John de Vere, thirteenth Earl of Oxford, born on September 8, 1442, was one of those unusual figures of the Wars of the Roses: a Lancastrian leader who died in his bed. After being defeated at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, he continued to harass Edward IV and was finally imprisoned at Hammes Castle in 1475. He might well have spent the rest of his life in prison had it not been for Richard III's seizure of the crown, which appears to have alienated Oxford's jailer, James Blount, who walked off his post and took his prisoner with him to join the exiled Henry Tudor. Oxford helped to win the day for Henry Tudor at Bosworth in 1485 and subsequently recovered his earldom and his lands. When he died at age seventy at Castle Hedingham on March 10, 1513, having survived into Henry VIII's reign, he was a wealthy and respected man.
Having spent much of his young manhood as an exile or as a prisoner, Oxford had a lot of ground to make up in terms of acquiring goods when he returned to England in 1485. He managed the task quite nicely, however, as shown by Sir William H. St. John Hope in his 1915 article, "The Last Testament and Inventory of John de Veer, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford" (Archaeologia vol. 66). The list that follows represents only a small fraction of the inventory transcribed by Hope (for those interested in reading the whole thing, the 1915 issue of Archaeologia can be found on the Internet Archive).
In his will, which Hope includes in his article, Oxford rather sweetly leaves to his widow, Elizabeth Scrope (his second wife), "a standing cup gilt and enamelled with blue 'Trulovys' in the bottom." The earl left many other goods to his wife, including "w'out dymynucion or restraint all maner appareill to her persone, as well clothe as sylkes, and almanner of cheynes, rynges, girdelles, devices, bedes, brooches, owchis, precious stones, and all other thinges beyng parcell of hir appareill whatsoever they be."
Before her death in 1474, Oxford's mother, Elizabeth de Vere, had been bullied by the young Richard, Duke of Gloucester, into giving up her lands to him in return for an inadequate consideration. Some of her goods were waiting for her son when he returned to England, however, for Oxford bequeathed two altar clothes "wrought by my lady my moder," which are described in the inventory as "two altar cloths, one of white sarcenet, and another of white damask, embroidered and wrought by needle work with my Lord's arms, and a frontlet of the same."
The inventory contains many goods bearing Oxford's various badges: a mullet or a molet ( a five-pointed star), often accompanied by clouds; the ubiquitous blue boar; and a mythical creature called a calygreyhound, which bears no resemblance to a greyhound whatsoever but which the earl seems to have been very fond, for it pops up in all manner of places in the inventory.
Itm a nother quylt w' floure de lic and birdes
Itm a Counterpoynt of tapistry w' the picture of Salamon lined sore worne
Itm a Counterpoynt of counterfeit arrais w' a man and a woman hawkyng and hunting
Itm A tapet of tapestry, w' a gentilwoman bering a Cupp of gold
Itm an olde tapett of tapestry and a woman beryng a baskett w' grapes
Itm an olde tappitt of counterfet areis /a man w' a crossebowe shoting at a wilde best and in a nother corner a castell
Itm A Seler and a tester of Red say and therein a wilde man Ryding on a
Itm an hanging staynid w' Calygreyhaunds and Scalys
Itm iiij tapettt of grysell olde and sore worn [Hope suggests that this depicted the tale of Patient Griselda, which might well have appealed to Oxford]
Itm A splayde Egle of gold w' an angell face w' vj dyamoundes and xj perles w' iiij Rubies gyven to our Lady of Walsinghm
Itm an home of vnykhorn [unicorn] harnesed and garnisshid w' gold [Hopes states that this would have been the tusk of a narwhal]
Itm A pair of Ivory beedes [rosaries]
Itm iiij tapettt of counterfet Areis of thistorie of Tulius and Mesius
Itm A newe Celer and a tester w' a counterpoint of crymsyn damaske enbroderid w' ij gentilwomen standing on a mountain feding a popyniay in a cage full of crankette molette blue boores & water flores
Item a pair of Organs
Itm a peir of Portatyvys [the editor identifies these as small portable organs]
Itm an Image of saint John Baptist standing upon a base siluer and the camell skynne all gilt and his mantell white
Itm A Colar of gold made in garters w1 redde Roses in the garters and a george w' a dyamount and iij greate ples hanging in the dragons foote [note those red roses, please]
Itm A Colar of fyne gold of xxvij S and ij Porteculeisse w' a greate diamount in a red Rose and a Lyon hanging vppon the same Rose w' ij Rubies and a diamount vppon the said Lion and ij greate Rubies /and iiij diamount & ix greate perles vppon the S [this is an example of the famous "SS" collar associated with the House of Lancaster]
Itm A greate cheyne of gold w' a maryners whistell & of viij and oon Lynke [Oxford was the Lord Admiral]
Itm A Matteyns Boke w' a clapse of silu wich my lorde was wont to vse hymself
Itm A Canapy of crymsyn tynsyll satteyn w' the Dome [the Day of Judgment]
Itm A Whistell of Ivory garnisshid w' gold
It A Celor & a testor of red satteyn w' a lyon driving a Whilebarowe & a counterpoint of y e same
It A Celor and a testour of counterfeit areis after thistory of Daniell
Itm A long Cusslicon w' nedill werke w' ij Calygreyhoundes in hit