Return to Tradition of Mourning Jewelry
Elizabeth Bowdoin was the daughter of Massachusetts governor James and Elizabeth (Erving) Bowdoin. In 1767, she married fellow Bostonian John Temple, a surveyor general of customs and lieutenant governor of colonial New Hampshire. Temple inherited a baronetcy that made him Sir John Temple in 1786 and also made his wife Lady Temple. Thus the mourning ring made to commemorate her death features the dedication “DOWAGER.ELIZABETH.LADY.TEMPLE[.]” It consists of a plain gold band with a black enamel ground that features a stylized palm leaf and gold text in upper-case roman lettering.
The interior curve to the narrow band was a feature that was prevalent during the mid 18th century. In fact, the entire style of the ring is very much in the neoclassical vein. An inscription inside the band reads, “Obt. 25th .. Oct r.. 1809 A’t. 59.” Residing in Boston at the time of her death, Lady Temple was buried in the Bowdoin vault in the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street.
The Massachusetts Historical Society also has the 1805 silhouette mourning ring of Lady Temple's husband, Sir John.