Byron Memorial Ring
An exceptionally rare mourning ring for the Romantic poet Lord George Gordon Byron, [1788 -1824], one of only three such rings publicly known. One is in the Pforzheimer collection, New York Public Library and the other we sold on our website. No other examples are recorded in jewellery historians’ literature, sales’ archives or in the comprehensive inventories of jewellery held by major museums. The ring is 18 carat gold, enamelled on the outer hoop between chased borders : In Memory Of and surmounted with an enamel plaque of coronet in colours and the name Byron. To interior, a full set of hallmarks for 1824, maker’s mark for Charles Rawlings and the details of Byron’s death : Died 19th April 1824 aged 36. The ring is size O [US 7] and the band is 1/3 of an inch wide.
The ‘cult’ of Byron is said to have begun with the publication of his epic Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1812. Fashionable London was enamoured with the controversial young poet and ladies reputedly swooned in his presence. His scandalous affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, and his even more scandalous divorce from Annabella Milbanke, added to his notoriety and allure. Lady Caroline described Byron as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. When Byron died of a fever at Messolonghi, Greece in April 1824, the public reaction in England was one of shock and disbelief and the news of Byron’s death is said to have struck London ‘like an earthquake.’ The poet Tennyson remembered the day he heard the news as, ‘A day when the whole world seemed to be in darkness for me’. Byron’s body was repatriated to England yet the Dean of Westminster Abbey refused to allow his burial in Poets’ Corner on the grounds of his questionable morality. Byron was finally interred in the family vault in the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire in July 1824. In 1969, 145 years after Byron’s death, a memorial honouring him was finally erected in Westminster Abbey.