Mourning Ring thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Mourning Ring

ca. 1846 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This beautiful snake shaped ring with diamond eyes was made to commemorate a scandalous character, George the 7th Earl of Waldegrave who died in 1846 aged only 30. He eloped to Gretna Green in Scotland to marry Frances, the widow of his elder, illegitimate brother. The marriage would have been illegal in England, being within the forbidden degrees of kinship. He led a wild life and in 1841 was arrested and imprisoned in Newgate prison for a drunken assault on a policeman. When he was released, he sold the contents of Strawberry Hill, the Gothic mansion designed and built for Horace Walpole, which he had inherited from his grandmother.

After his early death, his widow remarried and moved back to Strawberry Hill. She restored the house and became a notable society hostess.

It was customary for rings to be made and distributed to friends and family members after a death. Snakes were used both in romantic and funerary jewellery, as the circle of the snake symbolised eternity.






object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Enamelled and engraved gold with diamond sparks and worked hair
Brief Description
Gold mourning ring, enamelled in black in the form of a snake, with diamond sparks for eyes. Under, a locket fitting with plaited hair. Inscribed inside George Edward Earl of Waldegrave. Obt. 28 Sepr. 1846 Aet 30., England, about 1846.
Physical Description
Gold mourning ring, enamelled in black in the form of a snake, with diamond sparks for eyes. Under, a locket fitting with plaited hair. Inscribed insideGeorge Edward Earl of Waldegrave. Obt. 28 Sepr. 1846 Aet 30..
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.5cm
  • Width: 2.3cm
  • Depth: 1.3cm
Marks and Inscriptions
George Edward Earl of Waldegrave. Obt. 28 Sepr. 1846 Aet 30. (inscription inside)
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
See design for comparable snake ring in John Brogden 1860 jewellery designs (E.2:461-1986).
Historical context
Lord Waldegrave's widow inherited his estates; a well known London hostess, she also restored Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This beautiful snake shaped ring with diamond eyes was made to commemorate a scandalous character, George the 7th Earl of Waldegrave who died in 1846 aged only 30. He eloped to Gretna Green in Scotland to marry Frances, the widow of his elder, illegitimate brother. The marriage would have been illegal in England, being within the forbidden degrees of kinship. He led a wild life and in 1841 was arrested and imprisoned in Newgate prison for a drunken assault on a policeman. When he was released, he sold the contents of Strawberry Hill, the Gothic mansion designed and built for Horace Walpole, which he had inherited from his grandmother.



After his early death, his widow remarried and moved back to Strawberry Hill. She restored the house and became a notable society hostess.



It was customary for rings to be made and distributed to friends and family members after a death. Snakes were used both in romantic and funerary jewellery, as the circle of the snake symbolised eternity.









Bibliographic Reference
Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, p. 89, fig. 113
Collection
Accession Number
M.169-1962

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record createdApril 27, 2006
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