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First National Lottery held 450 years ago

Last Updated: Friday 11th June 2010, 11:26

A letter has surfaced and is to be sold at auction that proves that the first National Lottery in the UK was held 450 years ago. The document, which is emblazoned with Queen Elizabeth I well known signature shows that the first national lottery in the UK was held in 1566. Tickets for the draw were sold over three years and the jackpot for the lottery was £5,000, an amount that wasn't even paid in cash.

The 16th century document, written by Queen Elizabeth I gives instructions for collecting money and asks that the prizes be entrusted to ‘persons of good faith’. Each ‘lot’ or lottery ticket cost ten shillings each but prizes were not necessarily cash.

The Lottery prizes were to be awarded in a combination of gold and merchandise, mainly comprising tapestries and fine fabrics. The £5,000 lottery jackpot prize is worth around £850,000 in today’s money, so prizes have risen a little since then and you are now guaranteed cold hard cash if you’re a lottery winner.

Unlike the weekly draws we have today, this lottery was held after three years of selling 400,000 lots, due to the logistics of selling money around the UK. This may be the reason the lottery was phased out but later draws in 1750 and 1826 were also run in the UK.

So while the National Lottery might be selling lottery tickets in its fifteenth year, this document, to be sold at auction this week shows that the UK has had lottery fever for a great deal longer than that!

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