About Queen Elizabeth and Her Rare Jewels

Elizabeth was supposedly not very fond of jewels or expensive garments until long after her father's death when her sister told her that she must dress appropriately to accompany her to social gatherings in style. Elizabeth did and apparently never grew

However remarkable for the rich display of jewels was the court of Henry VIII, that of ELIZABETH, who inherited her royal father's passion for these precious ornaments, was still more extravagant. In her youth she had entertained, or more probably affected, a distaste for jewellery. "The king, her father," says Dr. Aylmer, "left her rich clothes and jewels, and I know it to be true that in seven years after his death, she never, in all that time, looked upon that rich attire and precious jewels but once, and that against her will, and that there never came gold or stone in her head, till her sister forced her to lay off her former soberness, and bear her company in her glittering gayness, and then she so wore that all men might see that her body carried that which her heart misliked."

This abnegation of vanity and ostentation was, however, whether feigned or not, but of short duration, for she soon outshone every sovereign in Christendom by the profusion and rarity of the jewels with which she was literally covered. Bacon gives some reason for this at the risk of his gallantry, for the court adulations to the last were on her grace and "fair" countenance. "She imagined," says Bacon, "that the people who are much influenced by externals would be diverted by the glitter of her jewels from noticing the decay of her personal attractions." If such were the queen's thoughts as age wore upon her, they are but the same feminine notions that generally prevail throughout time, in most countries.

In the portrait of Queen Elizabeth at Henham Hall, Suffolk, she is represented with an enormous ruff, radiated till it rose like a winged background behind the lofty fabric of jewels she wore on her head, and at last overtopped the cross of her regal diadem. She has a rich carcanet, or collar, of rubies, amethysts, and pearls, set in a beautiful gold filagree pattern, with large pear-shaped pearls depending from each lozenge. The bodice of her dress is ornamented with jewels set in gold filagree of the same pattern as the carcanet. The gigot sleeves are surmounted on the shoulder with puffs of gold gauze, separated with rubies and amethysts, and two small rouleaux wreathed with pearls and bullion. The sleeves are decorated with jewels to match the bodice. She wears the jewel and ribbon of the Garter about her neck. The George is a large oval medallion decorated with rubies and amethysts.

No Queen of England has ever been represented with such a blaze of jewels as Elizabeth. Horace Walpole, speaking of her portraits, says:--"There is not one that can be called beautiful. The profusion of ornaments with which they are loaded are marks of her continual fondness for dress, while they entirely exclude all grace, and leave no more room for a painter's genius than if he had been employed to copy an Indian idol, totally composed of hands and necklaces. A pale Roman nose, a head of hair loaded with crowns and powdered with diamonds, a vast ruff, a vaster fardingale, and a bushel of pearls, are features by which everybody knows at once the picture of Elizabeth."

Elizabeth seems to have had a passion for pearls. The now faded waxwork effigy preserved in West-minster Abbey (and which lay on her coffin, arrayed in royal robes, at her funeral, and caused, as Stowe states, "such a general sighing, groaning, and weeping, as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man") exhibits large, round, Roman pearls in the stomacher; a carcanet of large round pearls, etc., about her throat; her neck ornamented with long strings of pearls; her high-heeled shoe-bows having in the centre large pearl medallions. Her earrings are circular pearl and ruby medallions, with large pear-shaped pearl pendants. This, of course, represents her as she dressed towards the close of her life. In the Tollemache collection at Ham House is a miniature of her, however, when about twenty, which shows the same taste as existing at that age. She is there depicted in a black dress, trimmed with a double row of pearls. Her point-lace ruffles are looped with pearls, etc. Her head-dress is decorated in front with a jewel set with pearls, from which three pear-shaped pearls depend. And, finally, she has large pearl-tassel earrings. In the Henham Hall portrait, the ruff is confined by a collar of pearls, rubies, etc., set in a gold filagree pattern, with large pear-shaped pearls depending from each lozenge. The sleeves are ornamented with rouleaux, wreathed with pearls and bullion. The lappets of her head-dress are also adorned at every "crossing" with a large round pearl. Her gloves, moreover, were always of white kid, richly embroidered with pearls, etc., on the backs of the hands. A poet of that day asserts even that at the funeral procession, when the royal corpse was rowed from Richmond, to lie in state at Whitehall--

"Fish wept their eyes of pearl quite out,

And swam blind after."

Elizabeth's christening gift from the Duchess of Norfolk was a cup of gold, fretted with pearls, that noble lady being (says Miss Strickland) "completely unconscious of the chemical antipathy between the acidity of wine and the misplaced pearls."

