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On This Day… An Elizabethan National Lottery!

Written by: George Chittenden : 27 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 11th January, back in 1569, when England held its first ever national lottery! Surprising isn’t it? I always imagined lotteries to be a modern affair, however they go back a long way in the history books, and it is even believed that a sort of lottery was used to raise funds to construct the Great Wall of China.

In Europe, England wasn’t the first country to witness a lottery either. Years earlier in 1446 the widow of Flemish painter Jan van Eyck held one to help her dispose of her husband’s paintings. In England it was Queen Elizabeth who created the country’s first lottery. Keen to expand on the global stage, England required some costly public works projects, such as the rebuilding of harbours.

The Queen had the choice of either levying a new tax or holding the first state lottery, and the Queen chose a lottery. In fairness it wasn’t really for the common man as the cost of a ticket was ten shillings, a hefty price that few could afford. First prize though was worth £5000 which was an absolutely eye-watering amount of money back then.

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