An amateur treasure hunter, Kevin Duckett, discovered the centerpiece of Henry VIII's lost crown near Market Harborough, Northamptonshire. He found the gold figurine while digging in a field, thus ending the 400-year old mystery.
The Tudor-monarch's crown had five gold figurines. This 2.5-inch wide piece is one of them. It is currently at the British Museum and has an estimated worth of about 2 million euros.
49-year old Kelvin was thrilled to have discovered it. At first, he thought it was a crumpled foil dish from a 1970s Mr. Kipling product or a gold milk bottle top.
How It Was Discovered And Unearthed
Kevin Duckett explained:
"I had been there for about 20 minutes and found nothing. Then, I got a very loud positive signal from my detector and started to dig down before spotting something. It was lodged in the side of a hole just a few inches down. I carefully removed it and knew by its color and weight that it was solid gold."
He further stated:
"I brushed off the soil and sat down in amazement. The rush of adrenaline and the buzz of excitement started to flow through my body. I was holding what appeared to be a heavy solid gold and enameled figurine."
Definitely a lucky find. Experts describe this as one of the most significant discoveries made by an amateur.
How It Got Lost
In 1649, Oliver Cromwell abolished the monarchy and had Charles I beheaded. At that time, he ordered the 7lb 6oz crown to be melted down and sold as coins. The then Parliament valued the crown to 1,100 Euros.
344 of its precious stones were sold separately while other parts of the crown were passed on intact.
On finding it, Kevin took the figurine to Fleckney, Leics. There, he cleaned it up and contacted his find liaison officer. He started researching about it as well.
At the start of his research, he was sure that the figurine was of Henry VI, who was later proclaimed a saint. After discovering the initials "SH" (Saint Henry) inscribed on the figurine's bottom, he probably reached this conclusion.
He later stumbled on an article that explained how Henry VIII altered the crown during his reign. Originally, the crown had five fleurs-de-lys, that is, the decorative lily akin to royalty. These lilies were originally adorned with three figurines - one of Christ, another of St George, and one of the Virgin and Child.
Henry VIII removed these three figures. He replaced them with three saint kings of England. This includes St Edmund, Edward the Confessor, and Henry VI.
Henry VIII wore this crown on special occasions. At his 1509 coronation and his marriage to the fourth of his six wives, Anne of Cleves, in 1540.
After then, the headpiece was seen in public at the coronation of his children, Edward, Elizabeth, and Mary. It was also seen at the coronation of James I and Charles I.
How This Figurine Was Saved Amongst The Rest
Charles I fled from Cromwell in 1645 after the Battle of Naseby. He traveled the route along which Kevin found this treasure.
It is noteworthy that in 1631, artist Daniel Mytens drew a portrait of Charles I. In that portrait, Charles stood with the crown. This establishes the fact that the crown was last seen with him and was in his possession.
There are two possibilities as to why the gold figurine survived. It either became detached as Charles escaped, or he purposely buried it to hide it from Cromwell.
In 2012, a replica of the crown was created. Experts at the Historic Royal Palaces used Mytens painting to accomplish this. It is now on display at the Hampton Court Palace.
Kevin had seen this replica on YouTube. According to him:
"I'd seen the replica on YouTube and the tiny figurines on the fleurs-de-lys, but I couldn't be sure."
To confirm his suspicions. Kevin visited the palace. He said:
"I'll never forget the sheer excitement as I got closer to the Grand Hall where the replica sat in all its glory. I entered the room and my figurine's identical twin was staring right at me."
Having been a detectorist for 20 years, Kevin has discovered this piece for the world to study and enjoy. He described Henry VIII as one of Britain's most iconic kings.
"An Extraordinary Find"
The chief curator at Historic Royal Palace, Lucy Worsley, said:
"It is great news that after centuries of subterranean slumber, this little golden figure has been revealed once more. It is tantalizing to imagine its true history."
The full story will be featured in this month's Treasure Hunting magazine. According to Editor Julian Evan-Hart:
"It is an extraordinary find. The case is pretty much cut and dried. All that is required now is some form of official confirmation."
The British Museum continues to research this extraordinary piece. Kevin will have to offer it for sale to a museum if verified at a price set by an independent body.