When the first of the Tudor kings was firmly established on the throne, the silversmiths received an impetus which gave them work under royal patronage ensuring a following by the mediaeval nobility. As it is shown in chapters XI and XII, Ecclesiastical Plate, Continental artists set the fashion in the Middle Ages and seem to have been ahead of the craftsmen of this country in all matters of art. The possession of family plate dating from mediaeval days is some guarantee of the standing of the family at that early period. Henry VII encouraged quite a number of foreign artists to settle in England. They were allowed to trade here and to make silver goods, but it was made clear to them that they owed a duty to the country in which they earned a livelihood-a lesson that might well be learned to-day-and they were enjoined to teach English apprentices and workmen their craft. It is due to the introduction of foreign artists, trade and craft, that the work of that period, although bearing English hall-marks, in all its designs shows a distinct trace of foreign style and ornament. Even in royal plate and symbolic decoration there appears to be a foreign interpretation
of our national emblems. Among the number of silver-smiths brought over were many Italians whose " taste " was always apparent in their work. The Gothic type of ornament in silver was in like manner due to German craftsmen. Of course, these indications of the origin of design is apparent in all plate of that period including domestio ; it is, however, much more clearly in evidence in the larger works such as those used in churches and in the regal appointments and emblems of state, like royal maces and the splendid salt cellars " nefs " and the like which served as distinguishing marks on the royal table and buffet. Of the great dividing line between the upper and lower orders drawn by the salt cellar, reference has been made in another chapter. Attention may, however, be directed to the net or ship which became the recognised form of central piece of plate in the fourteenth century. It was a large piece and its uses were varied, indeed, it seems to have been a compendium or receptacle for many table condiments and appointments. It held napkins, spoons and " spices," and was placed conveniently near the host whose special table appointments were usually placed in it. Many of these fine " ships " have belonged to royalty -one noted piece having been made for Edward III, the ornament upon it being in the form of dragons. One of the members of our own royal house is a collector of these ancient ships and owns many representative pieces. The " nef," like the salt cellar, was also used as a receptacle for many kinds of condiments. It was usually a representation of a fully rigged ship, the name being derived from the French, and was originally a vessel used upon the altar for holding incense-it was an incense boat.