Charles I was, by all accounts, a fashionable fellow. He wore the latest trends, from French-style breeches to slashed doublets, and lace collars to long boots. His accessories included a sky-blue ribbon worn as a belt, a gold and diamond enameled pendent, and his favorite item, a pearl earring in his left ear.
Earrings, it turns out, came into style somewhere between the reign of King James I and the soon-to-be King Charles I’s fifteenth birthday. At least, that’s what one would assume from Charles’ portrait when he was that age; it was the first (but certainly not last) time he’s depicted wearing a massive pearl dripping from his left ear. And when I say massive, that’s not me being hyperbolic – the pearl (super rare at the time!) was pear-shaped and 5/8 of an inch long.
Not only that, but it was topped with a tiny gold crown, an orb, and a cross.
There’s no way you can miss this thing. Charles didn’t want anyone to miss it (it would seem), since he wore it in every portrait that he sat for during his life (after age 15), and he even made sure it was in place before he went to his own execution.
In case you’re not up on your British royal history, here’s a reminder – Charles was beheaded at the behest of Oliver Cromwell. There were claims at the time that the earring inspired a mob to go after his rolling head (though we know now that they’re not true).
As soon as his head had fallen, the witnesses of the dreadful scene rushed forward, ready to imbue their hands in his blood in order to secure the royal jewel.
In reality, the jewel went with the king’s body as it was prepared for burial, then was removed and sent to his daughter, Mary. Today, it is owned by the Dukes of Portland and remains in their private collection.
Soon after Charles’s death, earrings fell out of fashion. At least, until the 1980s. Good times.
h/t: Atlas Obscura
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