Inventory of the Royal Jewels of Charles I

Charles I was interested in using the crown jewels to make purchases on credit and for earning money, so he kept very careful records and did a lot of negotiating.

CHARLES I, in the very first year of his reign, went over the contents of the Jewel House to see what would be available to pledge for money, consigning them to the charge of his favourite, Buckingham, about to proceed as ambassador to the Hague, for that purpose. In vain did Sir Henry Mildmay, the master of the Jewel House, suggest the advisability of the king taking the advice of his council on the matter, and with their concurrence, using a warrant under the Great Seal, authorizing the pledging of the royal treasures, on the ground that they were too many, both in the court and the kingdom, who looked upon the duke's proceedings "with more than a curious eye"; in vain did Lord Brooke, who had some of the crown jewels in his possession, throw difficulties in the way, and complained of having to deliver up such valuables without a proper warrant. The king was determined on having his own way, and, before long, Mildmay wrote he had sent all the jewels and gold plate in his care, and if the king wanted anything more, he must be contented with silver plate, as there was nothing else left in the Jewel House.

On the arrival of Buckingham at the Hague, he commissioned a Mr. Sackville Crow and one Philip Calandrani to raise three hundred thousand pounds upon two parcels of jewels, and one parcel of gold plate set with stones. The Hollanders, however, required a guarantee from some merchants of standing that the jewels should be redeemed within three years. After four months of negotiation difficulties were renewed, and rumours of quarrels between Charles and the Commons caused the Dutch usurers to express great doubt on the king's power to pawn his jewels without the consent of his parliament, and Crow finally returned to England with the greater part of his precious charge. Crow's fellow-agent seems to have been more successful, having managed to raise fifty-eight thousand pounds upon certain jewels. In 1628, a warrant was issued for the payment of three thousand pounds for interest on the above-named sum; but twelve months later, Calandrani writes to Secretary Dorchester that his brother has written to him from Holland "that those who have the pearls in hand, and also the Widow Thibaut, who has his majesty's jewel of the "Three Brethren," will not wait any longer, but proceed to execution before March, and begs the secretary to prevent the damage and dishonour which will be caused by delay in redeeming the pledges. Upon this Charles took the affair in hand himself, and sent out instructions to sell four thousand tons of iron ordnance to the States General for one hundred and twenty thousand pounds. With this sum the plate and jewels pledged in Holland, and "the collar and rich ballasses" pawned to the King of Denmark, were to be redeemed. But the jewels did not find their way to the Jewel House, and through the roguery of parties concerned, much spoliation occurred. In 1629 Charles took away from the secret Jewel House a fine large agate, engraven with the portraits of Henry VIII. and Edward VI., and at the same time ordered the sale of sundry articles of more or less value. Among these discarded ornaments were twelve pieces of goldsmith's work, like friar's knots, with ninety-one pendant pearls, being part of a collar of gold; two great half-round pearls taken from the "Mirror of Britain"; four gold collars, including that of the Order of St. Michael, composed of twenty-four knots of gold, and twenty-four scallop shells, with the saint hanging to it by a couple of little chains, also a gold lorayne, or double cross, set with diamonds and rubies; an old jewel in the shape of the letter M; a circlet of gold "new made for our dear mother, Queen Anne, having in the midst eight fair diamonds, eight fair rubies, eight emeralds, and eight sapphires, and garnished with thirty-two small diamonds, thirty-six small rubies, and sixty-four pearls, and on each border thirty-two diamonds and rubies; and a girdle of rubies in the form of red and white roses. A year after his sale Charles accepted pound 1108 from James Maxwell, and in consideration for that sum, authorizing him to retain as his own property two large diamonds upon which he had previously advanced pound 11,346.

While all this pawning and selling was going on, Charles patronized the jewellers as liberally as though the royal exchequer was overflowing with riches. In the very year that his agents were bringing England into contempt abroad by carrying her crown jewels from money-lender to money-lender, the king added to the royal collection a diamond costing eight thousand pounds, a gold ring of four hundred pounds, a fair jewel set with diamonds, worth nine thousand five hundred pounds, and a looking-glass set with diamonds, priced at two thousand five hundred pounds. He purchased three thousand pounds' worth of jewellery for the queen from Mercadet, and when the jeweller presented the order for the money, he was informed that the exchequer had not the wherewithal to satisfy his demands, and was compelled to give it some months' credit. John Vaulier, who supplied the king about the same time with about two thousand pounds' worth of jewellery, is found, after eighteen years of constant dunning, still without his money; while Sir Thomas Roe, after patiently waiting for three years and a-half, complained bitterly that he saw no prospect of obtaining two thousand five hundred pounds, for some jewels he had procured at the express desire of the queen, and for which he had actually paid three thousand pounds.

