michaelmas, the first year of Richard III’s year i.e. 29 September 1482-29 September 1483. During this time, the position of Duke of Cornwall was held by the future Edward V, and then by Richard III’s son Edward (who died the following year at the age of 10).

The records are highly detailed, showing totals for rents, sales and court receipts for each manor within the Duchy, with the names of the bailiffs or reeves. The receipts for tin mines were particularly valuable.  By this period, the profits from the Duchy were worth around £500 a year. By contrast, the annual average wage of a labourer was then about £2.00.

Bonhams valuer in Exeter, Sam Tuke, said, “It is always exciting to come across something so special. The accounts are particularly interesting because they include details of properties in Devon as well as in Cornwall itself. They are of course, written in mediaeval Latin, but our specialists were able to decipher the text, and reveal their true value."

Bonhams Exeter will be holding two Fine Books and manuscripts valuation days in March as follows:

  • Tuesday 13 March 11.00 am -3.00 pm at Bonhams, The Lodge, Southernhay, West Exeter EX1
  • Wednesday 14 March 10.00 am - 1.00 pm at The Burton Art Gallery, 39 Kingsley Road, Bideford EX39