It seems to have been the custom of every one connected with the court to give presents to Queen Elizabeth on her birthday, and as her Majesty's weakness for jewellery was well known, articles enriched with precious stones were chiefly given, such as fans, bracelets, caskets studded with jewels, etc. (In the Sloane MSS. in the British Museum is a list of the New Year's gifts presented to the queen, from the fourteenth to the thirty-sixth year of her Majesty's reign.) Among the gifts in 1572 we find:--

"One juell of golde, being part of the History of Samson, standing upon an emeralde, having also an emeralde in thone hand, and a little rock rubye on his shoulder; the pillor standing upon two fayre dyamondes, and the upper parte of the pillor garnished with a border of sparks of dyamond on thone side; upon the top thearof a fayre rock-rubye, the backside of the said juell being a plate of gold enamuled.

"A juell of golde, being a fish called the bull of the sea, fully garnished with dyamonds and rubyes on thone syde, and the other syde having a fynne lykewise garnished, and a man kneeling upon the same, his bodye and hedd garnished with small dyamondes and rubyes. The same juell hanging at three small chains, garnished with six small knobbes, having sparkes of dyamondes and rubyes, and a little knobbe at thende thearof, having two little dyamondes and two rubyes, and a large perle peare-fation, pendante.

"A juell, being a chrisolite, garnished with golde, flagon-facyon, thone side sett with two emeraldes, thone of them a little cracked, three dyamonds and two sparcks of turquesses; thother side having in it a clocke, a border about the same flagon of golde, garnished with eight table-rubys and four dyamonds, the foote garnished with four small pointed dyamonds, and twelve sparks of rubyes, and four very lytle perles, also pendante; the mowthe of the said flaggon made with five pillors, a man standing therin every pillor, sett with a little dyamonde, a little emeralde, and a little rubye, and six litle perles upon the same pillors; the sam flaggon hangeth at a cheyne of golde having three knotts with two small dyamonds the peece, also hanging a knobbe having three by the sparcks of diamonds, and three very lytle perles." (Harrington sent a jewel in the form of a dark lantern, as a new year's gift, to James, King of Scotland, signifying that the failing lamp of life waxed dim with the departing queen, and would soon be veiled in the darkness of the tomb.)

During the royal progress in 1573, some costly "juelles" were given to the queen, who generally returned these compliments with presents of "plate," very inferior in value, to her various favourites.

In 1582 Sir William Drury presented a "new year's gift" to Queen Elizabeth, "a juell of gold being a pommander, garnished with sparcks of diamonds, rubyes, and perles," and Mrs. Francis Drury gave "a forck of corrall garnished slightly with gold. In 1584 Sir William gave her majesty another "jeuell of golde being two snakes wounde together, garnished with sparcks of rubyes, one small diamond, one small emeralde, on the one side, and three very small perles pendant, and a white dove in the midst, garnished with three small rubyes."

In the list of Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe (1600) the coronation robes are described, also the jewels which are thus mentioned:--

"Item. In colletts of golde, in everie collet one ballas (a species of ruby of a vermeil rose colour), one being broken.

"Item. One small jewell of golde, like a white lyon with a flie on his side, standing on a base or foote, garnished with twoe opalls, twoe verie little pearles, fyve rubies, one rubie pendaunte, and twoe little shorte cheines on the backe of the lyon.

"Item. One fearne braunche, having therein a lyzard, a lady-cow (ladybird), and a snaile.

"Item. One jewell of golde, with a flie and a spider in it upon a rose.

"Item. In buttons and camews (cameos).

"Item. One jewell of golde, like an Irish darte, garnished with fower small diamondes.

"Item. In great rounde buttons of golde enameled with sondry colours, each set with small sparcks of rubies, and one pearle in the midst called great bucklers.

"Item. One jewell of golde like a frogg, garnished with diamondes.

"Item. In buttons of golde, like tortoyses, in each one a pearle.

"Item. One jewell of golde like a dasye, and small flowers aboute it, garnished with sparks of diamondes and rubies, with her majestie's picture graven within a garnet, and a sprigge of three braunches, garnished with sparks of rubies, one pearle in the topp, and a small pendaunte of sparks of diamondes."

In the library of Thomas Astle, Esq., F.R.S., was a list of Queen Elizabeth's jewels and plate signed by Lord Burghley, Sir Ralph Sadleir, and Sir Walter Mildmay. The introduction to the book states:--"This Booke made the xiii. daye of Marche, in the xvi. yeare of the reigne of our sovereigne lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queene of Englande, Fraunce, and Irelande, defendour of the faith, etc., doth particularly conteinn all such parcells of the queen's majestie's jewelles, plate, and other stuff as remaine the said daye and yere in the custodie and charge of John Asteley, esquire, master and threasurour of her highness juells," etc.

The Earl of Leicester in his will recites, "the token I do bequeath unto her majesty is the jewell with three fair emeralds, with a fair large table diamond in the midst, without a soil, and set about with many diamonds without soil, and a rope of fair white pearls to the number of six hundred to hang the said jewel, all which pearl and jewel were once purposed for her majesty against her coming to Wansted, but it must now thus be disposed."

The last few words have in them something affecting, as showing amidst so much that was deceptive and artificial in the relations of the earl with his royal mistress, a feeling of loyal attachment; yet the selfish queen had his personal effects sold by public auction to liquidate his debts to her.


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