Jewels were a necessity for queens, serving as tangible signs of their wealth and their magnificence. They could also serve a more personal function, and in no case was this more apparent than in a queen’s wedding ring. Margaret of Anjou’s ring was fashioned especially for her from the ruby ring that Henry VI had worn when he was anointed in Paris at the age of just ten. As such, it had an important link to her home country on both a personal and a ceremonial level. The king’s favourite goldsmith, Matthew Philip, was paid the princely sum of £200 for breaking down the original to make the queen’s wedding ring.
Margaret adored jewels, but by the end of her life she was no longer in possession of this special piece. How Margaret came to be parted from her wedding ring is unknown, but it later passed into the ownership of Henry VIII. “A silver-gilt box, containing the ring wherewith Henry VI espoused his Queen”, was listed in his 1530 inventory, but after this there is no further record of it. In the same manner as it had been for Margaret, perhaps it was broken down and recast – a piece of history whose fate remains unknown.
Learn more about Margaret of Anjou in Medieval World: Culture & Conflict (MWCC.4): Nicola Tallis, “Margaret of Anjou: ‘A grete and strong labourid woman’."
Nicola Tallis is also the author of All the Queen’s Jewels, 1445–1548: Power, Majesty and Display (Routledge, 2023). From Margaret of Anjou to Katherine Parr, All the Queen’s Jewels examines the jewelry collections of the ten queen consorts of England between 1445–1548 and investigates the collections of jewels a queen had access to, as well as the varying contexts in which queens used and wore jewels.
The jewelry worn by queens reflected both their gender and their status as the first lady of the realm. Jewels were more than decorative adornments; they were an explicit display of wealth, majesty and authority. They were often given to queens by those who wished to seek her favour or influence and were also associated with key moments in their lifecycle. These included courtship and marriage, successfully negotiating childbirth (and thus providing dynastic continuity), and their elevation to queenly status or coronation. This book explores the way that queens acquired jewels, whether via their predecessor, their own commission or through gift giving. It underscores that jewels were a vital tool that enabled queens to shape their identities as consort, and to fashion images of power that could be seen by their households, court and contemporaries.
This book is perfect for anyone interested in medieval and Tudor history, queenship, jewellery and the history of material culture.
Dr. Nicola Tallis is an independent historian, whose interests are sixteenth century queenship and jewellery. She is the author of Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey (2016), Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester (2017), and Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort, Tudor Matriarch (2019).