Maker's Mark a Heart (Part two)
Robert Amadas and the Spoon Inventories

By Piers Percival

amo - amas - amat - amamus - amatis - amant

Fig.1, a heart maker's mark, from an apostle spoon, London 1510/11.

Robert Amadas was the King's goldsmith. He was one of the most important goldsmiths of his time and certainly in the league of those with a prolific output. He was the only one ever known to be appointed Master to the Kings Jewel House and as we shall see, of the list tabled in part one of this article, is the strongest candidate yet for the heart. He was a lowys in 1492 and fully sworn to the company in 1494 (Court book A, p331) having been trained by his father, William. He was chosen for the livery in 1503, and was a Warden in 1511 and 1515, and Prime Warden for 1524 and 1530. His last attendance at the assembly of liverymen was 15th January 1531/32 on the occasion of his apprentice Brian Berwycke being sworn (book E, p6) and he died three months later, the 7th April[1].

His clientele included Court, and the wealthy aristocracy and episcopacy. He could certainly turn out spoons on a large scale; in fact he seems able to have turned his hand to almost any item commissioned whether large or small. Thus payment from the crown 1510-1513 included the making of gold embroidery for the king's jackets, spangles, wreaths, hearts, roses, broaches, buttons, whistles, aglets, gold garnishing for head gear, a great seal for the king, trappings for the king's horses and divers others things[2]. Huge quantities of plate were also made for Cardinal Wolsey to furnish his castles, abbeys and colleges. In 1529 a great silver cross of 973oz was made, besides many other items and repairs, including six silver spoons of 63/4oz. Other patrons that year included my Lord of Norfolk: two pomanders and two spoons of crown gold; my Lord of Welbeck: a salt of crown gold 11oz 11dwt and a spoon of crown gold 2oz 11dwt, 56/8 and 10/- (respectively) for the making; Mr Magnus: a spoon of crown gold 41/2oz 33/4dwt, 20/- for making; and for the King a gold cup of 59oz 4dwt, £14-16s for the making[3].

The king was a great collector of gold and silver, as exemplified by his many images of the saints, salts and other items. He also had a large collection of spoons and would have led the fashion in spoon collecting. The inventory of jewels taken on his death included 69 gold spoons and 352 white or gilt spoons, many with heraldic or jewelled finials. The largest of the silver spoons were of 2.5oz, the largest gold spoon was a massive 4.825oz, the handle 'embossed with leaves like chessmen': other 4oz gold spoons had the king's arms enamelled on the finials. The smallest was a little spoon of gold with a pearl at the end weighing just 0.325oz. Many were listed with distinguishing features such as the type of knop, or engraving of letters H, HR (Henricus Rex), R (Rex or 'made for the king'), HA (Henry & Anne), HJ (Henry & Jane). Occasionally marks that had been struck are mentioned: the letters E, C, B, H, A, D, T (or R) could be assay date letters, though are more likely have been 'collection management' marks which were sometimes used to identify particular sets of tableware; but there is one spoon, a gilt hexagonal seal top graven with roses, that is 'striken' with a heart, presumably the maker's mark. No other device marks were mentioned on spoons but of over 2000 items of plate listed, device marks are mentioned under 59, including 28 morion heads, 8 maidenheads, 7 hearts and 5 sheafs of arrows with half a rose. Besides the spoon, the heart appears on Candlesticks, dishes and two sets of platters and saucers, this tableware also being stamped with King's arms and 'management' letters[4].

Robert Amadas as court goldsmith and jeweller was the chief supplier of gold and silver to the king and his courtiers. In reward for what must have been impressive service, he was from 1524 (at least) acting Master, and from 1526-1532 the appointed Master of the King's Jewel House, being succeeded in April 1532 by Thomas Cromwell[5]. Two spoons on the list (both incidentally, engraved with R and replacements for missing spoons in earlier sets), had John Freeman documented as supplier. Freeman had been apprenticed to Robert Amadas in 1507 and was chosen for the livery in 1528. But he appears to have remained in the employ of Amadas, as when Amadas wrote his will 3.7.1531, John Freeman was named as his servant with a bequest for £5[6].

A previous inventory taken in February 1520/21 when Sir Henry Wyatt was Master, listed 34 gold spoons. The majority were shown as presents from courtiers and others such as the Duchess of Norfolk, often as New Year gifts. Most would have been bought from the king's jeweller with his advice as to what would be favoured. Interestingly, many more in this early group (23 out of 34 spoons) had white and red Tudor roses on the knops, some with a pomegranate the emblem of Queen Katherine. Only three can be identified (description and weight) as being on both inventories. The earlier inventory also had 185 gilt or white spoons including many apostle, slip topped, griffin and wrythen knops, some previously belonging to the Duke of Buckingham. Twenty-three, including one set of twelve with gilt columbines (doves) weighing 23.5oz, can be identified on both inventories. The names of four goldsmiths crop up as suppliers or makers: Robert Amadas three times, William Holland twice, Sir John Shaa and John Mundy once each, though none in relation to spoons[7].

