Amateur treasure hunter finds solid gold centrepiece of King Henry VIII’s long-lost crown in a field near Harborough

The 'one in 10 million' find is now with the British Museum in London as its future is hammered out

Monday, 1st February 2021, 3:07 pm
Updated Monday, 1st February 2021, 3:10 pm
Kevin Duckett found a jewel with his metal detector which is an exact match of the one recreated on Henry VIII's coronation crown replica in Hampton Court Palace

The stunning solid gold centrepiece of King Henry VIII’s long-lost crown has been found in a field on the edge of Market Harborough by an amateur treasure hunter.

Kev Duckett, 49, made his staggering “one in 10 million” find under a tree at the back of Market Harborough Golf Club near the deserted medieval village of Little Oxendon.

The priceless 24ct gold enamelled figurine showing King Henry VI as a saint is now with the British Museum in London as its future is hammered out.

Kevin Duckett found a jewel with his metal detector which is an exact match of the one recreated on Henry VIII's coronation crown replica in Hampton Court Palace

Thrilled Kev, of Fleckney, told the Harborough Mail: “I can still hardly believe that I have found this magnificent royal piece in a humble farmer’s field near Market Harborough.

“This beautiful figurine of King Henry VI used to be an integral part of the crown worn by Henry VIII, one of our most iconic kings, as well as by so many other monarchs.

“The very thought that Henry VIII used to wear this figure in his crown on his head over 500 years ago when he was the most powerful man in the land is just mind-blowing.”

A dedicated treasure hunter for 30 years, Kev pulled off his once-in-a-lifetime royal discovery over three years ago in September 2017.

“It was a new permission and it was the first time I’d been up there.

“Being a new location I was on my own as I wanted to go along and do a test run.

“I hadn’t been working away for long when my metal detector started to emit a very loud signal and buzz like mad,” said Kev, who restores classic cars.

“It was buried in a hole just a few inches down under the surface.

“I brushed off the soil and I knew straight away that it was a Tudor piece.

“And, of course, it was gold – pure 24ct gold.

“I got such an immediate adrenalin rush – it really was an ‘Oh my God’ moment.

“I was totally stunned – I realised instantly that this was something very special indeed.

“I knew it was very old but I had no idea what it was.”

Kev took the exquisite and unique 1.4ins-high figure home – and immediately launched a fascinating, amazingly complex voyage of discovery.

“I started trawling through royal inventories to try to establish which king this was.

“Over the course of more than three years I must have sent hundreds and hundreds of emails to academics, historians, researchers and experts all over the country trying to get to the bottom of this,” said the “addicted” treasure seeker.

“Day in day out I’ve worked away at it.

“I began researching Henry VI and realised it was made during Henry VIII’s period in the first half of the 16th century.

“I found out that he had three jewels specially made to be added to the state crown because of the Reformation as he split from the Catholic Church.

“Henry wanted everyone to know that he was more powerful than the Church.”

The coronation crown was originally decorated with three figures of Christ, one of St George and one of the Virgin and Child.

But Henry VIII promptly removed the figures of Christ and replaced them with three saint kings of England - St Edmund, Edward the Confessor and Henry VI.

The legendary king wore the crown at his 1509 coronation and when he married Anne of Cleves, the fourth of his six wives, in 1540.

It took indomitable Kev over two years to finally nail the epic mystery of his invaluable history-making Royal treasure.

“I went down to Hampton Court Palace in London on January 15, 2020 because they have a brilliant replica of the entire crown.

“It blew my mind as I gazed at it and it sank in that the figurine I’d dug up in countryside near Market Harborough had helped to adorn Henry VIII’s beloved crown,” he recalled.

“I had already handed the piece over to the British Museum within weeks of finding it.

“But now I’d finally pieced its sensational story together.

“It’s taken such a huge amount of detective work, I’ve felt like Sherlock Holmes at times.”

Kev believes that the totemic piece of royal history ended up within a mile or two of Market Harborough after the pivotal Battle of Naseby during the English Civil War in June 1645.

“Charles could have lost his crown as he fled after being defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s forces.

“The royal baggage train was also looted – so it might have been plundered,” he said.

“No one knows for certain what happened so we can only speculate.

“I’m now waiting to hear further from the British Museum as to what happens next.

“These treasure trove finds can and often do take several years to sort out.

“This is a fantastic story and a worldwide one,” said Kev.

“This goes well beyond the UK, the Americans would love it.

“I’ve tried to get in touch with the Royal Family to tell them all about it – this does belong to them after all.

“I would like it to go on show at one of the royal palaces.

“This dazzling solid gold figurine is a massive part of our royal history – and the public deserve to see it on display.

“It’s been very hard work and this one long labour of love hasn’t been without its stresses.

“But treasure hunting is in my blood, it’s deep in my DNA – and finding treasure doesn’t come any better than this.”

Asked about Kev’s history-changing find, a British Museum spokeswoman told the Mail: “As required by the Treasure process the British Museum expert has examined the piece and identified it as dating from the late Middle Ages.

“It is a gold enamelled figure showing Henry VI as a saint and appears to have been used as a badge, or attached by means of the loop on its reverse, to another object.”

She said the next steps in the long drawn-out treasure trove process will be:

- The find is declared Treasure by the Coroner (the object has just passed this stage)

- The find is provisionally valued by one or more independent expert valuers.

- The find is seen at a Treasure Valuation Committee meeting where it is looked at alongside the provisional valuation(s).

- The Treasure Valuation Committee recommends a value for the Find. The interested parties are asked whether they are satisfied.

- The Museum is invoiced for the recommended amount.

- The Museum is expected to pay within four months of being invoiced.

- Upon receipt of the invoiced amount, the reward is paid to the interested parties (the landowner and finder generally). Alternatively, the reward can be donated to the Museum, enabling them to acquire the Find.