A temporary export ban has been placed on a manuscript which was gifted by a 16th century Archbishop of Canterbury to Queen Elizabeth the First.
The historically rich manuscript is made up of nine roundels and forms a fragment of a gift from Most Rev Matthew Parker to Elizabeth I in the 1550s. The roundels were likely folded and integrated into a now-lost gold salt cellar.
The use of shell gold around the miniatures suggests that the manuscript was gifted with the intention of impressing the Queen.
The government fears the document is at risk of leaving the country unless a UK buyer is found.
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."
The decision to implement an export ban follows advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. The Committee agreed that the manuscript had enormous research value, specifically regarding Archbishop Matthew Parker's relationship to Queen Elizabeth I and material gift culture.
The literary allusions on the roundels further suggest Matthew Parker's engagement with classical humanist culture that was not typically associated with the clergy and would lead to illuminating further study.
Committee Member Peter Barber said:
"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."
The Committee made its recommendation on the grounds that the departure of the manuscript from the UK would be a misfortune owing to its outstanding significance to the study of Matthew Parker and gift-giving culture in the Elizabethan period.
It's hoped the temporary export ban will allow time for a gallery or other public institution to acquire the manuscript, which is believed to be valued at around £10,000.
Archbishop Parker was born in 1504 and served as Archbishop of Canterbury between 1559 until his death in 1575 at the age of 71. He presided over the Elizabethan religious settlement in which the Church of England maintained a distinct identity apart from Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
Elizabeth 1 reigned as Queen between 1558 until her death in 1603.