I wish to thank the following for their support: Karine Bigand, Aix-Marseille Université; Antonia Williamson, Royal College of Art library; Fiona Courage, Special Collections Manager, University of Sussex library. Most of all, thanks to Flora.
1The relationship between the English monarchy, the English people and those items of regalia known as the Crown Jewels, had an unhappy history long before King Charles I (1600-1649; reigned 1625-1649), and his queen, Henrietta Maria (1609-1669), attempted to sell them during the 1640s.
2King John (reigned 1199-1216) did little to improve his contemporary reputation with the generally accepted loss of a large part of the Crown Jewels in the river Wash in 1216 (Fowler; Jenkinson; St John Hope). In 1303, a substantial quantity of the items that replaced those lost by John were themselves stolen from Westminster Abbey (Doherty). In both cases the resulting issue for the general population was of diminished trust in the monarchy as custodians of the jewels and their symbolic connotations.
3In their attempts to sell items of the Crown Jewels, Charles and Henrietta Maria shared with King John the attitude that such items were the property of the king and not of the state. In that light any attempts to dispose of such items were met with absolute opposition by Parliament. The events of 1642 and 1644 played out a complex scenario in which Parliament sought to thwart, were it could, attempts by the increasingly financially desperate king and queen to dispose of items deemed to be part of the Crown Jewels.
4On 15 July 1641 the House of Commons drew the attention of King Charles I to the fact:
That the House of Commons have received Information of great Quantities of Treasure, in Jewels, Plate, and ready Money, packed up, to be conveyed away with the Queen, not only in such a Proportion as the present Occasions, with due respects to Her Majesty's Honour, may seem to require; but a far greater Quantity; and that divers Papists, and others, under the Pretence of Her Majesty's Goods, are like to convey great Sums of Money, and other Treasure, beyond the Seas; which will not only impoverish the State, but may be employed to the Fomenting some mischievous Attempts, to the Trouble of the publick Peace. (JHC 2: 15 July 1641)
5The statement was a reaction to the proposed visit by Queen Henrietta Maria to Spa on the pretext of ill health. Parliament treated that pretext with a mixture of scepticism and undisguised disbelief, resolving that a joint committee of both Houses should be set up to consider the visit (Charles I s.p.). Henrietta Maria’s true and clearly apparent motive was to leave London as a consequence of her husband’s decision to visit Scotland: from the queen’s perspective London was a hostile world and one in which the king’s absence would present an ideal opportunity for his many opponents to increase pressure on her in an attempt to undermine further the monarchy’s already precarious situation.
6Parliament’s consideration of the proposed visit to Spa was a detailed one (Rushworth 348): the conclusions it reached demonstrated both its appreciation of the queen’s true motives for the visit, and its realization of why she was attempting to take so much treasure out of the country. It was alert to the potential such goods had to the process of securing money or credit for would-be anti-Parliament sentiments, or even in facilitating direct action in aiding the Royalist cause through the acquisition of guns, ammunition and mercenary support. In fact, the proposed visit foreshadowed far more serious attempts by Henrietta Maria, in 1642 and 1644, to sell jewels and other valuables to raise funds in support of the Royalists’ pressing need for such resources. Parliament was, henceforth, constantly watchful for any attempts by the queen to raise money and credit through the sale or pawning of precious objects in various European markets.
7With the king watching, Henrietta Maria left Falmouth in the west of England, bound for Holland, on 23 February 1642, ostensibly to reunite her daughter, Princess Mary, with her husband Willem, son and heir of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange. The couple had been married on 2 May 1641 at Whitehall Palace, London, when Mary was only 9 years old. The publicly acknowledged rationale for the visit – that of reuniting Mary and Willem – was no more than a crude attempt to mask its real purpose of gaining support, in one form or another, for the king and the wider necessities of the Royalist cause, and to attempt to raise money or credit by selling or pawning valuable items of jewellery and plate.
8The king’s decision, at this point in time, to gather pro-Royalist support in Holland, was of major significance in the short term for the queen. Holland represented the most potentially lucrative location for raising cash or credit against the jewels she had taken with her, as it was the leading market in Europe for such activities. Moreover in respect of Anglo-French relations, it had even greater significance in that it enabled those within France who were prepared to support the English Royalist cause, to operate outside of their home territory, and to spare the direct visible engagement of France in the domestic politics and tribulations of the English Crown. Whether or not Henrietta Maria, the king or their advisors had calculated the trip to Holland in such specific terms is difficult to ascertain, but the visit left open a future opportunity to use and exploit what may be considered as ‘the French option’—something which, unknown at the time perhaps, would be made use of in 1644. The events of her visit to Holland, and their legacy, effectively defined what avenues she would subsequently be able to explore in offering jewels and other precious objects in return for material help for the king’s cause: the visit generated, in its wake, a script for the activities that would be pursued following her arrival in France in 1644.
