By MARIANA ZEPEDA ’14
Maybe Kelly Clarkson and I have a lot in common. Maybe she too sighed over the pages of “Pride and Prejudice” when she was in high school, identifying with Elizabeth Bennet’s frustrations with vacuous people and provincial life. (Perhaps “Pride and Prejudice” is the impetus behind “Breakway.”) Maybe the bookshelves in her Nashville home are lined with different editions of each Jane Austen novel, some containing copious class notes and others dog-eared on pages containing passages she loves. Maybe she even owns a Jane-a-Day diary from Paper Source where she records the highlights of her days (I don’t; I’ve only heard of these through a friend). Maybe that’s why the singer decided to shell out the big bucks earlier this year at a Sotheby’s auction to purchase a turquoise and gold ring that belonged to the writer, outbidding Jane Austen’s House Museum.
But this story did not have a happy ending (though it seems wedding bells are in Clarkson’s future). Clarkson’s winning bid on the ring sparked uproar throughout England. According to the Daily Mail, the ring has been in Austen’s family for over 200 years, and is one of three remaining items of Austen’s jewelry collection. Jane Austen’s House Museum owns the other two pieces of jewelry, a topaz cross and a simple turquoise bracelet. After Austen’s death, the ring became the property of her sister Cassandra, and it was passed on through members of her family.
The news that the former “American Idol” winner would be uprooting this historical gem and taking it to another continent enraged Austen fans. Many argued that the ring was a British national treasure and should not be housed in a private residence, but rather somewhere where it would be accessible to the public.
Egged on by the fury of the Austenites, the British government took a stand. In order to give the museum time to raise money and purchase the ring, the United Kingdom’s culture minister placed the ring on export hold, preventing Clarkson from leaving the country with the crown jewel of her collection.
The museum launched a “Save the Ring “campaign in August. They quickly received a flurry of donations from Austen fans from all over the world. By September, the museum had reached its target—and Clarkson was left singing (OK, maybe not out loud) “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Actually, according to museum representatives, Clarkson behaved quite graciously. Still, I wonder what she must have felt at having a ring that should have been on her finger just slip through her fingers. I wonder if she even got to wear it.
Her consolation prize? Museum assistant Isabel Snowden reassured the public that no hard feelings remain between the country singer and the house-turned-museum where Austen spent the last years of her life. She even added that the museum would be “delighted to have her,” if Clarkson decides to pay the ring a visit. The ring will be on display at the museum in Chawton starting February 2014.
But Clarkson might just choose to “walk away” from this misunderstanding of Darcy-Elizabeth proportions (with her mother and her brother and every other undercover telling her what to say). Her fiance has, allegedly, already made her a replica of the ring. It seems she’s “already gone.”