Rings 17.10.2011

An Historical Charles I Ring

Charles I Mourning Ring Front

This piece dedicated to Charles I is a display of affection that would eventually generate the popularity of the mourning custom. Looking at the piece, Charles’ eyes are turned upwards, which confirms the piece was created after his death. Pieces of this quality are historically important for their relevance to English history and in mourning jewellery. Incredibly rare, other examples can be seen in the V&A Museum. Though there is repair work to the shank, the style of the ring is a good indication of the mid 17th Century.

Charles I Mourning Ring Back

Rings of the time, particularly after the death of Charles I in 1649, used much of the memento mori symbolism (more on that in another post), but the difference of putting the portrait of Charles I (above), or pieces with the initials CR, shows a distinct change of memento mori as a statement to one of reverence.Note that Charles’ eyes are facing upwards, which denotes the death of the subject. Earlier portraits (during his lifetime) had the eyes facing forward. These eyes are looking to the heavens. Pieces like this were created during the royalist movement (and beyond) and would eventually spur on the English Restoration leading to the instalment of Charles II.

Charles I Mourning Ring Inside

The distribution of rings had been written into wills of the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Most famously, William Shakespeare in 1616 declared that in his will that his daughter and wife should have rings stating “Love My Memory”.

More can be read about this at

> Shakespeare’s Will

Which also details a donation of rings to three (such as Brubage[Burbage]) of his acting colleagues. The token of a mourning jewel as a device of remembrance becomes ingrained within a realm of society that had not needed a standardisation of a token of remembrance (as defined by court), but the thought had seeded its way into society.

This custom, though used, was not as popular as the latter half of the 17th Century would prove, though is provides a good basis for what was to come. Posy rings, typically bands with inscriptions, were popular for sentimental purposes during the 17th Century.

Country: England
Year: c. 1649
Dedication: Charles I “prepared be to follow me”
Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

Further Reading
How Society Entered Mourning: c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring
> Spotlight On: Ribbon Slides
> Charles I Enamel Locket
> Charles II Silver Locket
> Queen Mary II Memento Mori Slide
> Revisiting A Charles II Pendant