Amateur Metal Detectorist Unearths A 500-Year-Old Pendant Celebrating Henry VIII’s First Marriage

Published February 6, 2023
Updated March 12, 2024

The golden, heart-shaped pendant bears the initials of both the king and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

Henry Viii Pendant

Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesExperts have hypothesized that the pendant may have been made for a tournament in the 16th century.

When Charlie Clarke set out for his friend’s Warwickshire property in 2019 with his metal detector, he hoped to get some fresh air, and maybe clear his mind after the recent death of his dog. Instead, the 34-year-old cafe owner stumbled upon a veritable treasure: a 500-year-old golden, heart-shaped pendant with clear links to the Tudor Era.

The find, Clarke told The Guardian, made him scream “like a little schoolgirl, to be honest. My voice went pretty high-pitched.”

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He extracted the pendant from about foot deep in the earth and brought it to a local expert, who notified the British Museum. There, researchers reacted to the pendant in much the same way as Clarke had.

“We all thought: My goodness, is this for real? Could this possibly be?” Rachel King, the curator of Renaissance Europe, told The New York Times.

The heart-shaped pendant, made of 300 grams of 24-carat gold and attached to a 75-link chain, bore a pomegranate bush representing Katherine of Aragon, as well as a Tudor rose representing Henry VIII. It was also inscribed with an “H” and a “K,” and the words “TOVS and IORS.” King told The Guardian that “TOVS and IORS” was a “beautiful early English Franglais pun” with the French word “toujours” (always) and “all yours.”

But the find has prompted a number of questions as well. After examining the pendant, researchers confirmed that it was about 500 years old, but also that it appeared to be hastily made. For that reason, they’ve hypothesized that it may have been made as a prize for a banquet or tournament.

H And K On Pendant

Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesThe reverse side of the pendant shows an “H” for Henry and a “K” for Katherine.

In that case, the pendant may not have been designed to be worn, but merely as a display piece. Indeed, researchers found no sign of the heart-shaped pendant in their study of Tudor-era portraits.

“In the British Museum, we’ve got the largest collection of objects from the early Tudor periods in precious metal; none of them are anything like this,” King told The Guardian. King also noted that any artifacts with ties to Katherine of Aragon are rare, as many items related to her were destroyed.

The first wife of Henry VIII, Katherine was cast aside by the king after his eye fell on Anne Boleyn. Convinced that Katherine would not give him his much-desired son — Katherine and Henry had only one surviving child together, the future Queen Mary I — Henry VIII divorced her and wed Boleyn instead.

Somewhere in those chaotic years, the heart-shaped “H” and “K” pendant was lost in a Warwickshire. But experts have no idea how it got there.

“We don’t know why it was in Warwickshire and who had it there,” King told The Guardian, adding: “At least not yet.”

Regardless of its origins, the heart-shaped pendant is a true treasure for Charlie Clarke — and one that may change his family’s life.

As The New York Times explains, British law states that anyone who finds treasure must report their discovery. Museums are then able to make a financial offer for the object, paying a fee that is split between the person who made the find, and the person who owns the land where it was found.

Charlie Clark With Pendant

James Manning/PA Images via Getty ImagesCharlie Clark, far left, with the pendant he discovered in Warwickshire in 2019.

Though the pendant has yet to be valued, it’s expected to fetch a high sum which Clarke will split with his friend. Clarke told The Guardian that he plans to use any financial windfall for his four-year-old son’s education.

“That’s all it’s really about,” Clarke said. “Birmingham is a bit of a rough place, and I think any parent … would want the best education for their children.”

And, certainly, the thrill of finding the pendant is priceless. Clarke raved: “It was just outstanding. Nobody thinks you’re ever going to pull out that, in my lifetime especially — I can imagine, in 30 lifetimes.”

After reading about the Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon pendant found by a metal detectorist in England, see how a metal detectorist unearthed a 2,000-year-old penis pendant on an English farm. Or, discover how another metal detectorist stumbled across a 14th-century Leopard coin worth almost $200,000.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "Amateur Metal Detectorist Unearths A 500-Year-Old Pendant Celebrating Henry VIII’s First Marriage.", February 6, 2023, Accessed May 21, 2024.