Fig.2. The Gresley Jewel, featuring portraits of Sir Thomas Gresley and his wife Katherine Walsingham, c.1574, Private Collection ©Philip Mould & Co.
An essential feature of these jewels was the fact that they could be worn, allowing the wearer to display loyalty or, in the case of likenesses of the monarch, royal preference. As tokens of those who were absent, miniatures of this kind appear frequently in portraiture. The earliest known instance of this (and of a miniature worn as jewellery) is in a portrait miniature of Lady Catherine Grey, sister of Lady Jane Grey now in the collection of the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle and attributed to Levina Teerlinc (c.1510-76). Here Lady Jane is shown wearing a miniature of her husband, the father of her son, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, whom she holds in her arms. The miniature epitomises the delicate balance between intimacy and display. Seymour’s clandestine marriage to Lady Catherine, who was of royal blood, had enraged Elizabeth who imprisoned both husband and wife in the Tower of London. Although contact between the two was not cut off entirely during their imprisonment – the couple’s son, also named Edward, was conceived in the Tower – it was upon their release, with a permanent separation between husband and wife being enforced by Elizabeth after the birth of their second child. Thus, for Lady Catherine to be shown wearing a miniature of her husband in this way served, first, to incorporate the absent husband into the picture and, secondly, as a bold proclamation of loyalty in the face of royal constraints.