What Would You Win in an Elizabethan Lottery? | History Hit

What Would You Win in an Elizabethan Lottery?

History Hit

06 Jun 2023

You wait in silence, clutching your ticket, hoping this will be your lucky day. As you wait for the numbers to be drawn, you mentally spend your big win: designer clothes; an exotic trip; or perhaps a new coach and horses…

An ancient gamble

Lotteries are by no means a modern invention. They have been used for centuries by governments looking to make some extra cash. It is even believed that a sort of lottery was used to raise funds to construct the Great Wall in Ancient China.

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The first lottery in England

A very rich Lotterie generall, without any Blanckes, contayning a great number of good Prices

The first lottery in England was held during the reign of Elizabeth I, on 11 January, 1567. England’s power was growing and more funds were needed to build ships and harbour facilities. Rather than raise taxes, Elizabeth opted to raise the money through a lottery instead.

Tickets cost ten shillings, making it too rich for ordinary people to enter. There were 400,000 tickets on offer and the prizes were very enticing; top prize was £5,000! Although not all of it came in the form of “ready money,” two thousand pounds of the prize was paid in plate, tapestries and linen.

WHOSOEVER shall winne the greatest and most excellent price, shall receive the value of Five thousande Poundes sterling, that is to say, Three thousande Pounds in ready money, Seven hundreth Poundes in Plate gilte and white, and the rest in good Tapissarie meete for hangings and other covertures, and certaine sortes of good Linnen cloth.

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Header Image Credit: British Library

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