This post follows on from the story of John Roane, Sergeant of the Scullery for the English King, James I https://genealogyadventures.net/2013/12/01/researching-archaic-royal-english-appointments-john-roane-sergeant-of-the-scullery/ which will give you a picture of how royal kitchens were organised and managed in 17th Century England.
This post covers the story of Thomas Roane, Yeoman of the Scullery to James I. Thomas was the brother of John Roane, the Sergeant of the Scullery. As a Yeoman, Thomas would have been subordinate to his brother. All the same, it’s interesting to see two brothers in charge of the kitchen operation at James I’s palace at the same time. What may seem odd to us in modern times was nothing exceptional in those times. As I mentioned in previous posts, nepotism was the norm in 17th Century royal courts. It was one way for a family to consolidate its prestige. All the same, it must have made for an interesting family dynamic. Or, at the very least, a demonstration of close familial ties.
The reason why I’ve given Thomas his own post, instead of including him on the post of his brother John has to do with the term ‘Yeoman’. I was surprised to see this term being actively used in the mid to late 17th Century. It’s a term typically associated with men from the early medieval period, as in no later than the 1400’s. So what’s the big deal? It just goes to show how resilient language is. Yeoman was a term historically used to differentiate between free men and serfs, that class of peasants who were the property of the local lord under the English feudal system. Peasants were slaves and there was no two ways about it. As property that was owned, the local lord could do as he wished with his peasants. Sound familiar? The practice was entrenched throughout Europe during this period, stretching from Scotland all the way to the Russian steppes and everywhere in between. So you can kind of see why being a Yeoman was a big deal. Yeoman owned land. They were property owners. In short, they had some measure of control over their lives while still remaining subservient to the nobility.
When the already ancient Feudal system died out in England, more or less after the plagues of the 14th Century (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death_in_England), the term Yeoman remained in use to distinguish a class of servants. The English were nothing if not economical when it came to recycling the meanings behind historical words. Instead of designating freedom, it designated a rank between aristocratic knights and ‘common’ soldiers. The English were (and remain) a class-orientated society. Rank meant everything. More information about the history of the Yeoman class can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeoman
The image below gives an insight into this rank in Cardinal Wolsey’s household (the chap who organised Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, paved the way for Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, the break with the Church of Rome and the builder of Hampton Court Palace):
[image taken from: http://books.google.com/books?id=G9cXAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA421&lpg=PA421&dq=Yeoman+of+the+Scullery&source=bl&ots=5EMHJjDyZU&sig=THVp8UCr6RBoRj2U4gmNe87RkjE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pnybUpn_Lq6gsAT4uIGAAg&ved=0CD4Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false
By the time of Elizabeth I, the rank of Yeoman had risen somewhat; meaning that Thomas was a sort of entry-level or junior manager in James I’s court.
Surprisingly, I even found a record with his annual income. Thomas earned the sum of what looks to be £10 per annum as shown below:
Taken from: http://books.google.com/books?id=WcU_AAAAcAAJ&pg=RA1-PA331&lpg=RA1-PA331&dq=Yeoman+of+the+Scullery,+thomas+roane&source=bl&ots=2T_w8X3ox6&sig=DOuIXxiUvdGFhYZBECAyFxUQOmc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=An-bUrrPGvLMsASOk4HgAw&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=thomas%20roane&f=false
Unfortunately, I can’t gauge what 100 shillings would have been worth, in adjusted modern money, during the time of James I. So it’s hard for me to gauge whether his pay was in line with his responsibilities. It’s only a simple single line. For me, on a personal level, it’s priceless. While I can’t find details of the birth parents for some ancestors who lived three or so generations ago…I can see the details of an ancestor who lived centuries ago…even if it is only in a sentence in an old bit of manuscript.
So there we have it, the story of two brothers who contributed to the lavish spectacle that was dinning at James I court.
Next up will be Thomas Roane’s son, Thomas Roane, Jr., Sergeant of the Poultry to King Charles I. He’s a man who lived through some of the most turbulent decades in English history, after the War of the Roses. His is an interesting tale of political survival – all illustrated through a succession of court appointments.