This treasure is a Charter (D3397/1) granted by Queen Elizabeth I, which founded the Free Grammar School in Ashbourne, dating from 17 July 1585.
Following a petition by leading inhabitants of Ashbourne and neighbouring area to Queen Elizabeth I, this charter was issued to found a free grammar school on land granted by the Queen. It ordained that the offices of schoolmaster and under-master be established, that there be a governing body of 3 governors and 12 assistants (with provision for the filling of vacancies), that the governing body make statutes and ordnances, and that it has the use of common seal.
There are 3 parchments, in Latin, with the Great Seal (partly damaged) attached. The charter has borders and initial letters decorated with painted figures and motifs, consisting of crowns, Tudor roses, royal coat-of-arms supported by a lion and dragon, a harp, a crowned eagle on a tree trunk holding a sceptre, and clouds with rays of the sun coming down. The initial ‘E’ is decorated with a particularly fine miniature painting of Queen Elizabeth on her throne, with the letter ‘E’ incorporating and being surrounded by allegorical figures, exotic birds, animals and fruits (including a robin, dragonfly and snake)
This stunning Elizabethan charter is a firm favourite with many of our staff. The exquisite detail and beautiful colours in the decorative borders and illuminated initials, make this document very special, as it brings a rare example of royal grandeur to our collections.
The charter has been nominated by Paul, who remarks: “I am always particularly impressed by how vivid the gold colouring has remained after so many centuries”.