New Facts

There is a good reason why historians tend to confine their researches to a specific period aside from the daunting possibility of spending a lifetime acclimatizing oneself to new research. That reason is new information - previously sought - but somehow missed amongst the thousands of pages scoured while writing. Here's a treasure which Susan Ronald found while researching her next book on Elizabeth I and her merchant adventurers:

Philip II, King of Spain, preparing to take the throne of PortugalExcerpts from the letter written on 12th August 1581 by Bernardino de Mendoza, Ambassador to England from the Court of King Philip II of Spain [Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, Vol. 3, HMSO, London 1889]

On the 5 th , the captains who had been selected to raise troops met and went to Don Antonio for the purpose of asking him to tell them clearly whither he wanted them to go, who was to be their general, how much they were to be paid, and to whom they were to look for payment. He replied that, as to the place he was going to with the fleet, he had arranged that with Drake, who was to be the Admiral, and was the only person who was to be informed of the destination. The jewels which Don Antonio has tried to dispose of here are 150 pearls, of the value of 12,000 crowns, and seven diamonds set in gold, worth 7,000, as well as other diamonds and rubies estimated at 6,000 ducats. They summoned a Portuguese silversmith here named 'Amador Rodriguez' [relative of Francisco Rodriguez d'Evora] to value all these. As I knew this man in Antwerp, he refused to go without my consent, and assures me that they are not worth more than 25,000 ducats, and were formerly all the property of the Infanta Maria, in whose possession he had seen some of them. Don Antonio brought with him a diamond formerly belonging to the King Don Manuel, weighing 80 carats, but it is not limpid, being rather turbid, and they are told that there will be no sale for it here, although Don Antonio values it at a great sum. Whilst I am writing, this afore-mentioned silversmith tells me that Don Antonio himself showed him another table diamond of the purest water, weighing sixty carats, from which he took the lead in his presence. He has pawned it to a Genoese with the 150 pearls for 30,000 ducats, as the money he was expecting from Terceira has not arrived, and he has to make some payments here. The man tells me that this diamond is worth more than 50,000 ducats, and says that Don Antonio sent him with a letter to Dr Lopez, telling him to allow the man to take the lead from the 80 carat diamond and from another 90 carats, both of which must be in the possession of Leicester, as Lopez told the man that it was necessary to speak to him first, and that he would have to go seven miles off to see the stones.

At this time, there were no large diamonds documented in Europe for the weights described above. Therefore, these weights must include the settings in which the stones had been placed. But which stone was the Sancy? Chances are it was the "turbid" - and therefore uninteresting - 80 carat stone described. Why? If you were a diamond merchant, which Rodriguez really was, would you tell the man (Philip II) who laid claim to the diamond where it was through the intermediary of his spy (Mendoza)? This lends credence to the probability that Don Antonio pawned the Sancy directly in 1581 to the Rodriguez d'Evora family of Antwerp, and supports one of the three theories suggested in the book.

Elizabeth I This portrait is a conundrum. Painted in 1583, it looks like the Sancy when it is photographed digitally or with a fine camera lens, yet when I finally visited the portrait at the Pinocateca di Siena in August 2004 the portrait was undoubtedly intended to be The Mirror of Portugal. On minute inspection of the portrait I could see that the gem had been overpainted as a table diamond resembling the Mirror of Portugal in cut, but retaining the shape of the Sancy. Had Elizabeth (who by now never sat for a portrait) arranged for a portrait of her wearing the Sancy by the Flemish painter, who could have access to the Sancy from its safe haven with the Rodriguez family? And when she didn't get the diamond, had she ordered the portrait's overpainting and lost interest in it? Or is there another explanation? Worse still, the Pinocateca di Siena claims that it doesn't know how it came by this picture which is completely out of place and unloved on a first floor landing in this gallery of fine Tuscan art.


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