Silverware from the 17th Century Worth $19 Million

Visitors to the Hamptons will have a rare opportunity this July to see “The Twin Forks,” the famous and long lost silverware ordered made by King Charles I in 1629 to honor the first English explorer to discover the twin forks of eastern Long Island. Re-discovered in 2007 hidden behind old cedar paneling in the back of a pantry in the Duke of Marlborough’s home in Worcestershire during a renovation, they were auctioned off last year in Sotheby’s London in an unforgettable three-way battle for an astonishing $19,450,000, the highest amount ever paid for two pieces of silverware. The winning bidder, who has remained anonymous but who has many friends on eastern Long Island, has agreed to take them out of their vault and put them on display in America for the first time at the first annual Dan’s Taste of Two Forks event in Sayre’s Park in Bridgehampton on the evening of July 16, 2011.
Displayed on a red felt pillow in a small glass box, they will be heavily guarded and available to be seen only by the 300 or so patrons of the VIP tent that evening in a brightly lit side room, except for one brief moment around 9 p.m. after the VIP tent party is over, when they will be paraded around the grounds of the event for the remaining patrons to see. [expand]
The “Two Forks” played a pivotal role in American history, and this is why they drew such an extraordinary price at auction. In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed from Italy and discovered the Longe Island, which stuck out from the mainland of some larger outcropping of land in the New World. Unable to land because he was low on provisions, da Verrazzano only was able to note that on the eastern end of this outcropping, there seemed to be some protrusions sticking out that, he believed, might have had been “shaped like the tines of a fork,” as he wrote when he returned home.
These “tines of a fork” were next seen by the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who noticed them in 1614 among the other coastlines he explored. Block claimed there were only two forks that he saw. But other members of the crew said they had seen three.
At this time, the Kings of England and Holland were in a rush to settle and create colonies in as much of America as possible. In 1620, Miles Standish and his fellow Englishmen came ashore at Plymouth Rock in what later would be Massachusetts. Then in 1625, Dutchman Willem Verhulst created the settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam at the most westerly end of “Longe Island.”
Needless to say, this greatly alarmed King Charles I. He ordered more explorers out, this time to settle the most easterly end of Long Island to block the Dutch, and, convinced by his intuition that there were only two forks, announced that he would order made the “two forks,” to be designed by England’s most accomplished silversmith, Adam Hooter-Kensington, to be given to the first explorer who could find the configuration of the forks. In the center of the handle end of these silver forks, there would be mounted the head of a pin, into which would be etched an entire map of the New World in miniature.
King Wolffert of Holland, hearing of this, demanded that the “two forks” be presented to a Dutchman if a Dutch explorer were able to reach the goal first. King Charles I reluctantly agreed and the race was on. The King of Holland also demanded that a third fork be created by the English silversmith if it turned out there were three forks.
In 1628, the Dutch explorer Hans Hovenkoven, who was of the opinion there were only two forks, sailed up Long Island Sound and discovered what he declared was the North Fork, rounded Orient Point and then discovered what he said was a smaller second fork. He then found a much larger third fork sticking out into the Atlantic and so named it Surprise Fork. Shortly after that, his ship foundered, was captured by the English and towed to Boston where Hovenkoven was incarcerated for five years in the hopes that the matter could be settled before they would set him free.
It was. After an unknown Italian explorer rounded what he said was the “South Fork” in 1629, only to encounter a second fork he named “Main Fork,” which, after colliding with it resulted in the loss of his ship and men, a third explorer, from England, Marion Heppleworth, made everything right. In late 1629, he discovered both the North Fork and the South Fork and determined that what had once been thought to be a third fork between them was actually an island which he named Shelter Island because of that fact.
Heppleworth returned in triumph to London and, as promised, was presented with the “Two Forks” by King Charles I in an elaborate ceremony. Long Island, it was now clear, could be claimed by the English, thus saving the foothold the English had in Massachusetts and clearing the way to drive the Dutch from Nieuw Amsterdam on Manhattan Island.
Leaving Buckingham Palace, Heppleworth’s carriage went into a ditch in the woods, and though the drivers and horses and Heppleworth were able to recover and continue on, when they got to his estate (another gift of the King), they found the “Two Forks” were gone. Though extensive searches were made, they were never found and they were never duplicated. Indeed, Silversmith Adam Hooter-Kensington died of a broken heart shortly thereafter.
The First Annual Dan’s Taste of Two Forks will feature the wines of more than 25 vineyards and the food of more than 30 restaurants. The event will be hosted by Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson and the Master of Ceremonies will be TV personality Rosanna Scotto. The VIP Party will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. ($250 a ticket), and General Admission from 7:30 to 10 p.m. ($150 a ticket), with the “Two Forks” walkaround about 9 p.m.
A portion of the proceeds of this event will benefit local food pantries through the Have a Heart Community Trust of the Two Forks. For more information call 631-227-0188 or go to the website, [/expand]

More from Our Sister Sites