IN Richmond, the Richmondshire Museum in Ryders Wynd, has recently acquired a fascinating object that is more than 350 years old. It is a silver commemorative cufflink which has been purchased by museum chairman, Mike Wood, from the British Museum Portable Antiquities Scheme after it was found by a metal detectorist near Ravensworth.

The incomplete cufflink has on it two hearts and a large crown, which it is believed celebrates the marriage of King Charles II to Catherine of Braganza in 1662 – one of the most peculiar of royal marriages which has relevance even to this day.

Catherine of Braganza and her husband, King Charles II

With Charles newly restored to the throne, this was a marriage of political and economic convenience: Catherine’s father became the king of Portugal, and he wanted British protection from the Spanish.

Catherine came with a dowry of about £500,000 plus Bom Bahia, in India, and Tangier. Bom Bahia became Bombay and was the start of Britain’s colonisation of India.

Catherine also came with a tea-drinking habit, which was the start of the popularity of Britain’s favourite drink.

However, Charles II had numerous mistresses, most famously the actress Nell Gwynne, by whom he had at least 16 illegitimate children.

He took his favourite mistress, Barbara Villiers, the 1st Duchess of Cleveland, on his honeymoon with Catherine, and paraded his infidelities.

To make matters worse, Catherine had at least four miscarriages and was unable to produce a legitimate heir.

Charles came under pressure to divorce Catherine so he could marry one of his more fertile ladies but he refused to do so, even though Catherine’s devout Catholicism was disliked by the English people and Charles’s ministers, who introduced increasingly tough anti-Catholic legislation.

However, Charles was peculiarly loyal to Catherine who eventually won respect at court for her dignified behaviour.

The sandstone ruins of Ravensworth Castle rises out if the low lying mist in North Yorkshire 

How did the cufflink come to be at Ravensworth? The most obvious thought is a connection to the ruined castle on the edge of the village, but its heyday was in the 14th Century when it was the FitzHughs’ hunting park. By 1616, it had fallen into disrepair and the locals had made off with its stone.

So there can’t be a connection there.

The cufflink

Mike says: “It is thought that the cufflink would have been worn by a Royalist who was possibly also a Catholic.”

The museum is open over the course of the summer from 10.30am to 4pm from Monday to Saturday.