A set of thirteen spoons, usually silver, the handles of which are adorned with representations of Our Lord (the Master spoon) and the twelve Apostles. Anciently they were given by sponsors as baptismal gifts to their godchildren, the wealthy giving complete sets, others a smaller number, and a poor person a single spoon. The Apostles are distinguished one from the other by their respective emblems:
In some sets St. Paul
takes the place of St. Matthias
; his emblem is a sword. It is doubtful if these spoons were much in use before 1500; the oldest one known is of the year 1593, and they first appeared as a bequest in the will
of one Amy Brent who bequeathed in 1516 "XIII sylver spones of J' hu and the XII Apostells". They are alluded to by the dramatists, Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Middleton, Beaumont, and Fletcher. In Henry VIII, Act 5, Scene 3, the King asks Cranmer to be sponsor for the infant Elizabeth; he demurs because he is a poor man, upon which Henry banters him in these words: "Come, come, my lord, you'd spare your spoons." While these apostle
spoons were used on the Continent, especially in Germany
and Holland, they were never as much in vogue there as in England.
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