A Glittering Piece of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon’s History Discovered

A historic gold pendant and chain, believed to be associated with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, has been revealed by the British Museum. The artifact, made of gold and adorned with red and white enamel, was discovered by a metal-detectorist in Warwickshire and reported to the local Finds Liaison Officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, who then informed Historic England. An archaeological excavation was conducted at the site to gather more information about the item and its location, reports Historic England .

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England noted:

“This beautiful pendant is a thrilling discovery giving us a tangible connection to Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and enriches our understanding of the Royal Court at the time. I’m delighted that Historic England was able to support with archaeological investigations of the site.”

Left, 18-year-old Henry VIII after his coronation in 1509. (P. S. Burton / Public Domain). Right, Portrait of Katherine of Aragon c. 1560 by Johannes Corvus. (Public Domain)

Left, 18-year-old Henry VIII after his coronation in 1509. (P. S. Burton /  Public Domain ). Right, Portrait of Katherine of Aragon c. 1560 by Johannes Corvus. ( Public Domain )

A Symbol of Henry’s First Love

Henry VIII was the king of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. He was well known for his six marriages and his role in the English Reformation , which led to the Church of England breaking away from the authority of the Pope. Katherine of Aragon was Henry’s first wife and was a Spanish princess who was highly respected by the English people.

The couple were married for over 20 years, but their marriage was annulled by the Pope, leading to a long-standing political and religious crisis that ultimately resulted in England breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church .

The pendant, which is heart-shaped and attached to a 75-link gold chain via an enameled “hand”, is thought to date back to the early 16th century, between 1509 and 1533, with the most likely date being around 1521.

he front of the pendant features the red and white Tudor rose symbol, intertwined with a pomegranate bush, which were the symbols of Henry and Katherine. The back of the pendant features the letters H and K, for Henry and Katherine, in Lombardic script, linked by ribbon and featuring the legend “TOVS + IORS”.

The pendant is associated with Henry and Katherine, due to its decoration. (Historic England)

The pendant is associated with Henry and Katherine, due to its decoration. ( Historic England )

According to experts, the pendant may have been produced quickly for a special event, such as a joust, and could have been used as a prize or worn by those participating. Its design is similar to the horse bards used at a joust in Greenwich in 1521.

Perhaps this was a trinket from a joust in which Henry himself participated. He was known as a skilled jouster, until in 1536 he was torn from his horse and injured, knocked unconscious for 2 hours. The location of this event was unknown until just 2 years ago, when it was revealed to be Greenwich Palace .

Showcasing British Antiquities

The pendant is being showcased by the British Museum to mark the launch of two annual reports, the Treasure Annual Report for 2020 and the Portable Antiquities Scheme Annual Report for 2021.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is funded by the British Museum and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, records archaeological finds made by the public to advance knowledge and increase public interest in history. The reports show that 45,581 archaeological finds were recorded in 2021, including 1,085 Treasure cases, with 96% of these discoveries made by metal detectorists.

The counties with the highest number of PAS finds in 2021 were Gloucestershire, Suffolk, and Lincolnshire, with significant numbers also recorded in other counties such as Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Kent, and Wiltshire.

The discovery of the Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon pendant highlights the significant contribution that everyday people, who enjoy metal detecting as a hobby, can make to the field of archaeology. By recording these finds, they are helping to deepen our understanding of Britain’s rich and fascinating past.

Top image: The gold pendant associated with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon found in Warwickshire, England.           Source: Historic England

By Gary Manners

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