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 ...

Anne O’Brien

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


Susan Higginbotham said...

Tony Pollard has suggested in "The Smethon Letter, St Penket and the Tablet of Gold," in Much Heaving and Shoving: Late-Medieval Gentry and Their Concerns, Essays for Colin Richmond, edited by Margaret Aston and Rosemary Horrox.that the Middleham Jewel might have belonged to Anne's mother. She is known to have had made "a great table of gold of St. Pen, Our Lady, and the Holy Trinity,:

Sophia Rose said...

Thank you for sharing about the piece of jewelry. I find that absolutely fascinating. I always had a soft spot for Richard and Anne.

US Resident

Linda said...

This was a very interesting post. I can only imagine the excitement when the boar pin was found, on Bosworth Field!
Beautiful covers for this novel. Thanks for the giveaway.

Debra Brown said...

Thanks- love the topic.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

What an interesting post :)

Please enter me in the UK giveaway.

Barbara Gaskell Denvil said...

A fascinating article - thanks for posting it - and the gorgeous photograph of the Middleham jewel (which I have never managed to see in person) and the badge too. Good luck with the books.

Literary Chanteuse said...

Wow really interesting facts. I really enjoyed that post! Thank you for the giveaway! I love the US cover. I'm in Canada.


Phoebe's Sisters said...

Thank you for such an interesting and beautiful post and the giveaway!

faridamestek@yahoo.com (Ukraine)

Anne O'Brien said...

An interesting comment about Cecily's possible ownership. I expect she must have visited Middleham on some occasions. Is it a 'great tablet'? Perhaps it is although it is only 6 by 4 cms. The romantic in me still holds out for Anne ...

Heidi Murphy said...

Absolutely fascinating article. I have long been intrigued by Richard III and Anne Neville's relationship. An article like this really does help to bring these characters to life once again.

Very excited about King's Concubine...and even more so about your novel about Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor.

heidi.murphy@walker.co.uk (London, UK)

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely article about touching the past through the pieces that survive to our present day. If only we could know the truth of who owned both those beautiful pieces. Thank you for sharing your discoveries with us. I've been a Ricardian since I was a teen and read everything I can find about him!

I am a U.S. resident; mfantalis(at)hotmail(dot)com. Good luck to all!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Anne, the article I mentioned wasn't referring to Cecily, Richard's mother, but to Anne's mother, Anne Neville (nee Beauchamp), the Countess of Warwick.

Anne O'Brien said...

Sorry Susan. That's me misreading. It could be the Countess Anne's - and even passed on to her daughter. If so, sadly, Richard will have to take a step back. The joy of it is that we will never know ...

maribea said...

I got fascinated by Richard and his brother's story while reading Philippa Gregory version. Now I'd like to read yours!!!
I'm maribea at tiscali dot com and I'm from Italy.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article Anne. As a keen Ricardian for many years it is fascinating to think that lovely jewel might have belonged to Anne. I would prefer the UK version of Virgin Widow, although as I already have it I would really love to get Devil's Consort.

Anne Goodwin


Kathy Carroll said...

I'm so disappointed that I missed seeing that piece when in the Yorkshire Museum last March! I did, however, get a white rose flag for my garden. Would love to win the copy of your book (US, please).

Liz said...

J. Tey made me a life long adherent of Richard's. Interesting re epilepsy. Any known epileptics in Anne's or Richard's? line

brokenteepee said...

Fascinating. I suppose that much of the jewelry from the past has been melted down and the gold and jewels sold and reused for other purposes in many cases as people fled or just tried to survive. It's amazing that anything has survived all those years.

Thank you and I would love to win the book!
I am in the US
kaiminani at gmail dot com

Lauren Gilbert said...

I really enjoyed your article. I am something of a Ricardian, and loved the Middleham jewel information. (I, too, would like to think he gave it to Anne!) I would be so pleased to win your book!


cyn209 said...

i almost missed this giveaway!!!! thank you for this!!!!
already added to my WishList!!!

cyn209 at juno dot com

Jel Cel said...

Thanks for the interview, as a daughter and sister of Ricardians I had my interest tickled. Love the jewel, intricate, beautiful blue. Also I would love to read the book.

Blodeuedd said...

I have a silly question :) Does it have any significance that he is playing with his ring in that painting?

I like both covers, but that US one wins for me ;)

booksforlife01 (gmail) (dot) com

Stephanie said...

Anne, this was a really interesting article. I absolutely LOVE the idea that this item was owned and worn by Anne or Richard's mother! It makes my head spin! I only just came across your books but they are definitely on my to-read list. Winning a copy would be a great start for me! (US)(sllingky@gmail.com)

Kara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kara said...

Absolutely loved Queen Defiant - thank you! I am looking forward to reading the next, & also your upcoming book about Alice Perrers - how exciting! Anne Neville seemed to have so much sorrow in such a short life. I hope she had some happiness to compensate.
Karen Johnson (US) karenjohnson730@sbcglobal.net

rainakochan said...

it is absolutely what i need !
I'm currently studying Tudor and we will talk also about RICHARD and waR OF ROSES :)
i also found fascinagting to trace a item through the centyries, it is amazing, to see who whas worn it and the item ot self has a story.
I'd like to get this book :)


Marie Antonia Parsons said...

I have been a "Ricardian" since I read Elizabeth Peters' Murders of RIchard III. But I did not know much of his marriage or life with Anne Neville. This story about the Ricardian jewels is fascinating! Sounds like it was fun to research.
I am in the US, parsonsmariea@gmail.com

Maudie Mae said...

Thank you for such an interesting blog. You certainly tickled my fancy in pondering who the pendant might have belonged to. Given Anne's history with pregnancy and childbirth, it is certainly reasonable and apt to think of it belonging her.

And, Thanks for the giveaway!



Vera Isabel said...

Name: Vera Isabel
Location: Portugal, Europe
Email Address: aryabodhisattva@gmail.com
Would prefer the UK edition, if possible.

Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

Barbara Gaskell Denvil (author of SATIN CINNABAR) said...

Hi Blodeuedd,
That's a question which has often been asked and never fully answered. However, there are other portraits of the period (including Edward IV) which show some emphasis on rings - signifying rank and status - a matter of considerable relevance then when such a lot of importance was given to coats of arms - and a ring was often used as a seal when closing a message with wax.

bn100 said...

I enjoyed reading your post. It was very fun and fascinating to read. The book sounds very good. Thanks for the giveaway.



Anonymous said...

In his book The Religious Life of Richard III, Jonathan Hughes talks about a book owned by Richard and Anne Neville called The Book of Gostly Grace. The book is about the visions and meditations of St Mechtild and the portrait of Richard shown here is filled with symbolism from this book, including the rings on Richard’s fingers. The placing of the ring on the little finger is symbolic of Christ’s meekness in coming to earth to serve others. The ring on the ‘wedding’ finger represents the soul’s devotion to God, and the ring on the thumb represents God’s power and protection. The colours of the clothes, the background and the other jewellery all have significance. I had not realised before that, for example, the hat badge was a cross or that pearls signified prayers.

Alex @ The Blethering Bookworm said...

Thank you for the wonderful post. I have always had a soft spot for items (Jewelry or clothing) that have some kind of a history - But then when I start to think about it too much I start to get a little depressed thinking that this person is now dead... But I really enjoyed this post it was fascinating.

Thank you for the chance to read this book.


And I am a UK resident.

Thank you :)

Anne O'Brien said...

Thanks for this information on jewels and colours, Elizabeth. Fascinating stuff!