Diameter: 2.800 cm (Æthelwulf
Diameter: 2.800 cm (Æthelwulf ring)
Æthelwulf ring: Gift of the Earl of
Æthelswith ring: Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
M&ME 1829,11-14,1;M&ME AF 458
Pair of royal finger rings
Æthelwulf ring: Laverstock, Wiltshire, AD
Æthelswith ring: Aberford, West Yorkshire
Each engraved with the name of an Anglo-Saxon ruler
The two rings have similar inscriptions which identify them with the royal house of Wessex. As a result, they are often considered as a pair. However, they in fact come from different places, are of different date and are likely to have been made by different goldsmiths.
The oldest and
largest of the rings was found in 1780 in a cart-rut which probably
accounts for its squashed appearance. It has an almost triangular
The second ring, ploughed up in 1870, has a circular bezel with a beaded frame and contains a cruciform (cross-shaped) design filled with leaf motifs. Within a central circle is a charming four-legged animal with a halo and the letters A and D which stand for 'Agnus Dei' (Lamb of God).
This ring has the name of King Æthelwulf's daughter, 'Æthelswith Regina' (Queen Æthelswith), scratched into the back of the bezel. The hoop is plain and terminates in flattened shoulders decorated with further animals.
The ornament on
both rings is inlaid with
D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)
L. Webster and J. Backhouse, The making of England: Anglo-S, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
J. Backhouse, D.H. Turner and L. Webster (eds.), The golden age of Anglo-Saxon, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)