Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the suite of jewellery following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), on the grounds that is was of outstanding significance for the study of the history of jewellery in the early 19th century.
The jewellery suite is comprised of a necklace with pendant cross, a pair of bracelets and a brooch all of which have open-backed settings. They were bought by the Prince Regent as a gift to Miss Cotes to be worn at the wedding of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. The marriage was the culmination of a difficult and often painful childhood and adolescence for Princess Charlotte. In 1814 she had rejected Prince William of Orange as a suitor, fled during the night of 11 July to her mother, but capitulated by the morning to her father. Thereafter she was kept under close watch by a resident team of chaperones, including the Dowager Countess of Rosslyn and her two nieces, Charlotte and Lucy Cotes. Prior to her wedding to Prince Leopold (after which the “surveillance team” were released from their duties), the Prince Regent instructed his sister, Princess Elizabeth, to send the jewels to “Miss Cotes” (exactly which one of the Cotes sisters was the recipient is unclear). The jewels were accompanied by a handwritten note from Princess Elizabeth, and the note has been kept together with the jewels to this day. An invoice for the suite, from the jewellers Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, made out to the Prince Regent, is in the Royal Archives.
The set is an extraordinarily rare survival from the period, as most sets dating from this era have been dispersed amongst successive generations over time. The suite, still in its original case with the note from Princess Elizabeth, would be a key work of reference for the study of early 19th century jewellery in Britain. It is outstanding as a set of documented coloured-stone jewellery, as an example of the open-set work of the pre-eminent jeweller of the age, and as a commission from the Prince Regent for the wedding of Princess Charlotte.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This stunning set of jewellery, along with its documents, association with the Royal wedding and its renowned maker, is of great importance for the study of the history of jewellery, and I hope a UK buyer comes forward to secure it for the nation.”
Chairman of the RCEWA Lord Inglewood said: “High quality jewellery of this age with a provenance as historic and rare as this is a very remarkable survival. It is equally an important example of late Georgian aristocratic taste which is perhaps considerably less 'bling' than its contemporary equivalent might be.”
The decision on the export licence application for the suite of jewellery will be deferred for a period ending on 1 July 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 1 October 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the jewellery at the recommended price of £150,000 (plus VAT which can be reclaimed by most institutions).
Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Mr Vaizey. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to a public institution wishing to acquire the item.
Notes to editors
1. Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the suite of jewellery should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.
2. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria.
3. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. Between 2010 and 2015, it will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk