Henry VIII's benevolent side emerges with a 1m pound chain

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The merciless punishments Henry VIII meted out to his enemies have been well documented. Less is known about how, on the rarer occasions when the king was happy with the service of his courtiers or the country's most eminent noblemen, he liked to give them a golden livery collar or heavy chain as a token of his gratitude.

Henry VIII only awarded around 20 of the chains. They were all engraved with the characters SS, referring to the Latin religious creed, Spiritus Sanctus (Holy Spirit), though none were believed to have survived in their entirety.

Now, however, the first complete "collar of the Esses", as they were known, has been discovered in the family home of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The collar was presented to Edward Montagu, the then Lord Chief Justice, by King Henry in the 1540s.

It is understood that the extraordinary find is to be sold in December at Christie's auction house in London, where it is expected to fetch up to £1m.

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