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Chain of Office Given to One of Henry VIII's Closest Advisors to be Offered at Christie's in November

LONDON.- Christie’s announce that they will offer The Coleridge Collar, one of the most important surviving relics of the Tudor age, at the auction of Important European Furniture, Sculpture and Tapestries on 6 November 2008 in London. The only known, complete surviving collar of office from the time of Henry VIII, it is thought to have been gifted personally by the King to Sir Edward Montagu (circa 1485-1557), Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, member of the Privy Council, executor of the King’s will and governor to his son and heir, King Edward VI. An extremely rare survival of Renaissance English goldsmith-work, the collar was made circa 1546-47, at the time that Michelangelo was appointed chief architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Strikingly similar to the example worn by Sir Thomas More in Hans Holbein the Younger’s famous portrait, it is expected to realise £200,000 to £300,000.

Andreas Pampoulides, Director and co-head of Sale at Christie’s London: “The Coleridge Collar is an extraordinary and fascinating piece of history, both as a work of art, and also as a rare Tudor relic. An extremely rare example of early English goldsmith-work, the collar also represents the only known, complete, surviving collar of office from the time of Henry VIII, one of the most renowned of European monarchs. We are thrilled to be able to exhibit The Coleridge Collar at Christie’s rooms from 2 to 5 November, and to offer it to international collectors and institutions at the auction on 6 November.”

Livery collars first gained great prominence when they were used by Henry IV (1367-1413) as an official symbol of allegiance to the monarch. At the beginning of the 15th century, he declared that all the sons of the king, dukes, earls, barons and baronets may wear the livery, with the metal used for the collars signifying the status of the wearer. While the Lancaster kings used the motif of the esses ($), the subsequent Yorkist kings used suns and roses. The Tudor dynasty revived the esses ($), and also began to incorporate portcullises and the Tudor rose, as seen on the present example. The meaning of the esses is not known for certain; different theories have suggested that it could represent ‘sanctedat, saviensa, sapienca and seynoria’ (sanctity, wisdom, learning and lordship); that it could be inspired by the mother of John of Gaunt who had decorated her chamber with the motif; or that it represented Spiritus Sanctus and, by extension, the seven gifts that the Holy Spirit bestowed upon man; wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear (of God).

Henry VIII (1491-1547) is one of the most renowned and recognized monarchs in European history. He separated the English church from Roman authority, ordered the execution of two of his five wives and ruled England with a forceful and opinionated manner. Henry surrounded himself throughout his life with a loyal following, many of whom were fated to execution if they fell out of favour. The members of his closest council wore gold livery collars in recognition of their standing and importance, and these collars would be passed onto a successor to any particular office within the council for a traditional fee.

The present collar has been subject to scientific analysis which dates the gold to between 1545 and 1551, and is thought to have been given personally to Sir Edward Montagu by King Henry VIII in 1546 on his appointment to the role of Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Sir Edward was a member of the Privy Council, governor to Henry’s son and heir Edward VI, and one of 16 executors of the King’s will. The collar was worn by Sir Edward’s successors to the role of Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas until Lord Coleridge merged the office with the post of Lord Chief Justice of the Queen’s bench in 1880, at which point the role became known as Lord Chief Justice of England. As this point, the collar became superfluous and became the personal property of Lord Coleridge. It passed by family descent and has changed ownership only once since the 19th century.

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