This ring appears to be both a memento mori ring, which reminds the wearer that she or he must die, and a marriage ring. The second inscription on the ring (‘RATHER DEATH THAN FALS FAYTH’ ) and the true lover’s knot that unites the two initials suggest that it was used as a betrothal or marriage ring by ‘M’ and ‘L’, although we do not know who they were. The solemn vows of marriage are associated with death: ’till death us do part’.

The juxtaposition of memento mori and marriage imagery would not have seemed strange to the ring’s first owner.  The earthly, transitory nature of marriage is contrasted with the eternity of death and judgment.

  • Place of origin: England, Great Britain (made)
  • Date: 1550-1600 (made)
  • Materials and Techniques: Gold, chased and enamelled
  • Museum number: 13-1888 (V&A Museum)

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