Holkham's American connection revealed

They carried the ideas that would one day shape the American constitution.Treasured documents from the 15th and 17th century will leave Holkham Hall, near Wells, next week on a journey to Jamestown in the United States to help mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first British colony in America.

They carried the ideas that would one day shape the American constitution.

Treasured documents from the 15th and 17th century will leave Holkham Hall, near Wells, next week on a journey to Jamestown in the United States to help mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first British colony in America.

Yesterday , the documents went on show in the hall's statue gallery before they are flown under high security across the Atlantic and ahead of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's visit to Jamestown in May.

The first of the documents is 42-foot long scroll containing a catalogue of the library of Sir Edward Coke, an eminent legal figure of the late 16th and early 17th century, who served as attorney general to Elizabeth I and was chief prosecutor of Sir Walter Raleigh and later, under the reign of James 1, prosecutor of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators.

The second item is William Strachey's Lawes Divine Morall and Martial for the Colony in Virginia Britiannia printed in London in 1612 and still in its original binding of limp vellum.

There is a copy of Magna Carta made in England in the first half of the 15th century - a text Sir Edward considered to be the bedrock of liberty.

Most Read

The fourth is a presentation copy of Francis Bacon's Instauratio magna printed in London in 1620.

Coke's notes on the title page show the political and personal gulf between the two men, who were rivals for the highest ranking judicial posts in England under both Elizabeth and James.

Mike Daley, administrator of the hall, said Sir Edward's interpretation and reworking of the Magna Carta formed the basis of American common law that underpins the modern day justice system.

Manuscript curator Dr Suzanne Reynolds described the collection of books and documents as being “exceptionally important”.

They will go on show at the Jamestown Settlement museum in Williamsburg, Virginia, from April 27 and be on show for a year and the exhibits places America's first English colony in a global context.

“The William Strachey printed book of 1630 is the first attempt that the New Colony in America made of drawing up a system of government so it's a very important witness to that,” said Ms Reynolds.

“The other artefacts are of importance in relation to Sir Edward Coke himself and his standing as one of the important and leading lawyers of the time. He was so important in formulating legal ideas that they eventually became part of the American Bill of Rights.”

Lord and Lady Leicester are due to visit Norfolk in Virginia to share in the celebrations during May and Lord Leicester's son, Viscount Coke is due to visit the exhibition early next year.