Page last updated at 18:12 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tudor-era gold chain auctioned

The Coleridge Collar
The rose and portcullis designs were conceived by the Tudors

The only known surviving chain of office from the time of Henry VIII has fetched over 300,000 at auction.

The king gave the gold Coleridge Collar to one of his closest advisers, Sir Edward Montagu, around 1546.

The chains showed allegiance to the monarch and the intricacy of the design and quality of the metal signified the status of the wearer.

The collar, which fetched 313,250, is thought to be one of the most important surviving relics of the Tudor age.

It was the first time it had come up for auction.

Sir Edward is thought to have received the collar on his appointment to the role of Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas - one of the highest judicial officials in England.

This type of livery collar, as it was known, became popular when they were used by Henry IV as an official symbol of allegiance to the monarch.

It was known as the "collar of the Esses", referring to the S characters used in the design alluding to the Latin religious creed Spiritus Sanctus - or holy spirit.

The Tudors later added their own designs of roses and portcullises.

Henry VIII is thought to have awarded only about 20 of the chains to loyal subjects for "special deeds" and none were believed to have survived in their entirety.

Henry VIII
The king is thought to have given the chain to Sir Edward Montagu

But when the role of Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas was merged with another title in 1880 to create the Lord Chief Justice of England - the chain of office became superfluous.

It then became the personal property of Lord Coleridge and passed through his family, changing ownership only once since the 19th century.

It was discovered in the Devon family home of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge earlier this year.

Experts say the collar is similar to the one worn by Sir Thomas More in the famous portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger.

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