When it came to wearing jewellery, the Tudor monarchs weren’t shy and retiring. Only the wealthy could afford jewellery in those days, so lavish accessorising showed off a person’s status. As well as a visible sign of wealth, jewellery also showed your political affiliations, religious beliefs, and authority.
A clever manipulator of his royal house’s PR, Henry VII, the first Tudor king, used visible emblems from previous rulers to emphasise the legitimacy of the Tudor reign. His versions of the old heraldic symbols were woven into architectural details, fabrics, coats of arms and personal decoration.
At Mallards, we’ve recreated many examples of Tudor jewellery, all based around the themes of power and authority. Here are a few of our favourites.
The creation of the Tudor Rose emblem is a story of power and politics in late Medieval England and Wales. Henry Tudor won the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which marked the end of the House of York and the start of the House of Lancaster, ruled by rising stars the Tudor family. To legitimise his claim to the throne, Henry Tudor (now Henry VII), married Richard Elizabeth of York, and combined their red rose and white rose emblems into a single badge, the now-famous red and white Tudor Rose.
At Mallards, we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the Tudor Rose emblem which is found in historic buildings all over the country. Here’s an example of our Tudor Rose jewellery. Each design is created to look like the authentic emblem: a double rose, each flower with five petals, a round centre and five pointed barbs between the petals of the outer rose.
We also created a Crowned Tudor Rose, based on a design found in the House of Commons. This version of the Tudors’ badge really emphasises their royal status!
Making a design your own
Henry VII knew the importance of heraldry. He adopted the fleur-de-lis emblem, which the Plantagenet House under Edward III had in turn borrowed from the French royal arms. Edward believed he had a claim to the French crown through his mother, Princess Isabella. Adopting the arms of another country to claim the right to its throne is called “Arms of Pretension”. This seems pretty cheeky to us today; however it was not uncommon in the Middle Ages, and Henry VII continued to use the fleur de lis after he’d defeated the Plantagenets. Again, this was to demonstrate his right to rule the kingdom.
Westminster Abbey asked us to create some fleur de lis jewellery for their shop. It’s a wonderfully elegant design to work with, and we created several exclusive items for the Abbey.
Henry also used a portcullis motif, another heraldic badge that linked the Tudors to the Plantagenets and strengthened his blood claim to the throne. It also has associations with power, strength, protection and security, traits monarchs like to be thought of as having.
Again, we’ve created sterling silver portcullis jewellery: here’s an example of this intricate and instantly-recognisable design. It had to be accurate (use of the portcullis is strictly controlled, as it’s the emblem of the House of Commons. Our portcullis charm has five vertical bars and four horizontal ones, with a rivet at each join. The vertical bars end in spikes, the chains are straight, and the portcullis is topped with a crown.
The house of the reused sun
Elizabeth I never knew her canny grandfather; however she seems to have inherited his * in reusing traditional emblems. In a portrait of Elizabeth (that belongs to the Dean of Westminster Abbey), her dress features a beautiful sun design. “The sun in splendour” was another old Lancastrian symbol: so maybe Elizabeth was trying to appeal to remaining Plantagenet supporters. Of course, Elizabeth loved jewellery and personal decoration, and is renowned for her incredible, sumptuous outfits – so the sun may simply be one more gorgeous ornament.
We designed and made two different pendants and a pair of earrings based on the sun design. We made a pendant in sterling silver, which gives an elegant, contemporary result; and to replicate the warm rays, we created a version in bronze. Both editions have eye-catching blue glass in the centre.
If you have a piece of historic jewellery in your collection that you’d like to see reproduced for your gift shop, please get in touch. We’ll make an initial design free-of-charge, and because we don’t have a minimum order, you can easily try out the new item in your shop. We’re confident that your customers will love a piece of good quality, bespoke jewellery – juts like the Tudors!