V&A Search the Collections


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Public access description

    This memorial ring commemorates William Sancroft, a clergyman and scholar whose life was profoundly affected by the political and religious currents of 17th century England. He was a Protestant and a moderate royalist who left England for the Netherlands in 1657, returning only at the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.
    He held a number of important posts in 17th century England. He was the Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge from 1662 to 1665 when he left to become Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. He was closely involved in the rebuilding of the Cathedral after its destruction in the Great Fire of London, giving architect Christopher Wren the direction to ‘frame a design, handsome and noble’ which would serve the needs of the church and the city. In 1677, he became Archbishop of Canterbury at the express wish of Charles II who recognised his loyal support and lack of religious extremism. As a staunch royalist, he worked to preserve James II’s right to the throne despite his conversion to Catholicism and crowned him in 1685. However, James’ support for English Catholics culminated in the Declaration of Indulgence in 1688 which Sancroft was unwilling to support. His refusal to order the Declaration to be read out in English churches was construed as an act of rebellion by the King and led Sancroft, along with six other bishops to be sent to the Tower of London. Despite this, Sancroft refused to support William of Orange when he took the throne after James’s flight from London and he resigned from public life. He retired to the village of Fressingfield in Suffolk and worked on preparing the diary of Archbishop William Laud for publication. When he died, he refused to make a will as he did not recognise the authority of his successor as Archbishop and was buried outside the walls of the parish church.
    This fine ring was decorated with a skull and crossbones with flowers and scrolls and was probably originally enamelled in black. The inscription around the hoop gives the date of his death and commemorates Sancroft as Archbishop of Canterbury. It was customary to leave money in your will to pay for rings to be made and distributed to friends, family and others who attended the funeral but as Sancroft left no will, we do not know who the recipient of this ring was or how many were made.

  • Physical description

    Gold ring, enamelled around the hoop in black with flowers, scrolls and a skull.

  • Marks and inscriptions

    W. Arch. Episcop. Cant. ob. 24 Nov. 93 aet. 77.
    W. Archbishop of Canterbury, died 24 November 1693, aged 77.

    RM (?)
    Maker's mark

  • Dimensions

    Diameter: 2.3 cm, Height: 0.4 cm

  • Object history note

    Mark RM for Richard Moore (see BM AF1537)

  • Descriptive line

    Mourning ring for William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury. Gold and black enamel, England 1693.

  • Collection code

    Metalwork Collection