It weighs in at 2.5 kilos, has 81 wax seals dangling from it and at €50,000 (£43,000) costs more than the average piece of ­Vatican merchandising.

But the perfect replica of the letter sent by British nobles to Pope Clement VII in 1530 demanding a divorce for Henry VIII was hailed by historians as crucial to understanding why England is a Protestant country when it was unveiled in Rome today.

"To understand England we need to have this document in mind," said the historian David Starkey, who was present at the launch in Rome.

After languishing lost in a drawer at the Vatican's secret archive until the 1920s, the letter has been painstakingly reproduced by an Italian firm, which plans to turn out 200 copies at a rate of three a month for libraries and collectors.

Source & Full Story