In 1642, when both king and parliament were preparing for war, Charles authorized Queen Henrietta to dispose of his great collar of rubies, and sundry other jewels she had conveyed abroad to raise funds for equipping his adherents. As soon as this became known, parliament issued an order of the day declaring the king had no power to pawn or sell the crown jewels, and ordering that "whoever had or should pay, lend, send, or bring any money into the kingdom for, or upon those jewels, should be accounted an enemy of the state, and be dealt with accordingly."

In Miss Strickland's "Lives of the Queens of England" we have interesting notices of the means adopted by the consort of Charles I. to raise money on the royal jewels. The Queen solicited loans not only from the female nobility of England, but from private families whom she had reason to believe sympathized in the royal cause. To such as supplied her with these aids, she was accustomed to test her gratitude by the gift of a ring, or some other trinket from her own cabinet. But when affairs became critical she was compelled to sell or pawn in Holland the whole of her plate and most of her jewels. She adopted an ingenious device by which she was enabled, at a small expense, to continue her gifts to her friends. She had a great many rings, lockets, and bracelet-clasps made with her cypher, the letters H. M. R., in a very delicate filagree of gold, entwined in a monogram, laid on a ground of crimson velvet covered with thick crystal cut like a table diamond, and set in gold. These were called the "Queen's pledges," and presented by her to any person who had lent her money, with an understanding that if they were returned to her majesty at any future time, the money should be repaid.

Charles I seems to have had a passion for gems in his more prosperous days. In the Athenaeum (No. 573) there is a formidable list of expenses incurred by him for jewellery--fifty thousand pounds worth in eighteen months. The greater part of this was, however, for gifts.

Dean Swift tells us that Charles I, in gallantry to his queen, thought one day to surprise her with the present of a diamond brooch; and fastening it to her bosom with his own hand, he awkwardly wounded her with the prong so deeply that she snatched the jewel from her bosom, and flung it to the ground. The king looked alarmed and confounded, and turned pale, which he was never seen to do in his worst misfortunes.

Sir Paul Pindar is said to have brought from Turkey a large diamond, valued at pound 30,000 (a vast sum in his days), which James I wished to obtain on credit; but the merchant wisely declined the contract, yet allowed his sovereign the use of the diamond on State occasions. Charles I. afterwards became the purchaser.

Among the Harleian MSS. is a long detailed "Inventory of the goods, jewels, etc., sold by order of the Council of State from the several places and palaces following:--The Tower Jewel-Houses, Somerset House, Whitehall, Greenwich, Wimbledon, Oatlands, Windsor, Hampton Court, Richmond, Sion House, St. James's, and several other places; with the several contracts made by the contractors for sale of the said goods, etc., from the year 1646 to the year 1652." In this we have notices of much that is lost--the splendid tapestry, the gorgeous jewels and regalia, and many curious items of great interest. The Jewel-House, at the period this account was taken, was, in fact, a museum of curiosities. A few items will suffice. In the Tower Jewel-House we read of "a Bugill-horn tipped with gold, and a chain," sold for 12 pound. "A Fountain for perfumed waters, artificially made to play of itself" (of silver), sold for 30 pound. A large antique vessel for mead from the Duke of Muscovy, 25 pound, and a large beaker from the said Duke, made of many pieces of coin joined together, 20 pound. A silver eagle, made to move, 6 pound 5s. The Temple of Jerusalem, made of ebony and amber, 25 pound. A branch for candles, cut in rock-crystal, with silver sockets, 50 pound. A chess-board said to be Queen Elizabeth's, inlaid with gold, silver, and pearls, 23 pound. A great Amethyst, engraved in Hebrew, in gold, 55 pound. A conjuring drum from Lapland, with an Almanack, cut on wood, 1 pound 11s. A trumpet made of a large elephant's tooth, engraved with several odd figures, 7s. 6d. A very large scimetar, 5 pound 17s. A Saxon King's mace used in war, 37 pound 8s. A Roman shield of buff leather, covered with a plate of gold, finely chased with a Gorgon's head; set round the rim with rubies, emeralds, turquoise stones, in number 137, 132 pound 12s.

