A view of signage for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in Westminster, London.
02 September 2022

Manuscript given to Elizabeth I by Archbishop at risk of leaving the UK

02 September 2022

A manuscript given to Queen Elizabeth I by an Archbishop of Canterbury is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found.

The manuscript, made of nine circular roundels, was part of a gift from Archbishop Matthew Parker to the Queen in the early 1550s.

It is believed that the use of shell gold in the piece suggests that the document was given with the intention of impressing Elizabeth.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said the manuscript has a recommended price of £9,450.

A manuscript gifted from the Archbishop to Queen Elizabeth (DCMS/PA)

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “Archbishop Parker is a figure of great historical and theological consequence, and this beautiful manuscript is a significant example of Elizabethan gift exchange.

“I hope a buyer comes forward for this piece so it can be used to learn more about both the Archbishop and Queen Elizabeth I.”

A member of the reviewing committee, Peter Barber, added: “These evocative, obscurely worded and miraculously preserved roundels take us back to power politics and culture at the heart of Elizabeth I’s court.

“They are a tangible record of a vital and dangerous moment in our religious and political history when the delicately crafted Anglican Settlement seemed to be in danger, but their wording still has to be fully interpreted and understood.

“While Tudor gift lists and sometimes the gifts themselves survive, such intrinsic – but cryptic – evidence for the mentality behind the gift-giving is perhaps unique.

“I fervently hope the roundels will remain in this country where outstanding collections and libraries – not least that of Archbishop Parker himself – would enable their plentiful remaining mysteries to be investigated and explained with a thoroughness that would simply not be possible elsewhere in the world.”

Sledge flag (DCMS/PA)

Also at risk of leaving is a rare sledge flag once owned by British naval officer Captain Henry Kellett, who was involved in two major arctic expeditions.

The silk sledge flag, which the DCMS has said has a recommended price of £120,000, is one of the earliest known in existence and helps to tell the story of British obsession in the 19th century with arctic exploration.

Lord Parkinson said: “This flag serves as a reminder of Britain’s rich maritime history, helping to tell the story of early British sailors and their travels in search of new places.

“Its cultural and historical significance should be a driving force to keep it in the country. I hope a buyer comes forward for this treasure soon.”

This flag serves as a reminder of Britain’s rich maritime history, helping to tell the story of early British sailors and their travels in search of new places

The chairman of the reviewing committee, Sir Hayden Phillips, added: “The stories that surround this sledge flag make it come alive.

“Captain Kellett commanded HMS Resolute, one of many ships which, over at least three centuries, had sought to fulfil a British maritime obsession – finding the North West Passage.

“The flag and the ship were also linked to the constant late 19th century search for Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition. Like his ships, crushed by the ice, Resolute had to be abandoned but was recovered and restored by the US Government and presented to Queen Victoria.

“She then ordered the crafting from its oak timbers an ornate desk which she presented to the President of the United States.

“This sledge flag, of unique design, is redolent with our history and should live here.

A temporary export ban has been placed on the manuscript and flag to allow time for a UK gallery or institution to acquire them for their collection.

The decision on the export licence applications will be deferred until December 1 for both items.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox