Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Post by Dr Nicola Tallis, Author of All the Queen’s Jewels, 1445–1548: Power, Majesty and Display

18 November 2022

Special Guest Post by Dr Nicola Tallis, Author of All the Queen’s Jewels, 1445–1548: Power, Majesty and Display

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

From Margaret of Anjou to Katherine Parr, All the Queen’s Jewels examines the jewellery 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.

A Peek Inside … the Queen’s Jewel Coffers

The jewels worn by royalty throughout history are endlessly fascinating, and continue to inspire both admiration and awe. When we consider the jewels that belonged to the queens who form the subject of my new book, All the Queen’s Jewels, 1445-1548: Power, Majesty and Display, though we have a great deal of information about the way in which these women wore and used jewels, as well as – sometimes – what they owned – what we sadly lack is the majority of the jewels themselves. 

Most of these were broken up or melted down and recycled, for what was fashionable to one era was not so to the next. There are, however, enough surviving contemporary jewels to allow us to ascertain what those owned by the queens of England in this period would have looked like. Here are a few examples:

Fifteenth Century Reliquary: Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 69738.

This beautiful cross was found in 1866 on the site of Clare Castle, Suffolk, and it has been suggested that it may have belonged to Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. Made of gold and decorated with four pearls, the cross is certainly typical of the kinds of pieces that would have been owned by the English queens in this period, all of whom are known to have had items of religious jewellery in their possession. It contains a cavity at the back in which tiny fragments of wood were found, indicating that the cross served as a reliquary.

Miniature Whistle Pendant, 1525-30: V & A, 

This tiny object, shaped like a pistol, was, according to family tradition, the first gift given to Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII. Though the King certainly made regular gifts of jewels to the woman who would become his second wife, it is highly improbable that this was one of them. It is nevertheless a beautiful example of the kinds of pieces that would have been seen at Henry’s court, and would have been worn attached to a masquing costume. It was more than purely decorative though, for not only did it feature a whistle, but also an ear-spoon and a toothpick!

Horse Pendant, c. 1590: Burghley House.

Although this elaborately decorated piece dates from the Elizabethan period, it is nevertheless a superb example of the kinds of pendants that the Tudor queens would have been familiar with. Similarly beautiful pendants are to be found in the jewel inventories of Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr, fashioned to include initials, clocks, and other designs that had either been given to them or were personal to the queens. 

This pendant contains an enamelled horse (enamelled pieces are often to be found amongst the jewels of Henry VIII’s wives), and is decorated with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. The voyages of discovery ensured that precious stones were more readily available – at a price – and this in turn is reflected in the jewel inventories of Henry VIII’s queens.

Dr Nicola Tallis

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About the Author

British Historian Nicola Tallis graduated from Bath Spa University with a first class BA Hons. degree in History in 2011, and from Royal Holloway College, University of London in 2013 with an MA in Public History and her PhD from the University of Winchester. Nicola also worked as a historical researcher, most notably for Sir Ranulph Fiennes whilst he was working on his 2014 book, Agincourt: My Family, the Battle and the Fight for France. Find out more at Nicola's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @NicolaTallis

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