The Gentleman’s Magazine1823: Volume 93, Part 2

Mr. Urban,

I send you the description of a curious ring, which I think will be acceptable to many of your readers. I believe it is unique, but should any of them be better informed, they will perhaps oblige me by stating where there is another precisely like it.

The ring, which is made of thin pure gold, and has four diamonds set on the top, does not at first sight appear particularly worthy of notice; on a closer inspection, however, an opening is perceptible in the raised part, and on lifting it up, a very beautiful miniature of the head of King Charles the First, enamelled on a turquoise, presents itself. The size of the painting does not exceed the fourth part of an inch; the execution is particularly fine, and the likeness excessively faithful, the small part of his Majesty’s dress which is visible appears similar to that in which he is usually represented, and a piece of the riband to which the George is suspended, is discernible; on closing the ring, the portrait becomes perfectly hid. Although miniatures of Charles the First are not uncommon, this is peculiarly valuable from the portrait being concealed, and also from its being supposed to be the smallest of him which is extant.

There can be no doubt that it was worn by a royalist, when it was dangerous to avow the attachment with which many of Charles’s adherents cherished the memory of their unfortunate sovereign. Relics of this kind are consecrated by much higher association than what the mere crust of time bestows on them, and even were they not sufficiently old to excite the notice of the antiquary, they are well deserving of attention from their exhibiting a memorial of feelings, which must ever command respect and admiration. Loyalty, like friendship, can only be tried by adversity, and a mere trifle becomes valuable when it enables us more justly to appreciate the real sentiments of men who sacrificed their fortunes to their principles. The ring, which is the subject of this article, perpetuates the faithful devotion of one of Charles’s adherents much more forcibly than the pen of the biographer, since it is evident that neither the death of the master, nor the hopelessness of his cause, had extinguished his attachment. It may be naturally expected, that the life of the man who thus ingeniously secreted the semblance of features, which in all probability were as firmly impressed on his heart, must have manifested many proofs of zeal in the royal service, and it is therefore presumed, that the following brief memoir of him, with an account of the manner in which this memento of loyalty has passed to its present possessor, will not be deemed an inappropriate addition to these particulars.

The ring is supposed to have originally belonged to John Giffard, of Brightley, in Devon, Esq. the representative of an ancient and highly respectable family, which had been seated there for many generations, and were allied to the best houses in that county, amongst others to those of Grenville, Earle, Coriton, and Leigh. He was born at Brightley about the year 1600 and to use the words of his Biographer [John Prince: ‘The Worthies of Devon‘], “having had a virtuous and liberal education, he became a very accomplished gentleman”. In the civil wars he adhered zealously and constantly to the King, and was appointed a Colonel in his army, and afforded his utmost aid to his service. During the Commonwealth Colonel Giffard suffered severely both in his person and property, having been “decimated, sequestrated, and imprisoned”, and was obliged to pay £1136 as a composition for his estates. He continued to be persecuted and oppressed until the Restoration, when, like too many other royalists, “the greatest part of the recompense he had for all his losses, was the satisfaction of seeing both church and state peaceably settled upon their ancient bottoms”. This account of Colonel Giffard will be concluded in the words of his friend and biographer above quoted: “He was a gentleman of a very grave and comely aspect, of obliging carriage, of a sober life, and a pious conversation, Such was his deportment towards men in all his actions, as if he were conscious the eye of God was upon him; and such his behaviour towards God, in the instances of devotion and religion, as if he thought he was a spectacle to angels and men. Insomuch his sobriety and piety brought great reputation to the royal cause in those parts where he lived, and he was an excellent ornament to his profession, both as a subject and a christian.” Col. Giffard died in 1666, leaving several children by Joan, his wife, the youngest daughter of Sir John Wyndham, of Orchard in Somersetshire, ancestor of the the Earl of Egremont. Her brother, Sir John Wyndham, Knt. married the sister of Ralph Hopton, who distinguished himself in the command of the royal army at the battle of Stratton, in Cornwall. The loyalty of the Wyndham family is well known from the emphatic admonition of Sir Thomas Wyndham, a cousin of Mrs. Giffard’s, to his son, “not to desert the crown though it hang upon a bush”.

On the death of Colonel Giffard, the ring containing the picture of King Charles was, it was confidently supposed, given to his daughter Margaret, who just before her father’s demise, married John Keigwin, of Mousehole, in Cornwall, Esq. The Keigwin family were also zealous loyalists, and one of them, who commanded a small vessel in the king’s service, is designated in a dispatch from the Parliamentary forces in Cornwall, “as a notable active knave against the Parliament”. Mrs. Keigwin survived her husband many years, by whom she had a large family, and at her death in 1739, bequeathed her jewels and trinkets to her youngest son, the Rev. John Keigwin, Clerk, who married Prudence, the sister and heiress of William Busvargus, of Busvargus in Cornwall, Esq. and by her left two daughters and coheirs. Miss Busvargus, however, married to her first husband, the Rev. Jonathan Toup, Clerk, and was by him the mother of the learned Jonathan Toup, Clerk, the Editor of Longinus, Emendationes in Suidam, &c. As Mr Keigwin, who died in 1761, appointed his widow his sole executrix, the ring passed to her, and she dying in 1773, left her son by her first marriage, Mr. Toup, her executor, when that gentleman became possessed of it. Mr. Toup died unmarried in 1785, and by his will entailed the estates of his mother’s family on the issue of his nieces, the three daughters and coheirs of Anne, his half sister, the youngest daughter of his father-in-law, John Keigwin, and the grand-daughter of Margaret Giffard, daughter of Colonel Giffard, of Brightley. Philis, the eldest of these daughters, married Nicholas Harris Nicholas, of East Looe, in Cornwall, Esq. Major of the Royal Cornwall Fencible Cavalry; and being likewise the executrix of her uncle Mr. Toup, inherited the ring, but dying sine prol in 1799, it went to her husband, who died in 1816, likewise without issue, and by his will bequeathed the ring to his nephew, John Toup Nicholas, Esq. Captain of the Navy, and Companion of the Order of the Bath, on whom also, as the eldest son of the only one of Mr. Toup’s three nieces before mentioned, who had issue, that celebrated scholar’s estates are entailed, and who is the great-great-great-grandson of Colonel Giffard, the original owner of the ring in question.

It is proper to add that, in the memory of the oldest member of the family, it has always been called “King Charles’s ring”.