The Consort Necklace

Recently on Facebook I saw someone with the History Geeks call a necklace a “consort necklace”. A consort necklace? What on earth is that!? I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t heard this before. My response was – a new blog post idea! 🙂

Let’s start off by saying I’m not an expert – I’m like most of you…royal history is a fascination of mine and a passion. It’s a hobby I became obsessed with. I do not know anything about royal jewelry but I feel like most of us will be able to come to the same conclusion by looking at these portraits.

Have you ever looked at the portraits of the Tudor queen consorts? I’m talking about Elizabeth of York, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. I can’t find a portrait of Anne of Cleves wearing a necklace that looks similar, but maybe that’s because she wasn’t queen long enough.

When I look at these images I can see that there are definitely similarities in their necklaces, except for Elizabeth of York – her necklace is a little different. Katherine of Aragon’s necklace is also different from the others as well.

The similarities seem to be that they are made of gold, pearls and some fine stones, like rubies. They are all absolutely gorgeous. I can only wonder how heavy they were to wear.

What do you think?



11 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Also at that time, it’s worth noting that not all “rubies” were actually rubies. A ruby is, by modern definition, a red corundum (blue corundum is sapphire, any other color is called a fancy sapphire) but at that time, without our scientific understanding of the nature of minerals, it referred to any bright red stone. For example, the large red stone on the Imperial Crown called “The Black Prince’s Ruby” became part of the Crown Jewels in the 14th century, but it’s now known to be red spinel. For such stones, their value would be more due to their historical importance than as gemstones per se.

  2. Jewellery got damaged, so was remodelled. The Holbein portrait of Jane Seymour shows her wearing the IHS pendant with three tear drop pearls,_Queen_of_England_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg that Katherine of Aragon is wearing in the miniature portrait of her by Susannah Horenbout. The pendant is on the red bodice.

    In the Metsys Seive portrait, Elizabeth I wears the huge diamond pendant with the single pearl drop that her sister wears in the miniature painted by Hans Eworth (NPG) and the portrait of Mary by Antonis Mor van Dashort, but wthout the smaller diamond at the top.

    There doesn’t seem to be any sentimentality attached to these pieces and if they were still in the jewel house, then Oliver Cromwell sold/melted them down during the Civil War.

    • You’ll notice that although the pendant worn by Mary I and Elizabeth I is identical, the pearl itself changes from a narrow, long pearl to one rounder and shorter. That’s not artistic licence; the long pearl was part ot the Spanish crown jewels and was to be worn by the Queen of Spain. You can also see it in the famous posthumous portrait of Charles V’s consort Isabella of Portugal.

      There’s some question as to the identity of the pearl but it was traditionally identified as La Peregrina, which was apparently brought to Spain from Panama.

  3. Actually, that was just a style of the times… On the page below you’ll scroll down and find a portrait of Charles Brandon and his wife Catherine, she’s wearing a similar style:
    The next link shows Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots, she was a queen consort but not of the English throne:
    And this last shows a portrait of an unnamed woman (at least in this article, and she’s not familiar as a queen) with the same style as well:
    The bottom left portrait you have up there is Mary, she wasn’t a consort, she was a queen in her own right.

  4. I’m also fascinated by History fullstop. We live in South Australia, and on a family holiday in 1999, our 3 children didn’t need schoolbooks at all. I just rattles and rambled away many details ,and made it fun for them. Reading fiction/non fiction books is a wonderful past time of mine. And my bookcase overflows with books I cannot bear to part with.

  5. I think you’d have to compare these portraits to those of other royal or noble women before being able to conclude that the design was related to their status as Queens Consort. If such designs show up in other, non royal portraits, the chances are that it was just the style of the time.

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