The Tichborne Spoons

Contributed by Hampshire County Council Museums Service

A set of twelve silver-gilt spoons topped with sacred, historic and legendary figures. William Cawdell, 1592

When made, Elizabeth I, the subject of one of the spoons was the reigning monarch.Nine of the figures on the finials are an international grouping known as the Nine Worthies - historical, legendary and scriptural figures revered in the Middle Ages as the embodiment of chivalry: King Arthur, Charlemagne, Guy of Warwick, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hector of Troy, King David, Joshua and Judas Maccabeus. The three others are Queen Elizabeth I, Christ and St Peter. The concept of the Worthies
has a wider European context - they were a literary and artistic subject in France and elsewhere.

They are unique and have been described as the most important set of silver spoons in England but their early history is unknown. The spoons first came to light in 1858 when sold as part of a retiring dealer's stock. The sale catalogue claimed that they were presented to Sir Robert Tichborne when he was Lord Mayor of London in 1657. No documentary evidence of this survives but probably, as a result of the claim, they were acquired by the Tichborne family of Tichborne in Hampshire and were kept by them until 1914.

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