Metal detectorist unearths Tudor pendant linked to Henry VIII

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When part-time metal detectorist Charlie Clarke’s gadget beeped, he thought he had stumbled upon yet another buried bottle top. In fact, the treasure hunter had just made one of the most significant finds in British archeological history. The lump of buried metal he scooped from a muddy field in Warwickshire turned out to be priceless Tudor gold in the shape of a charm celebrating the first of Henry VIII’s six marriages.

Mr Clarke, only six months into his newfound hobby, had spent hours turning up junk and was about to call it a day when his detector buzzed and persuaded him to dig to the depth of his elbow.

When he saw the outline of a filthy medallion in a ploughed field he admitted to shrieking “like a little schoolgirl”, adding: “My voice went pretty high-pitched”.

His buffed up one-in-a-million discovery in 2020 was a heart-shaped locket attached to a 75-link chain decorated with a red and white Tudor rose motif entwined with a pomegranate bush, the symbols of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, who wed in 1509.

After the find – weighing 300 grams and cast in 24-carat gold – was scientifically verified and the pendant certified genuine it was classed as treasure. It now sits pride of place in the British Museum alongside 1,000 other finds dug up in the UK by amateur hunters.

On the reverse of the pendant are engraved initials H and K. Ribbon motifs carry the legend TOVS and IORS, an early Franglais pun on the word “toujours” and “all yours”.

Its value has not yet been determined, but Birmingham cafe owner Mr Clarke has promised to split his share with the landowner and use the rest to give his four-year-old son, also called Charlie, “the best education possible”.

He said: “That’s all it’s really about. Birmingham is a bit of a rough place, and I think any parent would want the best education for their children.”

He added: “He wants to go to the jungle and find a box of pirate treasure. At that age, it must be so intriguing.

“People say it’s like winning the lottery; it’s not. People actually win the lottery. When was the last time a crown jewel was unearthed?”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “This beautiful pendant is a thrilling discovery giving us a tangible connection to Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and enriches our understanding of the Royal Court at the time.”

Henry VIII, King of England between 1509 and 1547, was known as an extravagant spender with an appetite for food – and women. He wed six times and had three children, all of whom ruled after his death.

His marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled in 1533. Because divorce was banned by the Roman Catholic church, Henry was forbidden to divorce and marry Anne Boleyn so split with the papacy in Rome and established the Church of England. He also married Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.

Mr Clarke’s excavation is the jewel in the crown of the annual treasure report – unveiled on Tuesday – which revealed 45,581 archaeological finds were recorded, including 1,085 pieces of treasure. Most were found by people using metal detectors, with Norfolk and Kent proving the most fruitful hunting grounds.

Michael Lewis, of the British Museum, said: “These finds are making a massive contribution to archaeology and, as in the case of the Henry and Catherine pendant, helping transform our knowledge of Britain’s past.”

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