• Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

Queen Elizabeth Ran a Lottery and One Prize Was a Get Out of Jail Free Card


Nov 13, 2022

As you wait with baited breath to your lottery numbers to be known as out, spare a thought for the individuals who took half in England’s first state lottery within the sixteenth century. Seen as an excellent answer to fund much-needed port infrastructure and funding within the English Navy, Elizabeth I gave the go-ahead for a harebrained scheme to promote lottery tickets. The prizes even included the Elizabethan-era equal of a get out of jail free card.

Whereas the accession of Elizabeth I had been welcomed in 1558, the Catholic threat in Europe started to take its toll. Dependent because the financial system was on the material commerce which made up two-thirds of England’s exports, Elizabeth needed to put the nation, and particularly England’s coastline, ports and fleet, as a way to stave of any Catholic invasion and put money into sea commerce with the New World.

Such a mission was going to require huge funds. Brainchild of Sir William Cecil, her Secretary of State, the lottery appeared like simply the ticket. The thought itself wasn’t new, and the Low Nations (now often called the Netherlands) had been having success utilizing a lottery system as a way to fund infrastructure initiatives.

In 2010, a curious artifact got here up for public sale in London. It was a two-page letter to Sir John Spencer, written by Queen Elizabeth I herself, with clear directions on the sale of 400,000 tons costing 10 shillings a bit. This “wealthy lotterie common” was promoted on posters all through London from August 1567, and shortly tickets had been accessible in a mission aimed to lift funds for “the reparation of the Havens, and power of the Realme, and towardes such different publique good workes.”

George Gower’s Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I circa 1588. ( Public domain )

Regardless of the tempting prizes, together with a primary prize of £5,000 (“£850,000 in at this time’s cash,” in line with The Daily Mail ), the hefty ticket value and common skepticism excluded most individuals from participating. As an added incentive, Elizabeth threw in short-term immunity from arrest for crimes (excluding piracy, homicide, felonies or treason).

Sadly, the enterprise was not successful. Regardless of an Elizabethan-style advertising marketing campaign, underneath ten p.c of the tons had been bought, and the draw ended up being postponed by royal proclamation till January 1569.

When it lastly did happen, outdoors of the outdated St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the whole course of was stated to have taken 4 months as a result of advanced nature of calculating the decreased prizes and the cryptic technique of figuring out winners; contributors wrote playful remarks, a few of them anti-Catholic, as a way to hold their identification a secret. “In God I hope and a far for the Pope,” was one, whereas one other determined entrant wrote “God ship a superb lot for my youngsters and me, which have had 20 by one spouse actually.”

Elizabeth by no means held one other lottery. She ended up getting an emergency mortgage to rebuild ports, whereas work to de-silt and modernize Dover harbor was funded by tavern licenses.

High picture: Representational picture of Queen Elizabeth. Supply: daryakomarova / Adobe Inventory. 

By Cecilia Bogaard

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