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