In the Tower Upper Jewel-House are enumerated, amongst others, an ewer of mother-of-pearl, garnished with gold and rubies, a fair sapphire at the foot, 41 pound. A large estridge (ostrich) egg-pot, garnished with enamelled gold, the cover gold, and the handle a green enamelled serpent, 72 pound. A golden nun, enamelled, with a ragged staff in her hand, 35 pound. The imperial Crown of massy gold, weighing 7lb. 6oz., enriched, etc., at 40 pound per lb.: valued 280 pound; delivered to the Mint to be coined. One blue sapphire, 50 pound; one do., 15 pound; one do., 3 pound; two do., 30 pound; one do., pound 3 pound; one do., 10 pound; two do., 15 pound; one do., 8 pound; one do., 8 pound; one do., 3 pound; one do., 20 pound; one do., 15 pound; one do., 3 pound; one do., 5 pound; two do., 10 pound. 232 pearls at 15s. a piece, 174 pound. Ruby Ballassis: Four rubies in the flower-de-luce, 20 pound; do. do. cross, 6 pound; two do. de-luce, 12 pound; four do. cross, 6 pound; two do. de-luce, 3 pound; four do. cross, 12 pound; four do. de-luce, 30 pound; do. do. cross, 20 pound; do. do. de-luce, 20 pound; do. do. cross, 20 pound: total, 149 pound. The Queen's crown, 3lb. 10 1/2oz., valued at 40 pound per lb., 50z. being abated for stones, is 136 pound 13s. 4d.; the gold delivered to the Mint to be coined. 20 sapphires, 70 pound; 16 do., 50 pound; 22 rubies, 40 pound; 83 pearls, 41 pound: total, 201 pound; sold for 210 pound. A small crown found in an iron chest, formerly in the custody of Lord Cottington, weighing 2lb. 1oz., whereof three ounces are allowed for the weight of the stones, valued at 3 pound 6s. 8d. per oz., 73 pound 6s. 8d. The globe, weighing 1lb. 5 1/4oz., at 3 pound 6s. 8d. per oz., valued at pound 51 pound 10s., delivered to the Mint to be coined. Two coronation bracelets, weighing 7 1/4oz., whereof one ounce to be deducted for the weight of the stones and pearls, at 3 pound 6s. 8d. per oz., 20 pound; to be delivered to the Mint to be coined. The stones and pearls of the three parcels sold for 25 pound. Broken stones: Three rubies ballas, set in each of the bracelets, valued at 6 pound. Twelve pearls valued at 6 pound. Two sceptres, weighing 16 1/4oz., at 3 pound 6s. 8d. per oz., 60 pound; delivered to the Mint. A long rod of silver gilt, weighing 11.5 oz., at 5s. 4d. per oz., 4 pound 10s. 8d.; delivered to the Mint. One gold poringer and cover, weighing 15 1/2oz., valued at 3 pound 6s. 8d. per oz., 51 pound 18s. 4d.; delivered to the Mint. One gold cup set with two sapphires and two ballas rubies, weighing 15 1/2oz., at 3 pound 6s. 8d. per oz., 51 pound 13s. 4d.; delivered to the Mint. Divers pieces of broken gold enamelled, put together in a bag, weighing 5lb. 7oz., at 3 pound per oz., pound 201 pound. A George on horseback, of gold, with a pearl in his helmet, and a dragon enamelled, weight 33oz., at pound 3 per oz., 99 pound; delivered to the Mint.

"An Inventory of that Part of the Regalia, which is now removed from Westminster to the Tower Jewel-House." Queen Edith's crown, formerly thought to be of massy gold, but upon trial found to be of silver gilt; enriched with garnet, fowl pearl, sapphire, and some stones, weighing 50 1/2oz., valued at pound16 pound; 10z. sold Mrs. Dammersque for 5s. 4d. King Ellfred's crown of gold, wire-work, sett with slight stones and two little bells, weighing 79 1/2oz., at pound3 pound per oz., 10 pound; delivered to the Mint. A dove of gold, set with stones and pearl, per oz., 8 1/2oz., set with studs of silver gilt, in a box, valued together 26 pound; delivered to the Mint. A large staff with a dove at the top, formerly thought to be all gold, but upon trial found to be the lower part wood within and silver gilt without, the upper part wood within and gold without, weighing 27oz., and valued at 35 pound; delivered to the Mint. One small staff, with a flower-de-luce on the top, formerly thought to be all gold, but upon trial found to be iron within and silver gilt without, value pound2 pound 10s. 0d.; delivered to the Mint. Two sceptres--one set with pearls and stones, the upper end gold, the lower end silver, the gold weighing 23oz., at 35s. per oz., the lower end being horn and a little silver gilt, valued at 12s.; the other, silver gilt, with a dove formerly thought to be gold, weighing 7 3/4oz., at 5s. 6d. per oz.--65 pound 19s. 7 1/2d.; delivered to the Mint.

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