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‘The Crown’ exhibition opens in College Archive Centre

Royal documents dating from Richard the Lionheart to Queen Victoria are on display at St John's.

Great Seals of more than 20 monarchs, royal charters, and signatures from Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth I are on display together at St John’s College for the first time in a free new exhibition focusing on the Crown.

Confirmation to John de Ospringe of a grant, Richard I while on crusade at Acre and witnessed at Joppa, 1192
Confirmation to John de Ospringe of a grant, Richard I while on crusade at Acre and witnessed at Joppa, 1192

The Crown: Royal documents at St John’s College from Richard the Lionheart to Queen Victoria showcases documents dating from the 11th century to the 19th century. The exhibition is on display in the Archive Centre, the School of Pythagoras.

The documents in the exhibition represent a range of subjects covered by the royal court, including grants of fairs, confirmations of previous documents, royal commandments, letters of protection and licences. Many of the documents on display still have their wax seal attached by silk cords; the seals were a guarantee of the issuer and identification, and all official documents during this period would carry an impression of a wax seal to authenticate them.

Grant confirming the liberties and licences of Ospringe Hospital, Henry III, 1246
Grant confirming the liberties and licences of Ospringe Hospital, Henry III, 1246

Amongst the documents on display is a confirmation from Richard I – Richard the Lionheart – to John de Ospringe of a grant while on crusade at Acre; this document dates back to 1192. A pardon from Richard III to St John’s Hospital in 1484 can also be viewed, and comes with his royal seal.

Pardon, Richard III to St John’s Hospital, 1484
Pardon, Richard III to St John’s Hospital, 1484

Visitors can also see a signature from Elizabeth I on a signet letter, and a royal command in 1545 for a visit from the Master of St John’s, John Taylor. Elizabeth, a Princess at the time, was no older than 12 years old when issuing the command.

Other exhibition highlights include the signature of Oliver Cromwell endorsing a petition from Richard Jason of Sedbergh School in 1685, and a colourful confirmation of the Hospital of Ospringe’s traditional liberties from Henry VIII in 1515.

Elizabeth signet letter
 Signet letter, Elizabeth I

The Crown: Royal documents at St John’s College from Richard the Lionheart to Queen Victoria is free to enter and is open to everyone from 1 August until 20 December on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 3.45pm, or by appointment by contacting the Archivist on 01223 338631.

Published: 01/08/18

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