[MR] The Black Prince's Ruby

Garth Groff via Atlantia atlantia at seahorse.atlantia.sca.org
Sat Sep 17 04:31:13 PDT 2016

Noble Friends,

Some of you have expressed wonder at how I come up the historical 
tidbits frequently posted to this board. It is no surprise that most 
come from Wikipedia or the BBC News website. Occasionally, they come 
from even odder sources, and this post takes the cake, so to speak. Now 
this going to ramble a bit and sometimes go out of period, but there are 
several nuggets in here that may be of interest to fellow Scadians.

Lately I've been rereading George MacDonald Fraser's book THE STEEL 
BONNETS (fascinating and often funny; I highly recommend this work). The 
book is about the English and Scottish border reivers of the 16th 
century. These were family armies of thugs who raided across the border 
after cattle (a respectable enterprise), branching out into less savory 
wholesale larceny, arson, kidnapping, and not infrequently murder when 
anyone stood in their way: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Reivers 
. To stem this chaos, each of the six facing counties or marches had a 
march warden, a combination governor and chief of police. A prominent 
name among the English march wardens (and the thieves themselves) was 

This reminded me of the famous Sherlock Holmes story "The Musgrave 
Ritual". The Ritual is a seemingly meaningless riddle, which anybody 
reading the story will immediately see is the directions to some 
fabulous treasure. I had to know if the story is based on fact. [SPOILER 
ALERT]: As it turns out, the treasure is the royal regalia of England, 
in the story lost since 1649 when Charles I was executed. Now in truth 
and going out of period, the regalia was destroyed by order of Oliver 
Cromwell after Charles I's 1649 topping. The gold was melted to make 
coins and the jewels were sold off. So while Conan Doyle's tale has a 
small basis in fact (the Musgraves were ardent royalists), there was no 
treasure hidden away for a later king and certainly no "Musgrave 
Ritual". Doyle never let facts get the way of telling a great story.

The real royal regalia included the famous "Tudor Crown", probably made 
for Henry VII and certainly owned by Henry VIII: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tudor_Crown . The most important piece of 
bling on the crown was "The Black Prince's Ruby": 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Prince%27s_Ruby  (the site offers a 
nice view of the bauble on George V's crown).

The ruby (it is actually an equally valuable spinel) was owned by Abū 
Sa'īd, the Moorish Prince of Granada. Around 1360 or so he was murdered 
by Peter of Castile (aka "Pedro the Cruel") during a state visit, and 
Pedro seized the bauble. In 1366, Pedro had his back the wall in a nasty 
civil war against his brothers. Enter the Black Prince, who had been 
meddling in Spain for some time. Pedro surrendered the ruby in exchange 
for the Prince's support. The jewel was later known to have been worn on 
of Henry V's royal helm at Agincourt, and likely on the helm of Richard 
III at his untidy demise during the Battle of Bosworth.

Curiously, the Black Prince's Ruby was returned to Charles II by some 
unknown route, and has been used on the various royal and imperial 
crowns of the Sovereign up to today: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_State_Crown .

While you're at it, you might enjoy reading about Pedro the Cruel. With 
a title like that who can resist? 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_of_Castile .

See where history can take you?

Yours Aye,

Lord Mungo Napier, Whose Mind Moves in Such Odd Directions

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