Charlie Clarke had only been detecting metals for six months when, in 2019, he unearthed a gold pendant in Warwickshire, in the West Midlands region of England.
The pendant featured the symbols of Tudor King Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, on a chain made up of 75 links, attached by an enamelled hanger link in the shape of a hand. First of Henry VIII’s six wives, Katherine married Henry in 1509.
“It was just exceptional,” Clarke told CNN on Wednesday. “No one thinks you’re ever going to release this, especially in my lifetime – I can imagine in 30 lifetimes.”
Weighing 300 grams (10.6 ounces), the pendant itself is heart-shaped. One side is adorned with a Tudor rose intertwined with a pomegranate tree growing on the same branch. The reverse shows the letters H and K — for Henry and Katherine — linked together. Both sides are inscribed TOVS+IORS below, a pun on the French word “toujours” meaning “always”.
The pomegranate bush represents Catherine of Aragon while the Tudor rose represents Henry VIII. Credit: Trustees of the British Museum
Still new to the world of metal detecting, Clarke consulted an expert at Regton, a shop in Birmingham, and contacted the British Museum and the coroner to inform them of what he had found.
When first told about “the once-in-a-generation find,” Rachel King, curator of Renaissance Europe at the British Museum, had to sit down, she told CNN on Wednesday.
“What is this? Is this for real?” she remembers thinking at the time. “And that was such a challenge for me in the sense that could it be 19th century, could it just be costume jewelry?”
Once the pendant was returned, the British Museum carried out a scientific analysis to determine if it was indeed a Tudor pendant or simply costume jewellery.
One of these tests – King does not offer more details to avoid giving information that could allow people to create fraudulent objects – dated the object before 1530.
Charlie Clarke (left) looks at the pendant on display at the British Museum in London. Credit: James Manning/PA Images/Getty Images
After realizing that the same design was present on other items and that parts of the pendant appeared to have been made quickly, King and his team speculated that it could have been used as a prize or worn as part of a costume during a tournament or jousting that Henri loved to organise, rather than for the king or his wife.
“This object just came out of the ground almost as if it had fallen from the sky,” King said. “We have the opportunity to study an object that hasn’t gone through all of these sorting processes that people have historically taken…we get something that is sort of raw information.”
For Clarke, the pendant could be life-changing when it’s sold – he said he hopes to use the money for his 4-year-old son’s education.
“People say it’s like winning the lottery, but people win the lottery, people don’t find the crown jewels, do they?” he said.
The find was announced by the British Museum as part of the launch of the Treasure Annual Report for 2020 and the Portable Antiquities Scheme Annual Report for 2021. These show that 45,581 archaeological finds – including more than 1,000 treasure cases – have were recorded in 2021. , of which 96% had been found by people in metal detection.