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Letter: Valerie Eliot and the Becket Casket


I would like to record another instance of the great generosity of Valerie Eliot.

In 1997 the National Art Collections Fund (of which I was then director) launched a last-ditch campaign to secure for the Victoria and Albert Museum the magnificent 12th-century reliquary, now known as the Becket Casket, which depicts the martyrdom of the saint.

My wife, who had just taken our young daughter to see Cats (for the fourth time), remembered TS Eliot's play about Becket, Murder in the Cathedral, and told me I should contact Valerie to see if she might help.

I telephoned Matthew Evans, then chairman of Faber and Faber, who immediately said: "We've been expecting your call. Send me a fax now." Within an hour, Valerie had promised £50,000 towards the campaign which, after various twists and turns, was eventually successful.

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