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Tudor Minute January 11, 1569

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for January 11.

January 11, 1569 is when the very first English lottery was drawn at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  Elizabeth’s bank account was running dry, and she could have either raised taxes, or held a lottery to fill it back up again. She decided to go with the lottery – the first ever national lottery. The tickets were ten shillings each, beyond the means of an ordinary person, which makes it different from a modern lottery, where tickets are often priced low enough so that low income people can afford them. This lottery was targeted to the upper class, and it became a status symbol in society to have bought a ticket. The first prize was 5000 pounds, which was enormous. It was paid partly in cash, partly in plate, tapestries, and “good linen cloth.” I wonder if Queen Elizabeth was doing the decluttering thing in order to get rid of her linen, and added it into the lottery.

To encourage more people to buy tickets, everyone who bought a ticket was promised, “freedom from arrest from all crimes other than murder, felonies, piracy, and treason.” So it was literally a get out of jail free card. The number of entries was limited to 400,000 and unfortunately the winner’s identity has been lost to history. The lottery was considered a voluntary tax, and the practice of lottery as a national fundraising method has survived and grown around the world to this day.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.