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LOT 0601

Sold for (Inc. bp): £55,800

1" (22.42 grams, 25mm overall, 19.50mm internal diameter (approximate size British T, USA 9 1/2, Europe 21.26, Japan 20)).

A large gold ring with scrolled pictorial band between the oval main and back bezels; the principal bezel with profile cameo portrait of Elizabeth I with ornate ruff and collar with traces of enamels (possibly once with a crystal inset over the portrait) within an inner border set with cabochon ruby above and garnet below, the sides inset with square turquoise to left and right with rectangular pairs of lapis lazuli and turquoise between (some now missing), the outer border with cells of deep red enamel; the shoulder to right depicting a conch shell and facing figure of crowned Neptune holding trident with blue-green enamel background, supported by two fish; the shoulder to left depicting a nude female figure reclining in a shell (Britannia as Aphrodite/Venus?) with blue-green enamel background, supported by two fishes; the back bezel with inset oval cameo carved in ancient bone (partially mineralised) depicting a large ship with high sterncastle, three masts and gunports (a British naval vessel?) with empty cells at corners.

CONDITION REPORT: [Click to show]

Property of an Elizabeth I coin and artefact connoisseur; acquired London, UK, before 1996; formerly with Richard Hodges of Northampton, UK, prior to 1985 and then held by an eminent Mayfair, London, numismatic company. Accompanied by a copy of a receipt letter from R.A. Hodges, dated 26th November 1984; and a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate.

See Scarisbrick, Diana, Portrait Jewels, Thames & Hudson, 2011 and Tudor and Jacobean Jewellery, Tate Gallery, 1995, p.84 and pl.52, for much information; see Cocks, Anna Somers, An Introduction to Courtly Jewellery, HMSO, London, 1980, pp.24-25, nos.20-21 for details of two Armada jewels and p.27, no.24 for the enamelled cameo portrait Barbor jewel; see Oman, Charles, British Rings, 800-1914, London, 1974, pl.78B, the Earl of Essex ring, for an example of a stone cameo ring given by Elizabeth, with two other examples (78A and 78C); see also Dalton, O. M., Franks Bequest Catalogue of the Finger Rings, British Museum, 1912, no.1358, for the Earl of Essex ring; John Cherry has commented: "It is really quite a remarkable ring....the bust looks to be that of Elizabeth I. I would compare it to the bust of the Queen [by Hilliard] on the Phoenix Jewel in the British Museum....The variety of enamel and stones is interesting. Particularly the use of turquoise and a dark blue stone (lapis lazuli)." David Miller has opined: "I feel that it is a royal gift from the Queen and by the portrait would judge that the ring dates from about 1585 to 1595. I am sure that the portrait is by the artist Nicholas Hilliard as he designed a number of medals including the 1588 naval reward medal which is the first British war medal (see British Battles and Medals, Spink, 1988, no.1).

Elizabeth is known to have commissioned jewels for herself, such as the famous locket ring with portraits of her mother, Anne Boleyn, and herself (taken from her finger on her death and shown to James I as proof of her death, now held by the Trustees of Chequers, the country residence of the Prime Minister) and to have presented jewels to others; this ring, with its strong seafaring imagery, is very likely to have been presented in 'grateful thanks' to a naval officer of high rank who was directly involved in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. There is apparently no specific record of this award but possible candidates for the gift might include Sir Francis Drake (vice-admiral, who famously refused to interrupt his game of bowls at Plymouth when told of the approach of the Spanish ships, and a favourite of Elizabeth), Sir John Hawkins (rear admiral) or Lord Howard of Effingham (commander of the English forces who conceded some control to Drake when the English fleet set sail from Plymouth to confront the Spanish); other names for consideration might include Sir Walter Raleigh (as Elizabeth's naval advisor and provider of the Ark Royal), Sir Martin Frobisher, Lord Sheffield, Sir Richard Grenville, Sir Robert Southwell, Lord Henry Seymour, Sir William Winter, John Davis or Edward Fenton. There is of course a long-standing historic tradition of rulers presenting specifically a ring to successful military officers, stretching back at least to the gold FIDEM rings given by Constantine the Great (306-337 AD). Further research might produce a link with a Tudor portrait that could demonstrate ownership.

The bone cameo forming the back bezel of the ring shows a large Tudor three-masted sailing ship with a high sterncastle and gunports; allowing for the small scale of the image, the picture illustrates a typical English fighting vessel of the Armada period. It could well be that if the ring was presented to a commander of one of the ships fighting off the Armada, then it could represent his own vessel. The English ships taking part in the defence against the Spanish Armada, with their commanders, included Ark Royal (flag ship of Lord Charles Howard of Effingham), Rainbow (Lord Henry Seymour), Golden Lion (Thomas Howard), White Bear (Alexander Gibson), Vanguard (William Winter), Revenge (Sir Francis Drake), Elizabeth (Robert Southwell), Victory (Rear Admiral Sir John Hawkins), Antelope (Henry Palmer), Triumph (Martin Frobisher), Dreadnought (George Beeston), Mary Rose (Edward Fenton), Nonpareil (Thomas Fenner), Hope (Robert Crosse), Swiftsure (Edward Fenner) and Swallow (Sir Richard Hawkins).

Elizabeth's address to her forces at Tilbury on 9 August 1558, with the knowledge that the ships and army of Spain were about to assault England, is perhaps her most famous speech and, from a surviving manuscript in the British Library written by Dr Lionel Sharp, her words are transcribed:

"My loving people,

We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.

I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm: to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people."

Jewels and rings bearing the portrait of Elizabeth I are well known, including 'The Sir Francis Drake Jewel', a locket traditionally held to have been given to Drake by Elizabeth in the late 16th century and possibly associated with the Armada victory; Drake is shown wearing this locket in a portrait dated to 1591 and it contains a portrait of Elizabeth by Nicholas Hilliard and of her emblem, a phoenix; it is interesting to note that the jewelled border to the locket is inset with stones in a similar manner to this ring. There is also the 'Armada Pendant', a similar locket given by Elizabeth to Sir Thomas Heneage which also holds a miniature by Hilliard. Rings include the Earl of Essex example, with a stone cameo portrait and others.