A medieval ring said to have belonged to Joan of Arc, the French heroine who fought the English during the 15th century, has returned to France after nearly 600 years in England.
The Joan of Arc ring, which was kept in an oak casket, achieved $427,000 at auction in London.
Last week, fierce bidding saw the final price soar to £300,000 – far outstripping the rather modest pre-sale estimate of £10-14,000 – when TimeLine Auctions placed the ring on the block at Bloomsbury, London. Kept in an oak casket, it was accompanied by documentation that included BBC features, newspaper articles, research notes and exhibition catalogues. The French heroine is thought to have handed the ring to England’s Cardinal Henry Beaufort on the eve of her execution in 1431. It remained in England ever since, and there is thorough documentation to establish its provenance.
The silver gilt iconographic ring has been showcased to the public on several occasions, both in England and France, as part of museum exhibitions dedicated to the French national icon. It is believed that the ring was given to Joan by her parents and its connection to the catholic saint has been documented for more than a century, including an appearance in the catalogue printed by F. A. Harman Oates in 1917. Unusually for this type of ring, the faceted bezel is inscribed with the letters “I M”, which stand for Jesus Maria, rather than images of saints. The documentation also comments on the “curiously square” shape of the ring, which was put up for sale by Robert Hasson whose father was Charles de Gaulle’s doctor in World War II.
The inscription reads “Mary and Joseph.”
The ring was bought by the Puy du Fou foundation, which runs a historical theme park in France. The Puy foundation said the ring’s return to France was highly symbolic.
Before her execution in 1431 for crimes against the English, 19 year old Joan is said to have given the ring to her interrogator Cardinal Beaufort. He, in turn, bequeathed it to his nephew Henry VI who is said to have left it at Bolton Hall, Lancashire, where he was hiding during the Wars of the Roses.
Born in 1412, the young Joan is said to have received visions of saints telling her to support Charles VII in his efforts to reclaim France from English domination in the Hundred Years’ War. She was nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” after her intervention helped secure a series of victories for France but, in 1430, she was captured and handed over to the English who burned her at the stake.
A quarter of a century later, an inquiry approved by Pope Callixtus III threw out the charges against Joan and declared her a martyr. In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte made Joan of Arc a French national symbol and just over a century later she was beatified in Rome. In 1920, nearly 500 years after her death, Joan was canonized by Pope Benedict XV who, during a ceremony packed with French pilgrims, called her “a most brilliantly shining light of the Church Triumphant”.
So interesting no?