Dispute over Joan of Arc's ring
A ring belonging to Joan of Arc was purchased from a London auction house last month by French theme park Puy du Fou. Now it seems it could have been taken out of the country without an export licence, and the British authorities could demand its return.
Joan of Arc is believed to have been a peasant girl from Domrémy in north-east France who experienced visions of angels and saints instructing her to support the beleaguered Charles VII during the Hundred Years War. The uncrowned Charles VII sent her to help relieve the besieged Orléans, which was rescued just nine days later. A string of other victories followed and Charles was crowned at Reims on 17th July 1429. Joan's luck didn't last, and she was captured in May 1430 at Compiègne by the Burgundian allies of the English. She was tried for a number of crimes including sorcery, witchcraft, heresyA belief or opinion that goes against the official Church doctrine., and cross-dressing, and was burned at the stake on 30th May 1431. 25 years later, Pope Callixtus III debunked the charges against her and declared her a martyr. Napoleon later named her a national symbol of France and she was eventually canonisedMade into a saint. in 1920.
The ring was made in France in around 1400, and was gifted to Joan by her parents as a gift for her first communion. When she was captured, the ring was taken from her as war bootyValuable stolen goods, especially those seized in war. and went across the Channel. It was acquired by Cardinal Henry Beaufort before descending through Dukes of Portland until it was gifted away from the line in 1914. Eventually owned by Cyril Bunt, the librarian at the Victoria and Albert Museum, it was sold by his son Robert to Puy du Fou theme park at TimeLine Auctions for £297,600 (with the buyer’s premium). Puy du Fou said 'this symbolic ring has returned to its homeland' and right-wing political parties have also welcomed its return.
As Joan of Arc's ring has been in the country for over 50 years, is considered significant to British history, and is worth over £39,219, it requires a special antique export licence, which usually takes at least 28 working days to acquire. As the auction happened on 26th February 2016 and the ring is believed already to be in France, there are claims that it has been exported illegally. This could lead to UK authorities demanding its return, before further assessment could take place.
TimeLine Auctions have issued a statement that 'We handed over the ring to the buyer’s solicitors in London on 3 March. We also gave them a letter, which they signed for, advising them that the ring would need a UK export licence.' Puy du Fou's London solicitors have so far not commented.
Read more about the dispute over Joan of Arc's ring here.