The Heneage Jewel


Elizabeth I gave elaborate jewels bearing her image as a reward for outstanding services. She is said to have given this jewel to Sir Thomas Heneage, a Privy Counsellor and the Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household.

The front of the pendant has a portrait of the queen, inscribed in Latin ‘Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland’.

The Heneage Jewel

 

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The Heneage Jewel

England, about 1595
Gold with enamel, rock crystal, table-cut diamonds and Burmese rubies
Given by Lord Wakefield through the Art Fund
V&A: M.81-1935

Sir Francis Walsingham

 

Sir Francis Walsingham was one of Elizabeth I’s most influential advisors and uncovered plots against her life. Like Sir Thomas Heneage, he received a jewel from the queen in gratitude for his services.

This portrait shows him wearing the jewel hanging from a dark ribbon. It is a pendant with a cameo portrait of the queen and large drop pearl.

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Sir Francis Walsingham

About 1585
Probably by John De Critz the Elder
Oil on panel

National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Sir Christopher Hatton also received a jewel with a cameo portrait of the queen. She gave it as a sign of gratitude for his loyal services as Vice Chamberlain at the Royal Household and a member of the Privy Council.

In this portrait, the jewel hangs from a rich gold chain, but Sir Christopher holds it out for the attention of the viewer.

Sir Christopher Hatton (1540-91)

 

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Sir Christopher Hatton (1540-91)

England, about 1600-1700
By an unknown artist
Oil on panel

National Portrait Gallery, London
The Wild Jewel

 

Family tradition says that Elizabeth I gave this jewel to her god-daughter, Elizabeth Wild. Over generations, the pendant passed within the family from one Elizabeth to another.

In the Renaissance, the renewed interest in Antiquity included a fashion for engraved gems. Some had copies of portraits of Roman emperors, others had portraits of contemporary monarchs. This tradition flourished in Elizabethan England.

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The Wild Jewel

England, about 1590
Gold with turquoise cameo, enamel, diamonds, rubies and pearls
Case 1. V&A: M.26-2002

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 


The true story of this jewel may never be revealed. The cameo of Elizabeth I shows the queen about 1590, towards the end of her reign. The mount with its pea-pod style ornament dates from even later, from about 1615-25. Family tradition links the jewel to a London tradesman called William Barbor, but he died in 1586, before the cameo and mount were made. In 1558 he was on the point of being executed as a heretic by the Catholic Queen Mary, but was saved by the accession of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth.

The Barbor Jewel

 

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The Barbor Jewel

England, cameo about 1590, mount about 1615-25
Gold with onyx cameo, enamel, rubies, diamonds and pearls
Given by Miss M. Blencowe
Case 6. V&A: 889-1894

Victoria & Albert Museum, London