Life in Elizabethan England Next

Numbers & Measures, Dates & Clocks

The metric system has not been invented yet, so don't use it:

  • Land is measured in acres.
  • Beer comes in pints and is stored in gallons.
  • Distance is measured in miles, feet, and inches.

Counting up

Teenage numbers are as we use them now: sixteen, seventeen, etc. Never say ten-and-six to mean 16. Nor six-and-ten, for that matter.

Numbers are correctly expressed in "long" form only after 20. That is, you are one-and twenty (21) or five-and-thirty (35) but never thirty-and-five.

Reckoning the time

Clock time may be expressed either as :

  • Two o'clock (yes, really)
  • Two of the clock
  • Half past 2 (or quarter past)
  • The bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon!
Numbers are frequently written in lower case Roman numerals, with the last "i" in a number written as a "j", such as vij for 7.

Reckoning the date

Although Catholic Europe went over to the Gregorian calendar in 1582, England refuses to give up the Julian date, even though it is clearly "off". We will not submit to the Popish plot to steal 10 days from the calendar God gave us until 1752. This leads to historical confusion when an event, such as the Armada, is known to be taking place on a particular date in England and 10 days later in Spain—at the same time.

As if that's not confusing enough, for the first three months of any year, we are also not entirely sure what year it is. The legal or civil year begins on March 25, Lady Day, which is also a quarter day. But everyone knows that New Year's Day is January 1.

This leads to events in January, February, and most of March being recorded with a stroke or slash. The earl and countess of Southampton, for example, were married on 19 February 1566/67. That is, legally it was still 1566, but for calculating anniversaries, it was already 1567.

New Year's gifts are exchanged on January 1.

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21 March 2008 pkm