A third inventory was taken on Amadas' death. This included 63 gold spoons, 25 of which can be identified on the 1520/21 inventory and three on the 1547 inventory. There were 224 silver spoons including 151 from the 1520/21 inventory. 62 can be identified on the 1547 inventory, however far less detail is given concerning the finials. It is not possible to identify the hexagonal knop 'striken' with a heart though these seal tops may have been included with the item of 'xxiij sponys gilte of iij sortes' (fig.2)[8].

Fig.2, Extract from the 1532 inventory of the King's Jewel House.

The New Year's gift roll of 1st January 1531/2 is revealing as even in the last year of Amadas' life, he supplied 10% of the nearly 200 gifts from the king to various courtiers, episcopacy aristocracy and gentlemen. Each gift had the maker documented. Nearly 90% were supplied by Freeman or Cornelles[9], just two items by Morgan Wolf and 19 by Amadas. Many were covered cups weighing between 21 and 29oz, but his gift to Robert Amadas was of 36.75oz, clearly confirming his esteem for this ageing goldsmith. In return, Amadas gave to the king 'six sovereigns in a white paper'[10].

So far we have merely demonstrated that Robert Amadas executed a large output of plate that included spoons, and that much of the king's collection came from his workshop. But the key to the argument for assignation is the excellent rebus from his name that is associated with the symbol of a heart. Subtract the add from Amadas to make amas[11]. Quite simply amas me means you love me[12]. Amas means 'you love', perhaps implying the piece acquired or the workmanship. No other goldsmith working 1499-1528 (the dates of the mark) has such a clear rebus that can be symbolised by a heart[13].

It could be fortuitous but the 'you love' mark does happen to match the known love of both Henry VII and Henry VIII for the work of the goldsmith. Amadas was probably the protégé of Sir Hugh Bryce, court goldsmith and mint official, who died 1496. Sir Hugh had been apprenticed in 1453 to Robert's uncle. Robert married Sir Hugh's granddaughter and was himself involved with the mint and the court from an early age[14]. After the accession of Henry VIII in 1509, he was appointed deputy master of the mint under Lord Mountjoy.

When Robert Amadas died an inventory was taken of stock in his counting house, immediately available for sale. Among much assorted secular and ecclesiastical ware were included 25 gilt spoons (12 of them slip top, 1.75oz each), and 32 parcel gilt spoons mostly weighing just over 10z each, suggesting that they were for the lower end of the market (fig. 3). The set of 'x sponys of silver the knoppes gilt poz x oz di'[15] were valued at 38/6, and this may be compared with one of the sets of just six spoons that were gilt and a little over 2oz each, which were valued at 50/- [16].

Fig. 3, Extract from the inventory of Robert Amadas' Counting House, 1532.

But if we really are to believe that Amadas is the most likely candidate for the heart, we need to know why his only remains today are a quantity of spoons, a 'font' cup and a paten[17]. However one must remember that in the pre 1530 era, spoons were made by many goldsmiths and the few that have survived are representative of very large quantities that were made. Most plate of the period was sooner or later melted down for ready money or for a change of fashion. There are so few important items from the 1495-1530 period that might be expected to have come from Amadas and other liverymen of distinction, still extant. Some such as the Bishop Fox crozier and Salt at Corpus Christi, Oxford and the Lady Margaret Beaufort Cup and Salt at Christ's College, Cambridge, are unmarked. The standing cup had the highest status of any item of precious metal and the fashion then, was for a broad 'font' shape. Many of the gifts to and from the King on the New Year Gift Rolls would be of this type. Extant 'font' cups have been documented by Penzer[18]. One of his heavier examples is the Bodkin cup at Portsmouth (fig.4, maker's mark a heart), which had been presented to the corporation by the widow of Francis Bodkin, mayor in 1553, 1560, 1579, and who died in 1591.

Fig.4, The Bodkin Cup, London 1525/6 (courtesy of Portsmouth City Council).

But there are only nine 'font' cups known that are fully marked from the 1495-1530 period: the Welford cup (part 1) and eight documented by Penzer. There are even fewer standing cups of other forms[19]. So one would be extremely lucky to find any major piece today from a goldsmith of this period however prominent. The fact that the Bodkin cup is of a higher quality than most, adds to the interest that it may have been made by the King's goldsmith[20]. One might also note that Francis Bodkin, a second generation owner of the cup, would have lived near King Henry's castle at Southsea.

Thus the large number of spoons extant from one maker does not necessarily point to a spoon specialist, but rather to a goldsmith with a large output and Amadas we know from the inventory of his counting house, was responsible for stock of great variety that included spoons.

Fig.5, close up of the hallmarks on The Bodkin Cup.
Showing maker's mark, a 'heart'; leopard's head crowned; date letter 'h'.

