Medieval ‘Love Motto’ Ring Discovered By Metal Detectorist In England

Published October 18, 2023

The golden ring bears a French inscription that expresses a desire to "serve" and was likely used for a courtly love affair.

Love Motto Ring

COLCHESTER AND IPSWICH MUSEUM SERVICEThe ring is small and was probably worn on the upper joint of someone’s finger.

A metal detectorist in Frinton and Walton, a civil parish in Essex, England, made two extraordinary finds while sweeping the grounds. The unnamed treasure hunter found both a medieval “love motto ring” and a silver gilt hooked tag, which women once used to pin their skirts into place.

Of the two finds, the tiny golden ring is especially spectacular. Probably made between 1400 and 1500, when rings with chivalric mottos were popular, the ring bears the rhyming French inscription: “Je desir vous Ceruir.” This translates into English as: “I desire to serve you.”

According to the BBC, mottos like “I desire to serve you” and “I wish to obey” were used by men at court as they conducted courtly love affairs and tried to woo women. The owner of the ring found in Essex would have been one of the French-speaking elite wealthy enough to afford gold jewelry.

Sides Of The Ring

COLCHESTER AND IPSWICH MUSEUM SERVICEThe ring is inscribed with a rhyme in French “Je desir vous Ceruir” which translates into English as: “I desire to serve you.”

Historian Lori Rogerson told the BBC that though the ring is small — so “tiny it only fits on my little finger” — it was probably worn by a man. That’s because of how people arranged rings on their fingers at the time.

“At this period rings were worn on all the joints of all the fingers,” Rogerson explained to the BBC, “so it could have been worn on the upper joint.”

In addition to the ring, the lucky metal detectorist also made another find. On a separate occasion, they uncovered a Tudor silver gilt hooked tag just 160 feet away from where the ring had been found, on the other side of a road.

The intricate silver tag was likely a dress ornament. The BBC reports that it was probably used by a Tudor-era woman to pin her skirts into place, so that both layers could be seen at once per the fashion of the time.

Tudor Silver Gilt Hooked Tag

COLCHESTER AND IPSWICH MUSEUM SERVICEThe silver gilt hooked tag was likely used by a Tudor-era woman to arrange her skirts, so that two layers could be visible at once.

So how did the gold ring and the silver gilt hooked tag get to Essex? Rogerson speculated that they once belonged to the same person. She suggested that the owner was taking the objects to get recycled hundreds of years ago when they somehow lost them.

Though the ring is cracked and the tag is damaged, the BBC reports that an Essex museum is interested in adding both remarkable objects to their collections.

It just goes to show that normal people can make extraordinary discoveries. Indeed, the ring and the tag are hardly the only thing that metal detectorists have found in recent months.

In the past year, a number of incredible objects found by metal detector have been made public, including a 500-year-old pendant celebrating King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which was found by a metal detectorist in Warwickshire, England; an ancient gold coin with the earliest known reference to Odin found by a metal detectorist in a Danish field; and a cache of gold objects dubbed the “gold find of the century,” which were discovered by a metal detectorist in Norway.

The past is all around us — if you know where to look.

After reading about the medieval gold “love motto” ring found by a metal detectorist in England, explore some other incredible discoveries from recent years, including a “hangover ring” found amid the ruins of an ancient Israeli wine factory and the statue of a man holding his phallus at an 11,000-year-old site in Turkey.

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.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
Cite This Article
Fraga, Kaleena. "Medieval ‘Love Motto’ Ring Discovered By Metal Detectorist In England.", October 18, 2023, Accessed April 24, 2024.