Close Analysis: The Chequers Ring

This ring is one of the last surviving pieces of Elizabeth I’s jewellery collection, and dates back to the mid 1570s. It has a mother-of-pearl hoop, which is rare and expensive. The ring is also encrusted with cut rubies. White diamonds on the bezel form ‘E’ for Elizabeth, and ‘R’ for Regina can also be seen made with blue enamel, which is a type of porcelain. The presence of pearls may be a reference to Elizabeth’s virginity. The locket opens to reveal a side profile portrait of Elizabeth, and another woman. Some believe it is her mother, Anne Boleyn who was executed in 1536, partly because the figure sports a French hood, which dates back to the mid 1530s. Anne herself was known for wearing French fashion. During Elizabeth’s reign, more portraits were commissioned of Anne, so it is conceivable to think that the figure could be her. Others, because of the figures reddish hair believe it to be Catherine Parr, whom Elizabeth was very close to. Catherine Parr, after Henry’s death, later married Thomas Seymour, which is interesting as, the symbol of a phoenix is present at the back of the bezel. This would strengthen the idea that the ring was a gift from a Seymour, but again, this is subject to debate. A third theory is that the portrait is in fact one of Elizabeth in her youth.

If this were to be the case, the ring could reference three of the most powerful families at the time, the Boleyn’s, the Seymour’s and the Tudors themselves. It would be nice to think that the portrait is of Anne, although it is believed that Elizabeth seldom mentioned her. Some historians theorise that the ring is proof of Elizabeth’s affection for her mother, and perhaps acts a reminder to her to not make the same mistakes that she did. It is one of those objects that could be interpreted in many different ways, but it what it does signify is the power of the females that it ties to. All three women associated with the ring are immensely important to British history, and the images, jewellery and presentation of them in the shape of a ring, traditionally associated with femininity, demonstrate the strength of their power, and by extension, female power.

The ring also represents the end of the Tudor dynasty, as Elizabeth herself chose to remain unmarried and childless. There is a popular legend that Elizabeth’s relative Robert Carey plucked the ring from her finger when she died at Richmond Palace. Robert Carey’s father was Henry Carey, the son of Mary Boleyn. Carey took it straight to James I, as proof Elizabeth’s death and James’ ascension to the throne of England. James and his Queen Anne of Denmark dispersed and subsequently lost Elizabeth’s jewellery collection. The next trace of the ring comes in the form of Alexander Home, who received the ring from James I. It descended through the Home’s family and was then acquired by Arthur Lee, the Viscount Lee of Fareham. Lee then presented his country house for the use of the Prime Minister, and with it, its extensive collection of historical artefacts. The iconic ring remains there.[1]

Thanks for reading!

[1] Information taken from:

And my own knowledge.

Published by harpalkhambay

I am an English Literature and History graduate, and wanted a space to explore topics within those fields that interest me.

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