It was bought by two French solicitors thought to be acting on behalf of the French government.
In the transcript of Joan’s Trial of Condemnation in 1431 several references are made to her two rings – including one fitting this description engraved to the faces with three crosses and the initials IHS and MAR (as abbreviations for Jesus and Maria). She claimed it was on her hand when she touched
St Catherine, who appeared to her in a vision telling her to support the uncrowned French king Charles.
By repute the early 15th century ring was given to Henry Beaufort (1375-1447), an English cardinal who was present at the heresy trial and execution of Joan. It then descended through the Cavendish-Bentinck family and by the Edwardian period was owned by the artist Augustus John.
The vendor of the ring for this sale was Robert Hasson, who lives in Essex. His father James Hasson, a Harley Street doctor and physician to Charles De Gaulle and the Free French Forces during the Second World War, bought it at Sotheby’s in 1947 for £175.
Although the estimate was £10,000-14,000 (many times the value of a medieval ring of this type), bidding opened at £42,000. It came down to a battle between an Englishman in the room and the French solicitors acting on power of attorney who won at £240,000 (£297,600 including buyer’s premium).
Although their client was confidential, Brett Hammond, Timeline boss, said: “I have said all along this piece belongs in France with the French people. I believe it was bought by the French government.”
The ring had twice been exhibited in France, in 1952 and 1956. Hammond was confident it belonged to Joan of Arc. “In my mind there is little doubt. I knew it would sell for more than we suggested. But when after the sale I was asked how much it made, I was still in shock and couldn’t get the words out.”