Above: the Proctor ewer and basin – an Elizabeth I silver-gilt ewer and basin, London, 1592. They will end up at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

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In a private treaty sale negotiated by Sotheby's the collection was secured for the nation for a net price of £1.7m. The Art Fund awarded a major grant of £404,445 with the NHMF making a decisive contribution of £850,000.

The deal came about thanks to a unique consortium of nine museums, including the Ashmolean in Oxford and the V&A in London, who joined forces to take advantage of a tax remission that allowed them to buy the collection effectively at less than half price.

The exhibition will travel around the museums involved in the deal later this year.

The collection comprises 11 pieces of early English silver from the collection of Sir Ernest Cassel, a friend and personal financial adviser to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

As an art collector, Windsor Cassel, as he was known in high society, was one of the great plutocrats of Edwardian England. In contrast to other great collectors like Julius Wernher, the Rothschilds and the Schröders - whose tastes in silver were more international - Cassel concentrated on early English silver. On his death in 1921, much of his collection went to his granddaughter, Edwina Ashley, later Countess Mountbatten (1901-1960), and passed down through the family.

The unique silver collection includes the Elizabethan Proctor ewer and basin, from 1592 - valued alone at over £2m.

Long term, the collection will be divided among the participating museums as follows:

• A Henry VII silver-gilt beaker, London, 1496: The V&A, London

• An Elizabeth I parcel-gilt capstan salt, London, 1580: The Geffrye Museum, London.

• The Proctor ewer and basin - an Elizabeth I silver-gilt ewer and basin, London, 1592:
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

• An Elizabeth I silver-gilt bell salt, London, 1597: The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

• A James I silver-gilt steeple cup and cover, London, 1607: Temple Newsam House, Leeds.

• A Charles I standing cup, London, 1641: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

• The Fauconberg Porringer - a Commonwealth silver-gilt porringer and cover, London, 1652: The Museum of London.

• A Charles II silver ginger jar, London, 1674, by Jacob Bodendick: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

• A William III silver-gilt tankard, London, 1698, by Daniel Garnier, engraved with the arms of Harley: National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff.

• Viscountess Palmerston's chocolate cups - a pair of gold chocolate cups, maker's mark only of John Chartier, c.1700: The British Museum, London.

• A George II silver-gilt cup and cover, London, 1733, by Paul Crespin: The National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff.