The Middleham Jewel

Yorkshire Museum

I visited York at Easter this year, and was thrilled to discover that the Yorkshire Museum had an exhibition about King Richard III called Richard III: Man & Myth.

The exhibition is still running, and has been extended until January 2016 so if you happen to be in York, I recommend you visit, if only to see some fascinating objects associated with Richard. (More information here)

There are badges of his symbol the white boar, a circular plaque that had the initials R & A engraved and the Middleham Jewel, all found at or near Middleham castle, the preferred home of King Richard, and where he spent ca. 10 years as the Lord of the North.

The Middleham Jewel

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The Middleham Jewel was found in 1985 by Ted Seaton.

He had been metal detecting near Middleham Castle and discovered the Jewel, about 15 inches below the surface of the ground. It wasn’t until he got it home and examined it that he realised the significance of his find. Imagine stumbling across something like that!

The Village of Middleham, Yorkshire

Thought to have been made in the late 15th century, The Middleham Jewel is a diamond shaped gold pendant with a large sapphire inlaid on the front. It is also thought that it may have held a relic, a popular practice at the time.

The sapphire could represent protection from illness or during childbirth, a request to God to listen favourably to prayers and is also a colour  related to the Virgin Mary.

Middleham Castle

It is delicately engraved, on the front is an image of the Holy Trinity, and on the back is an image of The Nativity, along with Latin and Hebrew inscriptions, one of which says ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.’ It also has an inscription to protect against ‘falling sickness’, or epilepsy.

So who owned this beautiful object? 

It would have cost a significant amount to commission, and therefore it is thought that a noble, or person of Royal connection was the owner.

St. Mary and St. Alkelda, Middleham
St. Mary and St. Alkelda, Middleham

Middleham Castle had long connections to the wealthy and the powerful, and in the 15th century there were at least 3 noble women who spent time at the castle

In my next post I will talk about ‘The suspects’ (a rather insalubrious way to describe 3 of the most well to do women of the 15th century,I know!)

It fascinates me to speculate about who clasped their fingers around this Jewel, who wore it round their neck and hoped it would help their prayers.

It must have meant even more to them then it would today, as living in the 15th century must have been troubling and terrifying at times.

Although based on the recent news, I am not so sure about that.


History of

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