Detectorist Finds Falsely Executed 17th-Century Courtier’s Gold Signet Ring
Metal detectorists have made a number of extraordinary finds in recent years. A detectorist on vacation in Scotland discovered a ring that belonged to a 17th-century English courtier who was unjustly executed. The gold ring is going to be auctioned with the proceeds going to the detectorist.
The find was made near the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland in 2017. It was unearthed by Mrs. Michelle Vall, who was on vacation in the area with her husband. The couple is from Blackpool, Lancashire, England. Mrs. Vall took up metal detecting in order to help her cope with her severe panic attacks.
Gold Ring Found with a Metal Detector
Schoolteacher Mrs. Vall was searching in a field which had not previously yielded any archaeological finds. She and her husband were happily enjoying the peace and calm of the lakeshore when Michelle’s detector sounded the alarm. She proceeded to unearth the ring about 6 inches (18cm) down in the soil. Mrs. Vall told the Catholic Universe, ‘’I knew straight away that it was something special.” She was so excited that she did a little dance. Mrs. Vall also told the Catholic Universe that the ring “shone with a distinct bright yellow color as I carefully lifted it out of the dark muddy hole”.
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Michelle Vall with the precious signet ring. (Dix Noonan Webb)
The schoolteacher and her husband notified the relevant authorities about her find, as required by law. The National Museum of Scotland examined the ring and declared that it was 350 years old. They also established that the signet ring has the Colman family crest and had a remarkable history.
Courtier of Charles II
The ring almost certainly was worn by Edmund Colman, who came from a landed family in Norfolk, England. He was an important courtier at the court of Charles II (1630-1685). Charles II was the son of Charles I who was executed by the Parliamentarians at the end of the English Civil War.
After a decade in exile, Charles II became king in 1661 and was notorious for his lavish lifestyle. His reign was controversial as many suspected that he was sympathetic to Catholics and pro-French, which was anathema to the majority of the Protestant population.
‘Charles II of England in Coronation robes’ (1661-1662) by John Michael Wright. (Public Domain)
Edward Colman converted to Roman Catholicism and was an influential figure at court. He had a close relationship with Charles II’s younger brother, the future King James II. According to the Daily Mail, “He was implicated in the Popish Plot - a fictitious Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles”. This plot was completely untrue and it was spread by a rather unsavory character named Titus Oates. The rumors caused a wave of anti-Catholic hysteria throughout England.
The Popish Plot of 1678
Colman was accused by Oates of being part of the fictitious plot. The courtier was arrested and executed along with 22 others, mainly Catholics. Colman was innocent of any wrongdoing, yet he was killed in a most barbaric way. He was hung, drawn, and quartered in London in 1678.
The Roman Catholic Church considers him a martyr and he was beatified ‘‘by Pope Pius XI in 1929,’’ reports the Catholic Universe. The plot was later revealed to be false and Oates was imprisoned and publicly whipped.
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The Colman ring was declared a ‘treasure trove’ by the experts. However, according to the Daily Mail, ‘‘as no museum came forward to acquire it, the item was given back to the 53-year-old as 'finders keepers'’. In effect, the ring became the property of the Blackpool schoolteacher. This is most unusual with a rare find such as the 17th-century signet ring.
The 17th-century signet ring became the property of the Blackpool schoolteacher. (Dix Noonan Webb)
Mrs. Vall has decided to sell the 350-year-old ring at an auction. The Dix Noonan Webb Auction House in London valued the signet ring at £10,000 ($12,000). Nigel Mills, who works for the auction house, told the Daily Mail '’The Colman seal ring is an excellent example of a high-status ring of the period of which there is only a very limited number surviving in this condition’’.
There are plans to auction the signet-ring at Dix Noonan Webb in September.
Top image: The 350-year-old gold signet ring found on the lakeshore of Loch Lomond in Scotland. Source: Dix Noonan Webb
By Ed Whelan