Elizabeth I Locket Ring

Elizabeth I’s Locket Ring

This beautiful ring was removed from Elizabeth I’s finger after her death on March 24th 1603.

The Elizabethan ring is mother-of-pearl, the band is set with rubies and the ‘E’ contains six diamonds set over a blue enamel ‘R’. A stunning pearl is also clearly visible.

What makes this ring so unique is that its stunning façade hides a secret  – the head of the ring is hinged and within it lie two miniature enamel portraits, one of Elizabeth c. 1575 and one of an unnamed woman. The woman wears a French hood and costume of Henry VIII’s reign.

Miniature enamel portraits of Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn

The ring itself is only 17.5 millimetres across and so the portraits are minute. Even so, the unnamed woman bears a strong resemblance to the sitter in the Hever and National Portrait Gallery paintings of Anne Boleyn.

There is no doubt in my mind, who else would Elizabeth honour in this manner? The portrait is that of her mother Anne Boleyn, who was so callously ripped from her life when she was just two years old.

Although there are no recorded instances of Elizabeth I speaking of Anne publicly, I am sure  that she often thought of her privately. I like to think that she drew strength from her mother’s courage and determination and treasured her memory.

408 years after Elizabeth’s death, mother and daughter are still together.

The ring was previously in the possession of the Home family, ‘having been given from the English royal treasures by James I to the then Lord Home’ (Ives, Pg. 42).

Today the ring is often referred to as the ‘Chequers ring’ as it belongs to the Trustees of Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence.

In 2008 the ring was displayed publicly as part of a special display at Compton Verney.

Kathleen Soriano, head of exhibitions at Compton Verney, said of the Elizabeth I pearl and ruby locket ring, “It’s a very moving piece because it’s so delicate and small and really evokes the sense of the story. It’s a very powerful object.”

I hope to be able to see it for myself one day.

Elizabeth I, “Darnley Portrait”, c. 1575

References
Ives, E. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, 2004.

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Comments

  1. Sue says:

    Elizabeth did refer to her mother several times . She asked her Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, to find evidence to indicate that her parents had been lawfully married. There is also the story of a conversation with the Venetian ambassador sometime in the mid 1550s, where she told him that she knew her mother would never sleep with her father prior to marriage, obviously indicating that her parents had been married before she was conceived. She also had a statue of Anne at her coronation procession, adopted her mother’s badge and was close to certain Boleyn relatives. That along with her action of wearing the ring does seem to show that she viewed her mother in a sympathetic light

    • Natalie says:

      Hi Sue, thank you for your comment. I was definitely aware that she adopted Anne’s badge and surrounded herself with Boleyn relatives but would you mind sharing your sources for the other references to Anne. Thank you!

      • Sue says:

        Sorry Natalie, I just realised you asked me a question about the source. Here it is :
        ‘She is proud and haughty, as although she knows that she was born of such a mother, she nevertheless does not consider herself of inferior degree to the Queen, whom she equals in self-esteem; nor does she believe herself less legitimate than her Majesty, alleging in her own favour that her mother would never cohabit with the King unless by way of marriage, with the authority of the Church, and the intervention of the Primate of England; so that even if deceived, having as a subject acted with good faith, the fact cannot have invalidated her mother’s marriage, nor her own birth, she having been born under that same faith; and supposing her to be a bastard, she prides herself on her father and glories in him…’
        (CSP Venetian, Vol VI: 1555-1558, 884).
        This was the Venetian envoy to the court of Queen Mary I and his despatches were edited in the 19thC and compiled in the Calendar State Papers, Venetian. Like his predecessors, he did not think particularly highly of Elizabeth.
        See Retha Warnicke’s book on Elizabeth asking Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury to find evidence, namely a papal dispensation, which allowed her parents to marry. He came back to her with documents which seem to have satisfied a private point.

  2. Niecole says:

    Wow, what a great post you did, its so interesting…
    The ring is really beautiful and I’d like to think that it has the portrait of Anne inside it.

    Your blog is beautiful

    • Natalie says:

      Thank you for your kind feedback! I most definitely believe that the portrait is of Anne. I don’t think there is any other woman from the reign of Henry VIII that would have been matched with Elizabeth. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts in the future!

  3. sam says:

    Hi there, Great piece on the ring.. I was just wondering, the ring is obviously beautiful, but it isn’t as finely made as todays jewellery. I mean like around the edges of the rubies, it isn’t 100% neat. Do you think that it’s because it’s an old ring? Worn with time? Or the craftsmen weren’t as skilled as todays? I hope you understand my point and realise I am in no way slating how beautiful it is. I have just come across your page whilst wondering about the ring. I am going to get stuck into reading the whole site now!

  4. Natalie says:

    Hi Sam, lovely to have you with us! As for the ring, I don’t know, I think it is difficult to assess without seeing it in person and how I would love for that to happen! I don’t think Elizabeth would have worn anything that wasn’t of very high standard and I imagine that her jewellers would have been among the most skilled in the country. Considering how old the ring is, I think it is exquisite. Hope you enjoy browsing the site! :)

  5. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Can anyone tell me what finger size the Conquer Ring was or a site that can tell the finger size?? Kind Regards Baroness

  6. Sarra says:

    Baroness, the article here said it was 175mm across but that’s like 6 inches and no one’s finger is that big, haha.
    I think it was a typeo and would love to know the true size of the ring as well. I know people were very tiny back then so I have a feeling the ring would be the size of a modern woman’s petite sized pinky finger, no doubt.

    • Natalie says:

      Sarra, thank you so much for alerting me to this. The truth is that when I wrote the article I used Eric Ives wonderful biography on Anne as one of the sources and in it on page 42 he states, ‘the portrait is minute – the ring itself is only 175 millimetres across…’. Silly me didn’t realise that this is not minute! So I think that it must have been a typo and that it was almost certainly supposed to read 17.5 mm across, which is small. My apologies for the confusion! Natalie

  7. Sue says:

    This beautiful locket ring is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It is part of the exhibition The Real Tudors that is on until March 2015. It was a moving experience to see it and think of how the link between mother and daughter was maintained.

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