A remarkable gold pendant with a necklace dating to the early 16th century has been unveiled by the British Museum. The ornate item is associated with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and may have been a prize.
Discovered in the central English county of Warwickshire, the object was unearthed by Charlie Clarke while metal-detecting. He reported it to the local Finds Liaison Officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which led to Historic England carrying out an archaeological excavation at the site. However, no other finds were discovered during this investigation.
The British Museum studied the pendant and offered this report:
The object is formed of a heart-shaped pendant with enamelled motifs, link, enamelled suspension link in the form of a hand, and a chain made up of 75 links. The front of the pendant is decorated with an entwined ‘Tudor rose’ and pomegranate bush, with the legend + TOVS + IORS (a pun on the French for ‘always’) below; the double-headed white and red rose was used by the Tudors from 1486, and the pomegranate was the badge of Katherine of Aragon. The reverse shows the letters H and K (for Henry and Katherine), in Lombardic script, linked by ribbon, again with the legend + TOVS + IORS.
Analysis dates the pendant to the early 16th century, between the years 1509 and 1533 with a most likely date of around 1521. Researchers from the Portable Antiquities Scheme also noticed that while the gold used in the pendant was quite high quality, the workmanship was not. They could see that in its hinges and other parts the were errors, unevenness and other signs it was hastily prepared. This has led them to suggest it was “an object made for a setting in which the appearance and impression at distance were key, possibly without the expectation that it would endure for any length of time.”
One possibility was that this pendant was used as a prize, perhaps during a tournament. It could be a similar case to one from the year 1517, when Henry VIII had over 100 pieces of metalwork with the letters H & K and other royal emblems made, so they could be given out after a joust and banquet for the Flemish ambassadors at Greenwich.
While the item is now being showcased by the British Museum, its ultimate destination has not been yet decided – although it is likely that a local museum will purchase it.
“This beautiful pendant is a thrilling discovery giving us a tangible connection to Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and enriches our understanding of the Royal Court at the time,” says Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive for Historic England. “I’m delighted that Historic England was able to support with archaeological investigations of the site.”