The Claddagh Ring and William of Orange
There are many versions of the Claddagh legend. One of the more interesting and unlikely versions goes as follows;
It May be one of the most recognizable symbol of Ireland across the globe but one historian claims that we have the British to thank for the Claddagh ring.
Today, it is sold across the country and snapped up by visitors looking for a special souvenir of Ireland. But according to Rob Vance, the ring, which features two hands clasping a heart, has been hiding a secret - it was designed in honor of William of Orange.
Mr. Vance also says that the ring was only made popular after Queen Victoria demanded that a Lonely Planet-type guide was written about the the country.
'It was actually designed by a Richard Joyce who was the son of a Galway merchant and who was kidnapped by pirates in 1688 on his way to Bordeaux on the West coast of France. He was sold into the slave marked in Algiers and was brought by a gold merchant who set him to work as a jeweler, making rings. When William of Orange came to the throne in 1690, one of the things he organized was to free all the slaves. As a result, Joyce was released and he made his way back to Galway. The first thing he did as design a ring to show his gratitude to William of Orange for freeing him. He took the old Gemmel ring and put a crown on top of it and called it the Galway."
Mr. Vance uncovered the murky history of the Claddagh while researching for his new series of Urban Tales, which was shown on RTE. But it was Queen Victoria that cemented the ring's place in Ireland's history. "When she came to Ireland she really launched it on the world. She was followed by other travelers and particularly a couple, Colonel and Mrs. Hall, who wrote olden day travel books.
"She suggested they write one about Ireland so they came to Galway and on one page they did an illustration of the Claddagh fishing village and put a drawing of the ring beside it. The next thing the ring was being referred to as the Claddagh ring.
View our range of Wedding Rings.
A view of Claddagh Village from around 1910.
Read the story of the Claddagh Ring and Ground Zero