9On 11 March 1642, Henrietta Maria arrived at The Hague where the party was met by her sister-in-law, Elizabeth of Bohemia, and her son Frederick Henry. Within days of arrival, the queen set about the task of selling or pawning the precious objects she had brought with her from England. One contemporary report placed a total value of 1,265,300 guilders on the various items (AMON 52). The jewels and plate came from three interlinked sources: items personally owned by King Charles, objects owned by Henrietta Maria and items which formed part of the state’s collection known as the Crown Jewels. The sale of precious objects by an English Catholic (albeit not an English Catholic of average status) in Protestant Holland, under circumstances clearly motivated by political needs, was a task of enormous difficulty at best. That fact was brought home to Henrietta Maria when the first formal viewing of the items for would-be buyers was conducted at the New Palace in The Hague’s Staedt Straat in mid-March 1642. Many of those who attended were pro-Parliament in sympathy and questioned the queen’s right to sell any of the items on show—particularly those items considered to be specifically from the Crown Jewels collection. The queen insisted she had rights of ownership and could prove them with a document signed by King Charles and, therefore, had the right to sell. Those present baulked at the enormous sums expected for the most magnificent of the items on show: two collars, one of which was described as the ‘ruby collar’. Their response grew even more negative when it was made clear that payment for items was expected in specie. Because of the enormous sums involved, the possibility of the reclamation of the items by Parliament at a later date and doubts about the queen’s claims to ownership and therefore her right to sell, the most valuable items remained unsold. Henrietta Maria did manage to raise funds on many of the items that were clearly her personal possessions, but the sum raised amounted to little more than half of their original cost. In May 1642, the queen wrote to her husband informing him of the problems she was facing:
The money is not ready, for on your jewels, they will lend nothing. I am forced to pledge all my little ones, for the great ones, nothing can be had here, but I assure you I am losing no time. (Harleian MS 7379: 2)
10Although it is unclear how Parliament was specifically kept informed of the situation at The Hague, from the time of Henrietta Maria’s arrival there it was in possession of a regularly updated appraisal of the situation: on 30 May 1642, it was sufficiently concerned by the situation to take action to recover monies already raised against the sale of items from the Crown Jewels ordering:
That Mr Serjeant Wilde, * Reynolds, * Glyn, * Erle, * Pym, do presently withdraw, to prepare a Declaration upon the whole Matter of the Information this Day given, concerning the Pawning of the Crown Jewels, and the Returning of the Monies that is borrowed upon them, according to the Sense and Debate of the House in this Subject (JHC 2: 30 May 1642).
11In the light of the queen’s earlier letter, the House of Commons’ reference to the pawning of the Crown Jewels is potentially confusing. In the view of the Commons, all jewels in the possession of the monarchy were part of the Crown Jewels: jewels ‘owned’ by Charles or Henrietta Maria were not theirs, but were the property of the state.
12It is unlikely that Henrietta Maria had considered how would-be purchasers might react to, and differentiate between, items from the three strands of ownership. Attempting to sell items from the Crown Jewels at The Hague was always likely to be a task too far. In desperation she tried to pawn items from the collection on the Antwerp and Amsterdam markets and to either sell, or pawn, the larger of the two collars to the King of Denmark. In a later passage of the May 1642 letter, Henrietta Maria summarized the situation thus:
I will send tomorrow to Antwerp, to pawn your ruby collar, for as to [that], in Holland, they will not have it. For the largest collar, I am waiting a reply from Denmark. Every day, hopes are given me that those of Amsterdam will lend me money (Harleian MS 7379: 2).
13A letter from Amsterdam, dated 2 June 1642, read to the House of Commons on the 11 June by Sir Walter Erle, revealed more details of the current situation declaring:
That there were Jewels brought to Amsterdam, certain Collars of Pearl; which were sold; and the Product of them is the Sixteen thousand Pounds sent over hither; and the Residue is kept there, to pay for the Arms and Ammunition bespoken there. One great Collar of Rubies. The Jewels called the Three Brethren; Four or Five great Diamonds; with divers other Parcels; but no Money got upon them yet. … (JHC 2: 11 June 1642).
