Researching archaic royal English appointments: Anthony Roane: Under Auditor of the Exchequer

In yesterday’s post, I cited some archaic and, let’s face it, unusual sounding job titles for some of my ancient Roane ancestors who served various English Tudor and Stuart monarchs. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to spend some time researching some of these royal court appointments. I had a hunch that this would add some meat to the meagre bones of these ancestors’ stories. It was a great hunch to follow.

Over the next couple of days I will select one Roane from the Tudor and Stuart period of English history and describe what they did. What I won’t be doing is giving a dry history lesson 😉  For those who want to delve more deeply into the nature of the royal appointments granted to these men, I’ll provide links to additional sources.

First up is Anthony Roane, Under Auditor of the Exchequer to Elizabeth I.

Before I can really describe what he did, I’ll need to cover two things first: 1) cover the nature and important of royal court appointments; and 2) give a brief overview of what the English Exchequer office (which still exists today, by the way. George Osborne is the current Chancellor of the Exchequer).

Royal Court Appointments in England

Much like royal courts around the world, English ruling monarchs had the power to grant court appointments, as did their senior aides. Senior aides could be family members from the monarch’s extended family, powerful noble houses which the monarch wanted to keep ‘on side’ or useful and/or rich commoners the monarch chose to ennoble. Court appointments were like gold dust – bringing prestige, influence, power and, of course, wealth.

I’ll explain this in a minute but the next bit is worth remembering: the closer the court appointment was to the physical person of the monarch, the more powerful and influential that appointment was. This remains true to this day. If your appointment placed you within a king or queen’s bedchamber, which meant you could actually touch the monarch and/or his or her personal belongings, you were in a very powerful position indeed. Let’s face it, if you’re emptying a king or queen’s chamber pot, you were on fairly intimate terms with them! The further your appointment took you way from the physical proximity of the monarch, the lower down the courtier (those who attended a king or queen’s court) scale you were. However, even the lowliest of court appointments was better than not having one at all. There was always the opportunity of advancement depending on how ambitious or ruthless you were or how useful you made yourself to the monarch or his/her senior aides. A Lord or Lady of the Bedchamber would outrank a Sargent of the Scullery in the court hierarchy.

Always remember that England, like other European countries, was (and remains) a rigidly fixed class-ruled society. This replicated itself within the royal court patronage and appointment system. It’s a system that was so effective that remains in place to this very day.

The Office of the Exchequer

For a history of the Office of the Exchequer in England, Wikipedia is as good a place as any to find out more about the history and the development of this ancient English system of government budgeting and accounting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exchequer .

Put simply, the Exchequer is a government department of the United Kingdom responsible for the management and collection of taxation and other government revenues under a system which stretches back to the mid-12th Century. Just like today, anything to do with taxation and government revenues had a high level of importance attached to it. So anyone with a responsibility for overseeing these activities was going to be fairly influential and important. They would also have to be acutely politically astute. Like anything to do with taxes, it was a political minefield. Just think about the politics surrounding modern day government budget and taxation issues – as it is now it was back then. I’d even wager that the political hurly burly was much more severe centuries ago.  Modern day politicians don’t have to worry about being tortured and/or beheaded should they fall out of favour. This was a very real threat centuries ago.

Anthony Roane

Anthony Roane

While I haven’t found a year of birth for Anthony, I can only presume he must have been born during the reign of Henry VIII. Which means he was lived during a particularly violent and topsy turvy period of English history.  He witnessed the Dissolution of the Abbeys, the break with the Roman Catholic Church, the establishment of the Church of England (Edward VI), the Restoration of Catholicism (Mary I), the Re-establishment of the Anglican faith (Elizabeth I) with all of the burning at the stake, beheadings and intrigues which occurred during this time period (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tudor_dynasty)

Anthony Roane was appointed Under Auditor of the Exchequer in 1558 and served Queen Elizabeth I. His appointment came at an interesting time. The Exchequer had previously been controlled by the powerful Dukes of Norfolk.  Rival noble houses successfully diminished the power of the Exchequer in order to diminish the power and influence of this ductal family.

However, Robert Cecil (Lord Burghley, immortalised in the Hollywood movie Elizabeth), and William Paulet (Lord High Treasurer) changed this. There was a notable change in the Exchequers’ influence and power from 1556 onwards. Anthony Roane was in the right place at the right time.

I haven’t found any anecdotal evidence as to how Anthony Roane secured his royal appointment. Presumably other Roane kin also in service at the Tudor court in various royal appointments helped to secure this. This is the way it traditionally worked at court: first one family member receives a royal appointment and then they set about securing additional appointments for other family members.  Nepotism was the norm and not the exception.

When reading the following, I gained a better understanding of what an Auditor of the Exchequer actually did, and how this Office was actually arranged:  http://books.google.com/books?id=EUCY3otvttEC&pg=PA424&lpg=PA424&dq=auditor+of+Exchequer+in+tudor+england&source=bl&ots=de0BCc-RVn&sig=cS2qQJ07RUOgVgu4Yy9N5IsXVSQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WQOaUs_dFJPkoATR-YJI&ved=0CEQQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=auditor%20of%20Exchequer%20in%20tudor%20england&f=false

As an Under Auditor, he would have been part of the Upper Exchequer, also known as the Exchequer of Audit. No surprises there then! Key to Anthony’s appointment is the word “under” in his court title. This means he wouldn’t have been calling the shots. He had what we would think of as senior managers and executives he had to answer to. Nonetheless, he would have been tasked with handling sensitive fiscal matters, often-times with legal implications. While I haven’t found him in Cambridge University’s alumni rolls, as I have done with some of his contemporary Roane kinsmen, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had completed legal training. Legal knowledge seems to have been part of the role.

For example, In January 1576 he was summoned before the Privy Council in London, possibly to give information about the finances of the Savoy, and later in the same year he was asked to investigate complaints of unlawful enclosure of common land by Sir Thomas Gresham in Osterley Park. This must have been a delicate task, as he was on very friendly terms with Sir Thomas’s family. Lady Anne Gresham, a relative of Roane’s second wife, was godmother to his daughter, who was named after her. He was also tasked with providing a report on queen Elizabeth I’s land holdings in Yorkshire and in and around the City of York (http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/roane-anthony-1583#footnote5_01uotr3)

Interesting, Anthony is associated with two regions of England: Middlesex to the south and Yorkshire in the north. These are two very different regions at polar opposite ends of England. It would seem that the family’s original seat was in the north of England, near Ripon. So how he came to be in the south remains a mystery.  The southern counties of England, however, is where the family would come to flourish even further, especially under Robert Roane of Surrey born some 130+ years after Anthony.

Roane had a little land in the West Riding of Yorkshire at Adel, Cottingham and Wooderson. He owned the site of Middlesbrough priory, which he sold in 1572. He held a crown lease in Carmarthenshire too. The rest of his estate was in the south. At his death he left land in Hatton and Heston, Middlesex, as well as his house at Hounslow and the New Inn and a ‘brewing-house’ there.

More information about Anthony Roane and his parliamentary career and estates can be found here: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/roane-anthony-1583#footnote1_o47n2mc

So what were my ‘take-aways’ for Anthony Roane based on researching his royal appointment? He was held in good esteem by his contemporaries. He certainly seems to have profited by it with his various land holdings and estates. He had a degree of influence and seems to have acquitted himself ‘well’ within his remit. In short, he seems a perfect example of an Elizabethan court Gentleman, surviving the hurly burly of court life and the Tudor period…by no means an easy task. Which leads me to believe he was politically astute – which is something of a Roane family virtue, given the political careers of Roanes in the US in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

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