Jane Austen museum battles US singer to hold onto ring




A Jane Austen museum has launched an appeal to raise £152,450 (€114,570) to keep a ring once owned by the famous author in Britain after it was bought by a US popstar.

Singer Kelly Clarkson acquired the turquoise and gold ring at auction at Sotheby’s in London last year, but culture minister Ed Vaizey put an export ban on it until Sept 30 to allow someone in Britain “to show a serious expression of interest to buy the ring”.

This expression has now been lodged by the museum based in Austen’s home in Chawton, Hampshire, and the appeal has received a £100,000 anonymous donation.

Fundraiser and former museum curator Louise West said: “We are very confident we can match this price.”

The museum was unable to raise enough cash at the time of the original sale, but hopes to get enough funds in place by December.

It has also invited Ms Clarkson to the museum, where Austen wrote and revised her six completed novels, to see that it would make a good home for it. So far the singer has not replied.

Ms West said the situation with the star was unfortunate.

“Kelly Clarkson should have been informed that this export ban was likely to happen. This is nothing against her at all, it could be anyone, and it does happen all the time, but we know that it is shame for her.

“But the ring should stay in this country because there is so little of Austen’s personal effects left anywhere at all and it would be great to bring it back to the house where she probably wore it and on the bicentennial year of the publishing of Pride And Prejudice.”

The museum already displays two other pieces of jewellery owned by the writer — a turquoise bracelet and a topaz cross.

Until it was sold, the ring remained in the Austen family since the world famous author’s death in Winchester in 1817 from an unknown illness.

It passed first to her sister Cassandra, who then gave it to her sister-in-law Eleanor Austen on her engagement to Jane and Cassandra’s brother, the Reverend Henry Thomas Austen.

Austen is shortly to be on the new £10 banknote following a campaign to have a woman on the currency.

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