SUR-23EF78: Post medieval: Royal harness decoration

Rights Holder: Surrey County Council
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Unique ID: SUR-23EF78

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

A large gilded copper-alloy circular horse harness (or possibly carriage) decoration bearing the arms of the House of Stuart. The shield bearing the arms is draped over a rounded central circular boss and is encircled by a belt bearing the incuse motto HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE. The shield is supported by, on the left, a lion and on the right, a unicorn. The lion is crowned and has an elongated body; the head faces the viewer. The unicorn faces left and around the front of its body is what appears to be a chain; the unicorn's tail projects beyond the edge of the object. A crown sits above the boss containing the arms. The lower part of the frame which surrounds the arms comprises curling vegetal forms against a field of multiple punched pits. At the base is a scroll bearing the incuse motto DIEU ET MON DROIT.

The back is hollow, and within the dish thus formed is a hollow cylindrical projection and the scar of a missing second, both certainly used in some manner for attachment. These are arranged at 12 and 6 o'clock in relation to the front. At the top and bottom is a pair of projecting rounded knobs the purpose of which is unclear.

There can be little doubt that this object, which is of the highest quality, was lost from a horse, or perhaps carriage, belonging to the Royal Household. Similar bosses of mainly 17th-century date bear the Prince of Wales' feathers or other non-Royal devices. It is unclear to which part of the harness this object would have been attached; in pairs on the bridle bit is a possibility, as also is the breast band and the rump.

Additional evidence for a royal connection is provided by the known visits on two occasions, in 1662 and 1664, of Charles II to The Durdens (also spelled The Durdans), a large house near Epsom in the vicinity of which this object was found. It is very probable that the decoration was lost on one of these visits. However, it may be that the decoration formed part of the harness of the retinue of the earlier Stuart Kings James I and Charles I, and that it survived the Commonwealth.

The excellent surviving condition of the decoration can certainly be attributed to the peculiarities of the findspot, which has not been cultivated.

Evelyn's diary (p444 of the standard edition) says, under 1st September 1662: 'Being by my L: Geo: Berkely invited, I went to Durdens, where dined his Majestie, the Queene, Duke, Dutchesse, Prince Rupert, Pr: Edward, & aboundanc of Noble men: I went after dinner to visit my Bro: of Woodcot, my sister [in-law] having ben deliverd of a sonn, a little before, but had now ben two daies dead to theire greate sorrow: I returnd home the Evening'.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Include in PostMedArch

Class: heraldic

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Date from: Exactly AD 1603
Date to: Circa AD 1664

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 100 mm
Width: 94.12 mm
Weight: 1.53 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Sunday 18th January 2009

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr David W Williams
Identified by: Mr David W Williams

Other reference numbers

Other reference: 09.120

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Secondary material: Iron
Completeness: Incomplete
Surface Treatment: Gilded

Spatial metadata

Region: South East (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Surrey (County)
District: Epsom and Ewell (District)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: TQ2059
Four figure Latitude: 51.317462
Four figure longitude: -0.27946
1:25K map: TQ2059
1:10K map: TQ25NW
Grid reference source: GPS (from the finder)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Grassland, Heathland

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: SUR
Created: 9 years ago
Updated: About one year ago

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