‘Unique’ Tudor pendant unearthed by UK metal detecting enthusiast


A “unique” Tudor jewelled pendant inscribed with the initials of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragón has been unearthed by a Birmingham café owner who took up metal detecting only six months before making his spectacular find.

The gold chain and heart-shaped pendant, dating from the early 16th century, is decorated with entwined red and white roses — a common Tudor motif — and a pomegranate bush, emblem of Henry’s first wife.

Charlie Clarke, a 34-year-old café owner, was about to go home after his metal detecting had turned up pieces of car battery and scrap iron adjacent to a pond on farmland in Warwickshire, in England’s West Midlands, in 2021.

“I’d had enough of digging to be honest,” he said. “But I had a few more swings and the noise was so high pitched, I knew it was going to be something worth digging up. Then I saw it was gold . . . You wouldn’t think it would happen to someone like me.”

When Clarke brought the pendant to the British Museum, curators were initially wary of declaring it as Tudor, wanting to assure themselves that it was not a 19th-century fake.

“The majority of people who saw this at the museum felt it was almost too good to be true,” said Rachel King, curator for European Renaissance at the British Museum.

“At the British Museum we have the largest collection of objects in precious metal from the early Tudor period. None of them are anything like this — they tend to be smaller. Things like this haven’t really survived.”

But after checking the pendant’s gold content, the maker’s tool marks and the constituents of the solder and enamel, curators concluded it was the genuine article.

King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragón © Active Art/Prisma Archivo/Alamy

Made around the time of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a lavish festival-cum-summit between Henry and Francis I of France in 1520, the pendant is an example of what might have been worn in a period from which little portraiture survives.

Its rarity also lies in the fallout from Henry and Katherine’s divorce. Such pieces might have been owned by those wanting to display their closeness to the court or their loyalty to the monarch, said King at the British Museum. When the marriage ended those objects started to disappear.

Still to be valued, the pendant was unveiled at museum on Tuesday as part of the annual announcement of finds made by the public in the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure report. For 2021, the latest haul, a total of 45,581 were recorded, including 1,085 cases of so-called “treasure” or precious metal more than 300 years old.

Some 96 per cent of finds were made by metal detectorists, whose hobby has won wider interest after the success of the BBC TV show The Detectorists, starring actors Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones.

If a museum expressed interest in buying the pendant, it would enter a formal valuation process. King said it would probably have a significant monetary value, noting that “it’s already been designated as of national importance”.

This post is originally appeared on FT



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