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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 18:21 GMT
Hewitt letters interest British Library
James Hewitt talks to Larry King on CNN
Mr Hewitt defended his right to sell the letters
The British Library has said it would be prepared to buy James Hewitt's love letters written by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Dr Christopher Wright, head of manuscripts at the library, told BBC News Online a quoted asking price of 10m was way too high.

But the library would be prepared to pay a smaller sum for the 64 hand-written notes - if the contents are worth it.

Mr Wright was responding to an interview of Mr Hewitt on American television, when he said he would part with the letters for the right price.

I have no knowledge of their contents but would treat any approach very seriously and would be interested

Dr Christopher Wright
British Library
Diana's former lover described them as important historical documents that should be preserved for the future.

Having already resisted an offer of 4m, he has defended his right to bargain a price.

The British Library has an acquisitions fund to buy items, with the financial help of other public bodies.

But the size of an offer would depend on what the letters contain.

Princess Diana
Diana wrote the letters between 1989 and 1991
The library's most expensive purchase in recent years was the 15m Sherborne Missal in 1998, which required fund-raising of 1.3m from the library.

Dr Wright told BBC News Online: "I have no knowledge of their contents but would treat any approach very seriously and would be interested."

He said the letters would be in illustrious company among a collection which includes Elizabeth I's letters to her "favourite", the Earl of Essex.

'No shame'

He added: "I've seen a figure of 10m banded about and there's no way either the British Library or any scholarly institution in this country could raise any sum like that.

"But maybe if a rich benefactor were to buy them and present them to the library's national collection."

Mr Hewitt told American audiences it was important to preserve Diana's memory.

British Library in London
The British Library has a huge collection of royal manuscripts
And he denied that he had betrayed the princess and that he was "utterly faithful" to her when she was alive.

"There's nothing to be ashamed about in the letters," he said.

"I'm not being hypocritical about this, I'm being honest."

But the Duchess of York criticised his behaviour as "betrayal".

See also:

21 Oct 02 | England
12 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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