History Today at Hatchards

Charles I's Sunken Treasure

Helen Davidson on a new search into recovering Charles I's treasure boat.

More than 400 years ago a ferry carrying the personal effects of Charles I and his court sank in a sudden storm off the coast of Scotland. Now a team of Scottish and American divers is collaborating in an attempt to locate the vessel, and bring its priceless contents back to the surface.

Howard Murray, the eminent archaeologist who worked on the raising of the Mary Rose, has discovered that on hoard the ferry, called The Blessing of Burntisland, was a silver dinner service estimated to be worth £7, million and used by a long line of English kings. Precious gold plate, rare textiles and fabulous jewel caskets are also believed to have formed part of the cargo. Since all the artefacts were securely packed in large trunks, there is a strong chance that they will have survived the salty waters of the Firth of Forth intact.

At the Victoria and Albert Museum, Philippa Glanville, curator of metalwork, silver and jewellry, is watching the team's progress closely. 'If this treasure is found, it will be without parallel in terms of discovery of a very obscure period of English decorative art', she said. 'We know very little of the court art of Charles I. This could be a capsule of the most refined decorative art of a period that was noted for its taste'.

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