Stuart-era mourning ring declared Treasure

The ring may have commemorated James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby and Lord of Man, who was executed by the Parliamentarians in 1651.

A 17th-century gold and crystal mourning ring discovered by a metal detectorist on the Isle of Man, and thought to be linked to the noble family of the Lords of Man, has been declared Treasure.

Metal detectorist Lee Morgan discovered the ring in December 2020 in a field in the southern area of the island. It was reported to the Manx National Heritage, in accordance with the Treasure Act 2017, and declared Treasure by the Coroner of Inquests, Jayne Hughes.

The ring is 21.5mm in diameter, and set with a crystal centre stone that covers the initials ‘J’ (or ‘I’) and ‘D’ written in gold lettering. The pattern of a leaf, inlaid with black enamel, is engraved on the shoulders of the ring.

The 17th-century crystal and gold mourning ring. PHOTO: Manx National Heritage.

The ring dates to around the time of the English Civil War (1642-51). Mourning rings were sometimes given out at funerals as commemorative objects, and typically bore the initials of the deceased.

‘The quality suggests that it was made for, or on behalf of, an individual of high status,’ said Allison Fox, Curator of Archaeology for Manx National Heritage. ‘It is unlikely that we will be able to establish for certain who owned the ring or whom it commemorated, but there is a possibility that it may have been associated with the Stanley family, previously Lords of Man.’

In 1405, Henry IV granted the tenure of the Isle of Man to Sir John Stanley I, and for more than 300 years the Stanleys were the island’s proprietors.

Allison Fox suggests the initials ‘JD’ may refer to James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby and Lord of Man, who was a supporter of the Royalist cause during the Civil War. He was executed for treason in 1651 by the Parliamentarians.

‘Letters and documents from the time show that he signed his name as J Derby, so the initials JD would be appropriate for him,’ Fox added. Records show that his wife, Charlotte, Lady Derby, strongly wanted his name to be remembered.

James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, studio of Sir Anthony van Dyck, c.1636-7, oil on canvas. Image reproduced by kind permission of the Rt Hon. The Earl of Derby, 2021. PHOTO: Manx National Heritage.

The ring will go on display at the Manx Museum.

The moment metal detectorist Lee Morgan discovered the ring. Video: Lee Morgan.