The ring (pictured above) was valued at £20,000
When metal detectorist Paul Ibbotson found a bejewelled gold ring in a farmer’s field he knew it was special.
But when he researched it he became convinced it may have belonged to two of Henry VIII’s wives and was last worn by Catherine Howard months before she was beheaded.
His fanciful story will intrigue visitors to a museum in York when the 15th-century ring – valued at £20,000 – goes on display later this year.
But experts, while describing the gold ring set with ruby and emerald as an ‘incredible treasure’, say its provenance cannot be proved.
Mr Ibbotson, 52, from Blackpool, found it in a field at Fulford, near York, in December 2016. It was officially declared treasure and he and the landowner received £10,000 each. Now, after more than two years of research, Mr Ibbotson believes it could be the ring on the index finger of Anne of Cleves in Hans Holbein’s 1539 portrait.
The painting convinced King Henry VIII to marry her but he was disappointed when he met her in real life and their marriage the following year was never consummated, and annulled.
Could Anne of Cleeves have worn the same ring? The portrait above shows her wearing beautiful jewells
Meanwhile, Catherine Howard, a lady-in-waiting, had caught Henry’s eye at court and became his fifth wife in July 1540. Mr Ibbotson believes Anne gave her the ring and she wore it when the royal couple arrived in York in 1541.
He suggests Catherine and her lover the courtier Thomas Culpeper may have met in the area and that she threw it to the ground to show her love for him over the king. The lovers were both eventually executed.
Lucy Creighton, of the Yorkshire Museum, said the story ‘is impossible to verify [but] this doesn’t make the ring any less special’.