|Middleham Castle - Yorkshire|
Anne O'Brien, the author of The Virgin Widow and Devil's Consort (Queen Defiant in the US edition), is my guest today with a new post for my Richard III series. "Ricardian Jewels ... Touching the past" is an intriguing post about medieval jewellery found out at Middleham Castle and exhibited in York Museum. Who did the fine jewel belong to? What is the story behind it?
Read and enjoy Anne's article. There's an extraordinary giveaway for you at the end of this blogpost. Discover which of her books you can win and how...
Ricardian Jewels ... Touching the Past
I find the whole subject of medieval jewellery fascinating. How remarkable when we discover a ring or a brooch that has existed for hundreds of years, and we can actually trace who once owned it. A jewel that was touched or worn or treasured by someone who lived so long ago allows us to reach out and actually touch the past. When I researched the lives of Anne Neville and Richard of Gloucester for my novel Virgin Widow, I hoped to find some personal possessions to make these two special people come alive for me.
My investigations began with Middleham Castle where I was captivated by the Middleham Jewel. Middleham Castle played a significant role in the lives of Anne and Richard. As a young girl, Anne spent much time there with her father the Earl of Warwick – the Kingmaker – and her mother and sister. It was a major stronghold in the north of England.
Richard first visited when a young boy, to complete his education at the hands of Warwick and it was here that he and Anne met for the first time. After their marriage, Middleham became Richard’s power base in the north when he administered the vast area on behalf of his brother King Edward IV. It was perhaps the backdrop for the happiest moments in their lives, but also the most tragic. Anne and Richard’s young son Edward died there, and so did Anne when only 28 on the 16th March 1485.
|The Middleham Jewel|
The beautiful little artefact that has become known as the Middleham Jewel was discovered in 1985 near the castle by a local man with a metal detector. He thought it was an old powder compact but discovered it to be of outstanding value and significance. A gold pendant, it is engraved with the Trinity on one side and a nativity scene on the other. The jewel is a large sapphire, and round the edge is a charm to ward off epilepsy. It is a reliquary, and would have contained something of religious significance such as a piece of the true cross.
So who did this exquisite piece of medieval jewellery belong to? It is considered to be an outstanding piece of craftsmanship of the latter half of the fifteenth century and so contemporary with Anne and Richard. It is obviously a woman’s jewel with it inscriptions in Latin and Hebrew connected with childbirth. Its value is so great that it must have belonged to someone of the highest status. So who owned it? It has been speculated that it belonged to Richard’s mother, Cecily of York. But why? Would it not more likely have belonged to Anne herself since she lived at Middleham?
I like to think it might well have been Anne’s, that she wore it and believed in its efficacy when she gave birth to Edward. Even better – what if it was a gift from Richard during the few years of their marriage spent at Middleham – and object to express his love and care for his wife in her pregnancy. Childbirth was a chancy business for all women. Perhaps Anne wore in on a chain around her neck or attached to her girdle. It is a nice thought, and there is no evidence to prove otherwise. I hold to the fact that it belonged to Anne herself.
How was the lovely little jewel lost? It is impossible to say. Today it can be seen in all its glory in the Yorkshire Museum in York. The sum of £2.5 million was raised to purchase it and keep it in England
Portraits of Richard show him wearing a considerable array of jewellery; rings, chains and brooches.
I hoped that we might have at least one of his rings, perhaps in the British Museum, as we have the ring of the Black Prince, the hero of Poitiers. How wonderful if such a personal item of jewellery had survived for us to see. Sadly not. But I discovered that what we do have is something even more personal to him, which Richard would certainly have handled and gifted to a friend.
This iconic object is a livery badge found on the battle field at Bosworth. Recent archaeological studies have been made to discover exactly where the battle took place – a matter of considerable debate. On the edge of an area which is believed to have been marsh in medieval times – in Shakespeare, Richard’s horse foundered in a marsh - a silver object was found amongst the rest of the battle debris. This is the Bosworth Boar, a livery badge, probably made for Richard’s coronation in 1483, and of course copied from his personal device, the white boar. It is silver gilt and so of some value. Other such livery badges have been found but usually in pewter. This is the only one in precious metal and would have been worn by a knight in Richard’s personal retinue. Was the place on the edge of the old marsh on which it was found the exact spot where Richard was cut down?
The badge’s pin is missing, and so are its front legs and part of its snout, but it is over six hundred years old and its liveliness in remarkable. Possibly it was worn as a hat emblem. I am sure Richard gave something of such value to a favoured knight in his retinue. It seems a vibrant, tragic memory of Richard’s last moments.
How fortunate we are to have such possessions to give some personal insight into the lives of those who lived so long ago. What a pity that the reliquary and livery badge cannot speak and tell us what we wish to know about their owners. But simply looking at them, at their superb craftsmanship, and knowing their provenance, it is as if we can reach out and touch Anne and Richard themselves over all the years ...
Author of Virgin Widow and Devil’s Consort(UK)/Queen Defiant(US)
The King’s Concubine, the story of Alice Perrers, will be released in May, 2012.
Leave your comments or questions for Anne and enter an amazing giveaway contest: 2 copies of her Virgin Widow (my review HERE), one for UK readers and one for readers from the rest of the world. So, please don't forget to tell us where you write from and to add your e-mail address to be contacted in case you win. You can choose between the UK edition (on the left) or the US edition (on the right) . This giveaway ends on 30th January. Good luck, everybody! MG