14On the same day, a letter was read to the House of Lords from an unnamed source either close to the queen or with direct involvement in her attempts to sell or pawn jewels. The unnamed source observed:
I cannot learn that any Jewels more are pawned than I have formerly expressed, neither of the Sale of any jewels, save divers Collars of Pearls. (…) In writing hereof I understand, by an eyewitness, that all the jewels are brought here again to be pawned and amongst them the great collar fetched from Hamb. Also the three Brethren, four or five great diamonds, with divers more; but no money to be had thereupon in this place, as the party imployed therin doth tell me (JHL 5: 11 June 1642).
15Also in May, the queen again wrote to her husband:
After much trouble, we have at last procured some money, but only a little as yet, for the fears of the merchants are not as yet entirely passed away. It was written from London, that I had carried off my jewels secretly, and against your wish, and that if money was lent me upon them, that would be no safety for them (Harleian MS 7379: 86b).
16This letter goes on to suggest she had actually produced some form of documentation that satisfied would-be purchasers she possessed the necessary rights to at least trade those items deemed to be the King’s personal possessions:
At last it was necessary to show your power, signed under your own hand, about which I have written to you before, and immediately we concluded out business (Harleian MS 7379: 86b).
17The hopes the Queen had vested in the Amsterdam market were still awaiting a positive outcome on 21 July 1642 when she wrote to Charles with the revelation that the Prince of Orange had offered to personally act as guarantor for any money loaned to the King on those jewels (and possibly items from the Crown Jewels) she had earlier failed to interest the merchants of The Hague in:
The Prince of Orange has sent to Amsterdam, to give assurance that if the merchants would lend you money on your jewels, that he would make himself guarantee, and even for the great collar, which has some malediction upon it, for nobody in the world will have anything to do with it. (LQHM 93-4).
18Despite such apparent setbacks, Henrietta Maria did succeed in raising some finance. In Amsterdam a man named Webster, or perhaps William, had advanced 140,000 guilders on her rubies and pendant pearls, the Burgomaster of Rotterdam 40,000 guilders and Fletchers of The Hague 126,000 guilders (Life and Death 41). By January 1643 her attempts to sell or pawn those jewels, taken with her in February 1642, had reached the point at which she had successfully pledged all of those items considered to be her own jewels (LQHM 159). It was unlikely that any further interest would be attracted for those items that remained unpledged or unsold.
19In the final letter sent from The Hague by Henrietta Maria to Charles at the beginning of February 1643, the queen made it abundantly clear that certain items from the Crown jewels had been pawned:
I am to certify your majesty, that the jewels of your crown are, for present receipts, engaged to some certain Jews of Amsterdam. (LQHM 163).
20On 5 February the queen set sail from Holland and arrived back in England at Bridlington in Yorkshire on 22 February. Many of the items she had taken out of England a year earlier returned with her, including the famed Three Brethren jewel (Humphrey). For the immediate future her attempts at raising finance through the sale of fine jewels were over.
21For a year Henrietta Maria had worked tirelessly in her attempts to raise money or loans on the jewels taken to The Hague. From the evidence that remains, in both official records and private correspondence, she succeeded not only in disposing of a portion of those jewels, but also in using the proceeds to obtain the supplies of guns et al so desperately sought: six shipments were sent to England between June and December 1642. Of these, the third was intercepted en route in August and the fifth captured at Yarmouth in October.
22The relative success of the visit to Holland was due to a combination of the queen’s persistence and adaptability in the light of her early realization of the difficulties she was facing, the support given by the Prince of Orange and the fact that some of those merchants who were initially less than enthusiastic about becoming involved eventually put business before political considerations.
23Why Parliament did not prevent the queen from taking the jewels when she sailed from Falmouth is unknown through lack of evidence. It had good intelligence on the situation provided by a network of spies and informers in the area. It also had the warning posted in the queen’s proposed visit to Spa in July 1641 fresh in the minds of members. To have taken items from the Crown Jewels would have required their removal from secure storage and the associated complicity of the various tiers of management and security personnel safeguarding them, and ultimately, perhaps, complicity at Parliamentary level. Such a venture was not attempted.
24As 1644 began, Royalist fortunes in England were at a low ebb and prospects for the future looked increasingly bleak. Scotland declared its support for Parliament and Charles rejected outright all attempts to arrange a mutually agreeable settlement of the Civil War.
