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Rare jewellery saved for the nation by the V&A to go on display following successful export bar

  • Date: 10 July 2013
  • Area: National
Handwritten note and Peridot gems

(left) Handwritten note from Princess Elizabeth to Miss Cotes, 30 April, 1816, (right) Peridot gems given to Miss Cotes from Prince Regent, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, 1816. . Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) has raised funds to save a rare set of peridot gems from leaving the country. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey temporarily deferred the export license of the jewels following a recommendation from the Reviewing Committee, which is administered by the Arts Council. This allowed funds to be raised to keep them in the UK, along with a letter from Princess Elizabeth. 

The export bar was issued in May, after the Reviewing Committee found the jewels to be of outstanding significance for the study of the history of jewellery in the early 19th century. After raising the necessary funds of £150,000, from private donors, the deferral was lifted on 1 July, and the V&A has now ensured that these important pieces of British history will remain in the country and on public display for all to enjoy.

Jewels ‘a reward’ for chaperoning spirited Princess

The jewellery suite was 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 childhood and adolescence for Princess Charlotte. After rejecting a previous suitor and attempting to run away, 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, until she was married to Prince Leopold.

Prior to the wedding, the Prince Regent instructed his sister, Princess Elizabeth, to send the jewels to “Miss Cotes” to wear at the wedding, although it is unclear which of the sisters the gift was intended. The jewels were accompanied by a handwritten note from Princess Elizabeth, which has been kept with the jewels to this day. 

Export controls and other cultural property work 

The Reviewing Committee is administered by the Arts Council and is an independent body. It meets once a month to advise the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object intended for export is of national importance under specified criteria.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair, Arts Council England said: ‘Well done the Victoria and Albert Museum in raising the necessary funds to keep this fantastic part of British history on our shores. The fact the V&A has managed to raise £150,000 in just two months stands testament to the power of philanthropy and to the generosity of those who donated to the cause.

‘The story behind the jewels – the chaperoning of a somewhat wild princess is fascinating. Now they will be on public display that story becomes all the more real for the people who’ll be going to see the gems, and of course, Princess Elizabeth’s letter. The work done by the Reviewing Committee, advising the Culture Minister, is once again shown to be very important.’

Find out more about the Reviewing Committee and our other cultural property initiatives.