Skip to page content | Skip to submenu

Richard II's treasure

the riches of a medieval king

items » miscellaneous gold objects

Miscellaneous gold objects

The long section of the treasure roll headed 'small jewels' describes a very mixed bag of precious gold objects. There were little gold mirrors of polished metal with sacred images, some hanging from suspension rings, rosaries, small tablets and diptychsdiptych - painting or other representation composed of two hinged leaves which close like a book , all intended for private devotions. Articles of dress included rich belts for both men and women, purses and headdresses. Among personal ornaments were rings, brooches, clasps and strands of pearls, some broken and wrapped in cloth. A 'ring for the arm', that is a bracelet, for which as yet there was no special word, was passed on to the king's powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, as a New Year's gift.

A detail from the Wilton Diptych, showing the white hart brooch and broomcod collar

The Wilton Diptych. White hart brooch (London, National Gallery)

Livery badges included several gem encrusted versions of Richard II's white hart in gold and enamel. One resembled especially closely the painted hart brooch worn by Richard in the Wilton Diptych in that it sat on a terrace of green emeralds and had pearls on the antlers. The swan with a gold chain, which seems to resemble the Dunstable Swan Jewel, was probably also a livery badge.

Gold Portuguese coins, a gold whistle, the gift of the bishop of Durham, forks for green ginger, ivory combs mounted in gold, were listed alongside chafing-ballschafing-balls - small, round, metal container for heated charcoal, oil, etc., to warm the hands , musk-balls musk balls - small, round, metal container for musk or other sweet-scented compounds , and a golden 'cage' for burning perfume to scent a chamber. Exquisite coffers and caskets no doubt housed some of these objects.

A photo of the Savernake Horn

The Savernake Horn (London, British Museum)

Larger image (20KB)

A cornet with a green and white baldric, set with gems, probably for hunting, may have been for Richard II's own entourage, but green and white were Isabelle's livery colours. The Savernake Horn in the British Museum is a similarly splendid object.

A detail from the Savernake Horn, showing a white hart

A detail from the Savernake Horn

There were some especially valuable pieces of armour. A sword belt with ostrich plumes may have belonged to the Black Prince (see illustration below). The jewelled sword, helmet and spurs 'of Spain' were repeatedly pawned during Richard II's reign. Eight fleuronsfleuron - lily-shaped pinnacle rising from the circlet of a crown  detached from a crown had perhaps also been used for this purpose.

Effigy of the Black Prince

Effigy of the Black Prince. After C. A. Stothard, Monumental effigies of Great Britain (1811-)

Larger image (50KB)

The very miscellaneous order of this section of the inventory probably reflects the fact that it was drawn from the lists of different treasuries and of different royal officers of the king and queen's households. Some objects, for example, were in store in the Tower of London in Edward III's reign, were still there after Richard's accession and perhaps to the end of his reign. Some, on the other hand, had come into the treasure only recently, from Isabelle's trousseau, as New Year gifts from the courts of England and France, from the forfeitures of 1397 and so on.

Photo of the fishpool rings

Rings from the Fishpool hoard (a find of gold treasure at Fishpool, Nottinghamshire in 1966), fifteenth century (London, British Museum)

Larger image (11KB)

Inventories are very conservative and copy the same phrases time and time again. An eagle of pearls with a silk belt 'for the king himself to wear when he is armed', may or may not have been for Richard himself. A garter and two rings, however, must have been worn by Isabelle. They had been sent to France by Richard II before the marriage. One was Richard's first gift to Isabelle, she was betrothed with the other. Both rings were sent by Henry IV to Joan of Navarre in Brittany during his courtship of 1401.

The miscellaneous gold objects ('small jewels') are listed on membranes 14–17 of the treasure roll.

items | back to top