A second question that might arise is whether in fact Amadas ever had a mark. He did accumulate immeasurable wealth from his dealings at the Mint and as a retailer of gold and silver to the king and his court. Perhaps all his goods were out sourced? However evidence is to the contrary. In 1505 work for which he was responsible was being sold substandard at a Bristol fair and traced to him by the Wardens (book A, p416). Secondly, there were many occasions, mentioned above, where money was received "for the making". Then there were the New Year gifts from the King where goldsmiths' names were specifically mentioned. Finally, the inventory of Amadas' counting house at his death included bellows, tongs, ladle, shovel, chisel, shears, 56lb of solder, 'old broken mazer trees', nuts, shells, melting pots, unset gems, gold wire and so on. The bulk of his goods seem therefore definitely to have been in sourced, and though he may have employed many journeymen, some from the continent, and other goldsmiths such as John Freeman, he would have had to have a mark to stamp on the produce from his workshop.

1. Robert Amadas made many spoons to serve a wide spectrum of the public, from the king downwards.

2. From the inventories it appears that a huge turnover passed through the King's hands, including some 138 gold and 550 silver spoons, many of which will have been made by Robert Amadas.

3. At least one of the king's spoons was struck with a heart, as well as other items of tableware, suggesting that this mark belonged to one of the King's goldsmiths.

4. The maker, a heart, is known to have made quantities of spoons, some with unusual finials. Our example in part 1 of a falcon knop with R engraved is of particular interest. The large volume and quality of output, plus almost certainly, a personal service for Bishop Fox (note 17) suggests without doubt he was a liveryman.

5. Extant spoons and other plate with maker's mark a heart in a heart punch range from 1499 to 1528/9, which matches well the working dates of Robert Amadas 1494 to 1531.

6. In part one, it became clear that both Robert Preston and Robert Philip should be discarded from the list of contenders for the heart: Preston because he suddenly disappeared from the assembly lists in 1523, having been a most regular attendee, had no more apprentices, and must then or soon after, be presumed inactive or dead; John Baynard could be a sensible alternative, but there is no particular reason why he should have chosen the heart device. In the final analysis it is the clear association of a heart with a rebus from Amadas' name that gives us the strongest reason to believe that Robert Amadas was its proprietor.

1. The Churchwarden's notes of St. Mary Woolnoth which begin 1539, record this date for his obit.
2. Household book of King Henry VIII 1 May 1509 - 23 Mar 1513, BL. Add. 21481.
3. Letters and Papers of King Henry VIII, Vol. 4, no. 5341.
4. The Inventory of King Henry VIII.. ed. D. Starkey (from Soc. Of Antiquaries Ms 129), London 1998.
5. Glanville P. Robert Amadas, Goldsmith to King Henry VIII. Proc. Silver Soc. 1984; 3: 106-113.
6. Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Hogan 7.
7. The book of the King's Jewels and Plate in the custody of Sir Henry Wyatt, the 12th year of Henry VIII. ed. Rt. Rev. Edward. Lincoln Dioc. Architect. Soc. 1883; 17:155-229.
8. Inventory of the jewel house late in the custody of Robert Amadas. PRO. E 36/85.
9. Cornelius Hayes, another young goldsmith who worked with Amadas (ref. note 3), he entered the livery in 1537.
10. Transcripts of New Year Gift Rolls. BL. Add. 38857.
11. Present tense, second person singular, from the Latin verb amare, to love. In those days all educated men would be fluent in Latin.
12. An example of context can be found in Cicero's letters to Athens: Epistulae ad Atticum 1.3: "amas me, quod te non vidi"
13. Other more obvious names such as Anthony Love, free 1499 but dead before 1525 (book D, p212), and John Hart who subscribed to the loan in 1522 but was not on the earlier quarterage lists, have insufficiently working periods.
14. Glanville P. Silver in Tudor and early Stuart England, V&A 1990, pp20-22.
15. di=demidium (half), thus poz (weighing) ten and half ounces.
16. Probate Inventory of Robert Amadas. PROB 2/486.
17. There has also survived a gold signet ring engraved with a pelican in its piety, carrying a goldsmith's mark a heart. This along with the six cup knop spoons, was probably made for Bishop Fox who founded Corpus Christi college, Oxford, in 1517 and died 1528. See J Cherry The Three Rings associated with Bishop Fox in 'Corpus Silver' ed. Ellory, Clifford & Rogers, Oxford 1999, pp117-123.
18. Penzer NM. Tudor 'Font-shaped' Cups Apollo 1957; 66: 174-179 and 1958; 67: 44-49.
19. Glanville (note 13), ch. 12.
20. The gadrooning of the underside of the bowl which also serves decoratively to 'break' the wine on the upper side, the recessed band of intricate floral work above the base plate and the wrigglework forming a background to the lettering are all of considerable quality, comparing favourably with details of other known 'font' cups. See Penzer (note 18) 67: 47. The weight at 19.4oz, also compares favourably with the Campion (1501) 6.7oz, the Wymeswold (1512) 9.1oz, the Welford (1518) 9.1oz and the Holmes cup (1521) 15.6oz.


.5. / .6. / .7. / .8. / .9.
The Finial, August/September 2003

This site and images copyright © 1997-2004, by Daniel Bexfield Antiques