25The potential of the jewels pledged in Holland to act as an incentive in negotiations to bring about a resolution to the Civil War was not lost on the Dutch in their position as would-be brokers of a settlement. In March 1644 Charles met the Dutch ambassador at Oxford. A letter dated 11 March sent by Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate reported:
The Dutch ambassadors are still at Oxford, negotiating with satisfaction to the king and ministers. So far their proposals for peace are only general. But they will either put forward or support the articles which his Majesty proposes to send, showing that their partiality for parliament does not extend to setting up a new and more powerful democracy beside their own. A confidant writes to me from Court that they do not forget their own advantage in the turmoil, since they offered the king the jewels pledged at Amsterdam if he will concede to them the herring fisheries on this coast for four years. This is a very important matter, advantageous to the Dutch alike for the profit of over a million per annum, and for increasing their naval power. (CSPV 27: 87)
26The meeting at Oxford afforded the Dutch the opportunity to raise the issue of the jewels without necessarily engaging in contact with Henrietta Maria who would, in the light of her previous record, have proved to be a more formidable prospect than her husband in any negotiations. The king did not respond in a positive way to the offer; precisely why is unclear, but given his general unwillingness to negotiate towards a settlement of the war, he was unlikely to have been open to a deal that would have appeared somewhat absurd: jewels for fish.
27By the spring of 1644 Henrietta Maria was pregnant and in poor health. On 1 May she arrived in Exeter and on 16 June gave birth there to a daughter, Henriette. On 14 July the queen left Falmouth for Paris with her sons, but her new daughter was left in the care of Lady Dalkeith. Little did Henrietta Maria realise that she would never see her husband in person again. As with her departure two years earlier, she took a considerable quantity of jewels and other precious items: Parliament would, in all probability, have been aware of jewels being taken as part of the queen’s baggage, yet again it did nothing to prevent this. On her arrival in Paris, Henrietta Maria established households at the palaces of St Germain and the Louvre with Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665) appointed as her chancellor.
28The timeline and details of her attempts to sell or pawn those items brought with her to Paris, together with the fate of those items traded in 1642, are difficult to ascertain with clarity and precision. As with her visit to The Hague in 1642, she quickly set about trying to raise money or credit on the new pieces. The Parisian market appeared to show little interest in helping her: the reasons were a combination of anti-Royalist sentiment, the political and financial dangers of taking on Henrietta Maria, and by association King Charles, as clients with uncertain futures and the hawkishness of a market in the shadow of a natural downturn in the economic cycle. Henrietta Maria soon understood the realities and sought to use collaterals other than jewels, including tin to raise money, and to try the more direct approach of just asking for money from those she thought liable to agree. In a supplement to a letter dictated to Henry, Lord Jermyn (c.1604-1684) by Henrietta Maria, sent from Paris on 11 November 1644 she was anxious to keep her husband up to date with the situation:
She hath desired of the Queen Regent, a help of money to be able to satisfy to three things that seemed very pressing: …; the third for the jewels in Holland, which last is so necessary that, without a care of that kind, they will be involved in such difficulties, as it will be impossible to get out of. To this, it has been answered, that it was not possible for them at the present, to furnish a considerable sum, but some arms will be given. (Harleian MS 7379: 92b)
29It is unclear if the “jewels in Holland” were those pledged in 1642 or new jewels pledged since her arrival in Paris. Given the time it had required to transact any deals in 1642 it is unlikely that the jewels were newly pledged but represented some of those from the 1642 visit.
30Using Digby and others, the queen opened up a new vein of activity in Holland through which she hoped to sell or pawn items that had been brought over with her to Paris. A list of the specific items she offered for sale or pawn through her agent, ‘Monsieur Cletstex’ of the Bank of Lombardy in Rotterdam, appears to include the Three Brothers jewel which had returned with her to England in February 1643, but the description, if to be believed, indicates it may have been altered by the addition of three diamonds. The jewel in question is described as containing “pyramidal diamond; 3 balas rubies; 4 pearls with the addition of a table cut diamond of 30 carats and two pointed diamonds” (AMAE 96-98).
31It raised 104,000 guilders: a very low figure indicating that the market was very much a buyer’s market in which the queen was fortunate to have found a buyer for goods that would have been well-known through her attempts at sale or pawn in 1642.
32On 6 April 1645 Stephen Goffe (1600/5-1681), a Roman Catholic priest and Royalist agent, wrote from Holland to Henrietta Maria’s secretary in Paris, Lord Jermyn, that he and the diplomat Sir William Boswell (d.1650) where working together to obtain an advance that would enable Henrietta Maria to pay interest due on monies borrowed. Later in the letter, a short passage throws considerable light on the situation regarding the jewels that had been pledged:
… and a letter of credence in the Queen's own hand to Mons. Vicford, who from time to time may do the King good service by it with him. But the thing which gives Sir Wm. Boswell and me most pain in this place is the fear of the next interest day for the jewels, May 16, on which it is necessary to continue the credit begun, but above all to redeem those parcels which lie so dangerously in Cletcher's hands, besides the acquitting ourselves of the multiplied promises made to Mr. Vicford for the redemption of his. (CSPD 507: April 1645).
