Brand new series Irish Pickers follows vintage conoisseur Ian Dowling and his best mate Butzy, as they go on a rummage around Ireland for treasures to buy and sell. It got us thinking… wouldn’t it be cool if they stumbled across the long-lost Irish Crown Jewels? Why, yes. Yes it would.
Wait, Ireland had crown jewels?
Yes and no. There were a pair of gem-encrusted treasures, consisting of a star and a brooch, that were known as the “Irish Crown Jewels”. But they weren’t actually used during coronations. Instead, these flashy items – emblazoned with diamonds and rubies and emerald shamrocks, and basically looking like something Liberace might have worn if he hailed from Cork – were worn at initiation ceremonies for the Order of St Patrick, an old order of knighthood.
What happened to them?
Somebody nicked them, is what. It was on 6 July 1907 that staff at Dublin Castle realised the jewels had vanished from their safe. Blame fell on Sir Arthur Vicars, the Ulster King of Arms, who was meant to be looking after the precious items. To be fair, he had displayed Mr Bean-levels of incompetence in the run-up to the theft, once waking up after a drinking session to find the jewels hanging around his neck. Another time, a posh pal of his stole the jewels and sent them to Vicars in the post as a joke. What larks!
Were there secret sex parties going on in the castle, by the way?
Funny you should ask, but yes, it very much appears there were. In the aftermath of the theft, some speculated that the authorities knew exactly who had nabbed the jewels, but had covered things up because Dublin Castle was also where local gay aristocrats apparently got together for illicit raunchy shenanigans behind closed doors. In the words of a clearly livid politician called Laurence Ginnell, the police had found evidence of 'criminal debauchery and sodomy being committed in the castle', and wanted the whole matter hushed up to avoid a scandal
Who were the prime suspects?
Two names brought up in connection with both the theft and the alleged orgies were army captain Richard Gorges (dubbed 'a reckless bully, a robber, a murderer, a bugger, and a sod' by Ginnell), and Frank Shackleton, brother of famed Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Honestly, we’ll probably never know who did the deed, although Frank Shackleton WAS later convicted of fraud and Richard Gorges DID later get done for killing a policeman, so the idea of nabbing some jewels probably wouldn’t have made either of them clutch their pearls and reach for the smelling salts. Just saying.
Can the jewels ever be found?
Chances are they were broken up and sold off, gem-by-gem, many decades ago. But that’s boring, so let’s instead imagine they’re in an old snuff box under the stairs of a junk shop in Limerick, just waiting for the Irish Pickers to dig them out. Now that would be worth a celebratory Guinness or two.