Return to Tradition of Mourning Jewelry
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Charles I, the son and successor of James I, who began the Stuart line in the English monarchy, ruled England from 1625 to 1649.
This jewel is one of many pieces made after Charles’s death, when public mourning for the king became widespread, despite the fact that he had been unpopular during his reign. The production of these items marked the beginning of an expanded mourning jewelry industry. Before the Restoration in 1660, when Charles II assumed the throne, mourners wore these items hidden under their clothing. In this example, the engraving on the obverse reads “I live and dy in loyaltye” and depicts a bleeding heart pierced by arrows. Like the inscription, the heart shape suggests the wearer’s loyalty, as well as undying divine love. This iconography also invokes comparisons to Christ, martyred for human transgressions. The engraving on the inside of the locket ties it to the memento mori tradition, reminding the wearer, “Prepared be to follow me[.]”