Earliest surviving heraldic roll blocked from leaving England

Margaret Hodge, UK Culture Minister, has put an export block on the Dering Roll, a beautifully illuminated roll of arms from the 13th century. Sotheby’s is looking to sell it out of country, apparently, although I can’t find out the details of the sale other than it was part of a lot listed for sale on December 4.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the roll is of outstanding significance for the study of early English heraldry and is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune. The Committee awarded a starred rating to the roll meaning that every possible effort should be made to raise enough money to keep it in the country.

The Dering Roll was produced in England in the last quarter of the 13th century. It is eight and a half feet long and contains the coats of arms of approximately one-quarter of the English baronage of the reign of King Edward I. As the earliest surviving English roll of arms it is a key document of medieval English knighthood. As a statement of the knights who owed feudal service to the constable of Dover Castle, it carries outstanding local as well as national significance.

The cost is $400,000 or so and all offers need to be submitted by April 19 (although there might be an extension until July). For an illuminated roll of such historical importance and such lush design, that seems eminently doable. I’m surprised it hasn’t been snapped up already, possibly by one of the families whose coat of arms are represented.

~ Thanks to John Harrison of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, for the picture. ~


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