Monday, November 28, 2016

The Alfred Jewel

Up on the second floor in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, in a gallery displaying artefacts from early England, there is a beautiful teardrop-shaped object. A decorated golden frame surrounds a colourful enamelled design protected by a flat panel of polished rock crystal. It shows the picture of a man dressed in a green tunic, and holding a flowered sceptre in each hand
And around the rim of the object, just a few milli­metres thick, is an Old English inscription in Roman letters:
There are no spaces between the words. Inserting these, we get


Alfred             me ordered                        to make
= Alfred ordered me to be made

The "Alfred" is King Alfred the Great, and the object has come to be called the Alfred Jewel.
The jewel was found in 1693, in a field at North Petherton, Somerset, just a few miles from Athelney, the stronghold of King Alfred and where he founded a monastery. Alfred succeeded his brother Æthelred as king of Wessex in AD 871.

The Alfred Jewel

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