Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and first in line to the Throne, is somewhat of a mystery to the world.
Yes, we know the facts: He is the first-born son of current Queen, Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh; he is currently married to Camilla Parks Bowles and had a tumultuous marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales that ended in divorce; he is the father of two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. But beyond the facts. What do we really know about him?
Well, for starters, there is one thing that the Prince of Wales continues to do and no one has ever figured out why. But now, people want an explanation and we finally have one.
If you look through old photos of Charles, you might notice one particular accessory that he is never seen without, and you may have wondered what the significance is. And that is the pinky ring on his left hand. No, it’s not a misplaced wedding ring, although he has worn it throughout both of his marriages and he does currently wear his wedding ring on the same finger.
Of course, this isn't a new addition to Charles' look. The Prince has been photographed wearing the ring since the mid-70s.
Prince Charles' gold band is known as a signet ring or a gentleman’s ring. Bloomberg reports that “signet rings have been used since Old Testament times. They are engraved with a family crest or personal signature, which can reflect the owner’s social status.”
But does the next King of England REALLY need a symbol of his social status? I think pretty much everyone knows Charles sits at the absolute top of the social ladder. So why does he persist in wearing it?
“Signet rings have been around since people wore jewelry,” Beatrice Behlen, senior curator of fashion and decorative arts at the Museum of London, told Bloomberg, “I believe they became more popular with the rise of the bourgeoisie. Members of the middle class would not have a coat of arms, so having a signet ring would be a prominent sign to show that you are of a higher class.”
Lucy Hume, co-author of the Debrett’s and Bicester Village Guide to British Style explains, “They were used historically as a seal with a unique family crest to sign documents.” You know, back in the days when they sealed an envelope with hot wax with an imprint to signify who sent the letter.
In fact, when Kate Middleton married into the Royal Family, her father was given a coat of arms of their very own. Several of the Middletons have been spotted wearing signet rings bearing their family crest. (Photo, below: Pippa Middleton with brother James at Wimbledon, 2016)
According to Reader’s Digest “Signet rings are not required for the members of the House of Windsor, but they are a subtle way to boast their status and familial pride.”
Although signet signs are primarily a fashion accessory for men, women have been known to wear them as well. In fact, Princess Diana is said to have been very fond of hers, as seen in the photo, below.
So there you have it. I always find it fascinating when I learn of such seemingly obscure practices that, upon further examination, I discover that there is a whole segment of society for whom the practice is common. Such is the case of Prince Charles’ signet ring. Now you know…