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Look out, Lara Croft: Treasure hunter discovers long-lost gold statuette from Henry VIII's crown

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Feb 11, 2021, 6:15 PM EST (Updated)

A one-of-a-kind royal trinket that once adorned the lavish crown of the British Tudor king, Henry VIII, has been discovered by an amateur treasure hunter from Northamptonshire as he was out seeking buried valuables and artifacts in a field near Market Harborough in the UK.

According to an interview with The Sun, Kevin Duckett first believed this rare relic was a crumpled strip of tin foil. However, he quickly realized this was no discarded hunk of garbage as he unearthed the dazzling figurine. 

“The rush of adrenaline and the buzz of excitement started to flow through my body,” Duckett tells The Sun. “I was holding what appeared to be a heavy solid gold and enameled figurine.”

At only 2.5 inches tall, the golden statuette apparently once formed the centerpiece of a priceless Tudor crown worn by Henry VIII during celebrations marking the Feast of the Epiphany, and also by his five immediate successors at the ceremonies for respective coronations.

It was initially thought to have been lost to time and its valuable metals melted down to make coins and its precious gemstones sold off in the aftermath of the demise of the British monarchy in 1649. 

As noted by historians, it seems that this newly discovered artifact portraying the 15th century monarch Henry VI was spared the indignity of being destroyed as Cromwell’s anti-royalist Parliamentarians took over the country.

The particular location Duckett was treasure-hunting in was a vast field located 20 miles south of Leicester. In June of 1645 this was the site of the Battle of Naseby where King Charles I and his forces were defeated by Oliver Cromwell's army. Charles I was later beheaded at Whitehall in 1649 for treason, and it's been speculated that this statuette was a casualty of his fleeing the battlefield while facing imminent death.

It's been speculated by scholars that Charles I might have brought the royal relic into combat to act a source of good fortune during the epic clash.

Duckett was recently watching a YouTube video showcasing the Historic Royal Palaces’ creation of a replica headpiece when he saw a recreation of his found treasure. A visit to Hampton Court Palace offered him a view of the replica where he realized it was an identical twin to his gold figurine.

Per HRP, official court records list the crown as containing 344 rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds, and pearls. Miniature sculptures of the Virgin and Child, Saint George, and the royal saints Edmund, Edward the Confessor, and Henry VI also decorated the crown, which originally had a trio of Christ statuettes adorning it before Henry VII had them replaced during the English Reformation.

This miniature gold statue is now in the possession of the British Museum in London for official research and assessment. Once confirmed to be authentic and the true missing component of the Tudor crown, Duckett and the Leicester landowner will be eligible to claim a portion of its sale (worth approximately $2.7 million). 

“It’s great news that after centuries of subterranean slumber this little golden figure has been revealed once more,” Lucy Worsley, chief curator at HRP, tells The Sun. “It is tantalizing to imagine its true history.”

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