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Home > Auctions > 6th December 2016 > Medieval Massive Gold Henry VII 'Believe and Conquer' Signet Glove Ring

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LOT 1675

Sold for (Inc. bp): £26,660

1 1/8" (25.59 grams, 29mm overall, 25.24mm internal diameter).

A substantial gold ring dating from the period of Henry VII and the Wars of the Roses, the tapered band with channelled edges engraved with flower and foliage design, a line of three rose blooms at the shoulders, the circular bezel with incuse and retrograde design of a standing heraldic dragon passant sinister with wings addorsed and mouth open, palm branches above and behind, 'S' before and a star below, with Latin retrograde Black Letter '[n]c[e]' inscription for 'Believe and Conquer' and the letter 'S' possibly relating to the name of the owner; John Cherry, former Keeper of Medieval and Later Antiquities at the British Museum says: 'Dr Michael Siddons in his book on Badges (Heraldic Badges in England and Wales vol III Ordinaries (Society of Antiquaries of London and Boydell and Brewer, Woodbridge, 2009, pages 72-3) assigns the dragon to Edward III and the family of the Tudors, and a number of other families, such as the Mortimers, Earls of March, the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond, the Clifford, Earls of Cumberland, Brooke, Lord Cobham, and the Earls of Ulster. Without knowing the heraldic colour, it is not possible to distinguish between these. The dragon on the bezel of the ring is not ducally gorged and chained and this would rule out the actual Dukes of Somerset, though not another member of the family. The three roses on the shoulder of the ring also appear to be a badge and here the lack of colour prevents our knowing whether it is the red rose (Lancaster) or the white rose (York) that it represents. Dr Michael Siddons points out that the rose was a widely-used badge (above, pages 44-45). It is also possible, though less likely, that the dragon may be a rebus for the name Dragon or Wyvern and that the letter S is the forename. Whatever the exact interpretation of the device and motto on the ring, and this is an opportunity for further research, it is a very fine example of a late medieval heraldic signet ring, dating from the mid or late fifteenth century.'

Property of a Middlesex gentleman; acquired from a Wellingborough collector in the 1970s. Accompanied by a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate.

Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

See Dalton, O. M., Franks Bequest Catalogue of the Finger Rings, British Museum, London, 1912, no.280 for a similar form (in silver); see Oman, Charles, British Rings, 800-1914, 1974, pl.40H for a similar bezel; both of 15th century date.

The presence here of the letter 'S' before the dragon, could indicate an initial letter of a personal name of the owner; possibly a member of the family of the Dukes of Somerset, three members of which family died in the Wars of the Roses in their support of the Lancastrian cause, and for whom the dragon or wyvern features as a supporter in their arms. The dragon is the main feature of the arms of the County of Somerset. The forces of Henry VII fought under the banner of the red dragon of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon when marching through Wales, on their way to Bosworth, where Richard III died. A dragon appears as a supporter to the Henry VII royal arms, and to those of Henry VIII. The dragon is also seen as a symbol of the country and people of Wales, and widely appears in personal and corporate arms to this day. The prophecies of Cadwaladr had long been cited by aspirants to the English throne in justification of their claims. The motto is now also associated with the Scottish origin Toash (or latterly, Tosh) family.