Does ring found in field date back to Norman conquest?

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A metal detector enthusiast believes he has found a royal crown jewel buried in a field.

Peter Beasley, 67, was stunned when he pulled a heavy gold ring from the ground while out with his metal detector near Petersfield.

He claims the ring is 900 years old and belonged to Robert, the eldest son of William the Conquerer, whose name is engraved on the ring.

Robert, known as 'Short-legs', unsuccessfully attempted to take the English throne when he landed in Portsmouth in 1101.

But Mr Beasley is now involved in a dispute over the authenticity of the ring.

The British Museum has disclaimed the ring and said it doesn't believe the ring is Norman, even though it has not carried out a test to see how old it is.

But other museum experts, in Oxford and Gloucester, have claimed the ring is genuine.

Buriton, where the ring was found, is a well-known Norman site, and boasts the Norman church of St Mary's.

Mr Beasley believes the ring is of national importance and should be part of the national collection.

The former bricklayer, of Gordon Road, Waterlooville, said: 'It's solid gold and a beautiful ring.

'Everything is pointing towards the fact it was Norman and belonged to Robert Duke.

'It's got his name on it and DVX, which means Duke. The cross on it is in the Norman style.'

Timothy Wilson, keeper of decorative arts at The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, said: 'The engraving is Lombardic and is linked to Normandic history, similar to that found on the Bayeux Tapestry.

'It is high-quality gold and 23 to 24 carats.'

But a statement from the British Museum, sent to the coroner, said: 'It is a puzzling ring as it seems to have borrowed features from earlier periods but the general shape and design has no pre-1706 parallels, and the general consensus of opinion is that it is likely to be of relatively recent manufacture. The ring has not been tested by the British Museum. As the find likely dates to later than 1706 it falls outside the provisions of the Treasure Act 1996.'

Mr Beasley is now planning to resubmit the ring to the British Museum with a full record of the Norman history of the Buriton area, and hopes it will reconsider.