33Goffe identifies two of the key players involved in the complex and on-going story of the jewels’ fate. “Cletcher”, also the “Monsieur Cletstex” noted earlier, was Thomas Cletscher (1598-1668) a jeweller and gemstone dealer from The Hague. He was an influential evaluator, go-between and agent in the process of pawning jewels with significant connections to a number of banks and an apparently long-standing connection with the English Crown: the latter is evidenced in the contents of a sketchbook of his drawings containing a design for a jewel similar to the Mirror of Great Britain, one of the items pawned by the English crown in 1625. The drawing has a note beside it stating, that ‘it had been commissioned by Coninc Jacobus’, and that he wore it in his hat. ‘Mr Vicford’ was almost certainly Joachim de Wicquefort (b.1596), a member of a well-to-do Amsterdam merchant family who also worked as a freelance diplomatic agent. Cletscher and de Wicquefort were major forces in the Northern European jewellery market and therefore people whom Henrietta Maria would logically approach, either directly or indirectly through her agents—they were men of formidable financial standing, capable of providing the amounts the queen sought to raise, but who were not afraid to turn down such an opportunity.
34At approximately the same time Henrietta Maria was negotiating through Cletscher, a separate list of English jewels was shown to Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange that included an item listed as the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters does not appear on the list of jewels Henrietta Maria had attempted to pawn or sell in Rotterdam. Long standing speculation, without identifiable attribution, has suggested that the Three Brothers jewel was broken up soon after it passed through the hands of Thomas Cletscher and that gemstones from it, either in their original form or re-cut, were used to create the Three Sisters jewel (Humphrey). Similarly the suggestion has lingered that the Three Sisters was the Three Brothers jewel renamed. No evidence is to hand that proves either suggestion to be true. The issue is further complicated as it is far from certain that the jewel for which Henrietta Maria received 104,000 guilders was the Three Brothers jewel with additional gems added at some point—possibly by the English goldsmith George Heriot as part of a general restyling of items in the Crown Jewels in 1623.
35Henrietta Maria ultimately failed to secure a satisfactory resolution to the issues surrounding her attempts to use jewels from her own collection, that of the king and the English Crown Jewels to raise funds. As late as November 1646 she wrote to Charles:
I have appointed L[ord] Jer[myn] and L[ord] Cul[pepper], (for J[ack] As[burnham] is immediately to go to the Hague,-the jewels will otherwise be lost. (CCSP 28)
36The letter, like its predecessors, displayed the queen’s enthusiasm and diligence. The tone was partly designed to have a positive impact on the king’s spirits and partly reflected the natural tone of Henrietta Maria’s ever-present sense of optimism. All attempts by Henrietta Maria at selling or pawning jewels were essentially short-term responses to issues that would always be central to the Royalist cause, however long the Civil War were to last. The jewels available were finite in number and the chances of selling or pledging them time after time were extremely remote. The king would always be in the position of demanding fresh supplies of guns, ammunition and manpower. At an unknown point in time the supply of jewels would run out and the major Royalist financial conduit would dry up. That reality may well have crossed the minds of both Henrietta Maria and Charles, but royal correspondence and state records do not reflect any real acknowledgement of such a looming truth. Henrietta Maria’s letters do, at times, convey a sense of pessimism on her part as a result of the demands of the task she was constantly involved with: a task of unrelenting attrition.
37The ultimate futility and consequent failure of the queen’s attempts to sell or pawn jewels in support of finance for the Royalist cause appear, with hindsight, something she was unwilling to face up to or even to recognize. Ignorance of that futility served her positively in not undermining her constant attempts to raise funds—specifically so in the case of the initial lack of interest in the jewels she took to The Hague in 1642. Henrietta Maria’s determination to sell jewels on the European market was underwritten by a complex mixture of naivety, personal determination, necessity and an unerring belief in the just nature of the Royalist cause.
38Taken together, the 1642 visit to Holland and the 1644 move to France and the efforts made by the queen to sell jewels and other valuables shows a degree of coordination born as much out of some degree of planning before the first visit as from the necessity of improvisation when she became resident in Paris. At The Hague Henrietta Maria, with help from various sources, made resolute efforts to exploit every realistic route to raise cash or credit. With that experience in mind, her attempts to do the same in France ventured to harness less direct methods than those employed at the display hosted at Staedt Straat in mid-March 1642 with correspondingly disappointing results.
39The two visits can be seen as interrelated and both of direct significance to Anglo-French relations: the first beyond the boundaries of France but nonetheless a potential focus for tacit French interest, the second directly involving France in the context of location of last resort for the finances of the embattled English Royalist cause.