The Peregrina Pearl

I have been buying fabric for the Mary Tudor gown


I have  found the velvet,cut velvet and the damask  for the sleeves however the jewelery has been harder

mary tudor

I have hunting the net for a similar brooch to Marys as its going to be one of my visual aids.It contains the peregrina or pilgrim/wanderer pearl .The pearl is one of the worlds most famous jewels and  was until its remounting in the 1900s the largest pearl in the world .It is considered a perfect pearl.Its also responsibly for proving us with a National portrait gallery portrait of Mary 1 .

It began life as the possession of Spain .There are a few tales about its discovery ,the one I most like is that it was found by a slave in the pearl Islands ,he took it to his masters and was rewarded with his freedom and a government post.(

Though storys vary most place its origins around the first decade of the 16thc .It belonged to the Spanish Royal family from that point  onwards and was given to Queen Mary Tudor as  a betrothal gift  before passing back to the spanish Royal family on her death where it can be seen in several royal portraits of successive Spanish consorts.


It remained in spain until the conquest of Spain by France at which point it was acquired /stolen(depending on your nationality and point of view) By Joseph Buonaparte,,,brother of Napoleon,from that point it passed briefly to France before arriving back in the UK for its next recorded appearance as the property of the Marquis  of Abercon.From there is passed to its most famous recent owners.

The pearl was the perfect wedding gift for Mary ,It was traditionally worn by the queen consorts of spain and thus acted as a public statement of alliagence.Unfortuantly its prominence in Marys official portraits probably did little to help public unease about the close relationship formed between Mary and Spain and the influence of  Phillipe on Marys domestic and foregin policy. Marys initial popularity plummeted after her Marriage to Philip and the prominence of the pearl in portraits,symbolically being worn near Marys heart was probably not the wisest PR move.UnfrortunatlyMary was devotedly in love with Phillip and unlikely to listen to critics

.The pearl apart from its sentimental and symbolic value was  in itself a fashionable and attractive item pearls were extremely fashionable in Tudor England but were at that time hard to find in any quantity and extremely expensive(up until the present century it could take many years to make a perfectly matched pearl necklace).The jewelry loving Elizabeth the 1 had to resort to glass pearls for her famous long pearl necklaces .

The pearl was a major fashion “catch”.

Phillipe  of  Spain gave Mary the Pearl as a betrothal present and she is wearing it on almost every portrait  theat post dates its gift to her.Once Mary died it was supposed to be returned to Phillip  and eventually was though Elizabeth seems to have been rather slow doing so as her early portraits as queen seem to show Marys Brooch.

(Elizabeth 1 the year of her accession 1558)

pearl eliz

Its possible she managed to hang on to it for a while because Phillipe had opened marriage negotiations with her .He perhaps felt it unwise to try to pry the pearl from the jewel loving young Queen when she may well become its rightful owner should negations succeed

The pearl was then worn by successive queens of spain and the french until passing to the possession of another Elizabeth also as a gift from her husband

eliz taylor(Image and much more interesting details can be found here

The pearls most famous recent owner was Elizabeth Taylor ,Richard Burton was famous for hunting the globe for special items of jewelry for Elizabeth Taylor who loved jewels (as the recent sale of her jewelry shows). He bought it for around $37,000 dollars.Burten famously said at the time “It used to belong to the Welsh and I thought it was about time they had it back (The Tudor dynasty was based on the line of Edmund Tudor whose family seat was Pembroke castle in Wales, he married Margret Beaufort and their  son Henry became Henry VII of England by right of conquest after defeating the rightful king Richard III at Bosworth )

Elizabeth wore it for a cameo appearance in Anne of a thousand days and on many subsequent occasions


.The couple also purchased a portrait of Mary wearing the pearl by Hans Eworth ,donating it to the national portrait gallery.

mary tudor

After Elizabeth Taylors death the pearl was sold at auction for  7.1 millon Uk pounds.

It has been claimed the pearl has a curse in that all the marriages for which it was given as a love token were unhappy,However all the marriages with the exception of the Taylor Burton marriage were political arranged marriages so it their unhappiness is perhaps more an indictment of the practice of arranged marriages ,While Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had other  unsuccessful marriages without needing the pearls “curse”

Its current owner is unknown.


About hathawaysofhaworth

I am a Historian and author living in the north
This entry was posted in 16thc/17thc, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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