Chasing the Jacobite Dream
This exhibition was due to take place from 31 March - 14 June 2020 but has been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are looking to reschedule it and will let you know the new dates as soon as we can.
This major exhibition reveals The Hunterian's extensive collection of Jacobite medals associated with Charles Edward Stuart, the 1745 Rising and the Battle of Culloden. Alongside the historical medals are new modern art medals inspired by our Jacobite collection and created by the HND 2 Jewellery students from City of Glasgow College.
Jacobus is Latin for James. Jacobites were those who believed James II and VII (r.1685 – 1688) and his exiled Stuart heirs to be the rightful claimants to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. The men and women who rallied to the cause did so for many reasons, often transcending nationalities, politics, religion and social standing.
Medals became powerful objects in a long propaganda war. The British crown used issues to assert royal authority and humiliate their enemies. For Jacobites, medals were emotive symbols of loyalty and dynamic reminders to the faithful to chase the dream of a Stuart restoration.
Pictured: Oak Society Medal, silver, 1750, England, Thomas Pingo, GLAHM:38779, Hunter.
A Glorious Revolution?
James II (of England and Ireland) and VII (of Scotland) ascended the throne in 1685 upon the death of his elder brother, Charles II. Although his Catholicism was initially tolerated, James’ choice of faith, a raft of controversial decisions and ultimately the birth of a son and heir, eventually proved his undoing. In 1688, a group of English nobles contacted William, Prince of Orange, to ask for Dutch aid in preventing a Catholic succession. William obliged, landing an army at Torbay and marching on London. James and his family fled to France. These events came to be known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’.
Pictured: James II Escapes to France, silver, 1689, Netherlands, Jan Smeltzing, GLAHM:38351, Hunter.
King Over the Water
Ensconced in the chateau of St Germain-en-Laye outside Paris, the Jacobite court could only watch from afar as William and Mary were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 11 April 1689. After his father’s death in 1701, Prince James was recognised by France, Spain and the Papal States as James III of England and Ireland and James VIII of Scotland. Taking on the mantle of Stuart restoration and as ‘King Over the Water’, he was unable to influence the 1707 Act of Union that created Great Britain and presided over a series of failed Jacobite risings in 1708, 1715 and 1719.
Pictured: Attempted Invasion of Scotland, silver, 1708, France, Norbert Roettier, GLAHM:18998, purchase 1991.
By the time Charles Edward Stuart was born in Rome on 31 December 1720, medals had long been important tools in the Jacobite arsenal against successive British monarchs. Able to be produced quickly to respond to events, struck in their thousands, easily transportable and transferable, they were covert, hand-held weapons of subversion and propaganda. The birth of the ‘Young Pretender’, son of James III and Princess Clementina, was greeted with joy by supporters and celebrated in medallic form. The Jacobite cause, badly damaged by recent failings, was reinvigorated by this new heir to the Stuart dynasty.
Pictured: Birth of Prince Charles, silver, 1720, Italy, Ottone Hamerani, GLAHM:40242, McFarlan.
The ’45 Rising
When two huge storms destroyed a planned French cross-channel invasion of England in February 1744, it seemed that Stuart hopes had been dashed once more. As Prince Regent, Charles was to have sailed with the fleet as its Jacobite figurehead. Despite this setback, the Young Pretender borrowed money, secured weapons and seized an opportunity to sail for Scotland. On 23 July 1745, he landed on the Hebridean island of Eriskay. Gathering supporters, the Stuart standard was raised at Glenfinnan on 19 August. Bonnie Prince Charlie claimed the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland for his father, James III. The rising had begun.
Pictured: Edinburgh Occupied by Prince Charles, bronze, 1745, Scotland, unknown medallist, GLAHM:40264, McFarlan.
Battle of Culloden
16 April 1746 was a day of bloody disaster for Prince Charles. No Jacobite medals were struck to remember the slaughter at Culloden, the last battle ever fought on the mainland of Britain. Conversely, a great many Hanoverian medals were issued to celebrate the British Army’s victory, praising the valour and leadership of the Duke of Cumberland. Although Culloden did not sound the final death-knell of the Jacobite cause, defeat was a grievous blow. Never again was such a serious domestic threat roused against a reigning British monarch. With followers scattered and Hanoverian military dominance in Scotland ensured, the Jacobite dream had been irreparably shattered.
Pictured: Battle of Culloden, bronze, 1746, England, John Kirk, GLAHM:38766, Hunter.
After Culloden, Charles embarked on an epic escape across the Highlands and Islands, before finally reaching France in September 1746. The Young Pretender was greeted as a returning hero. Those left behind in Scotland faced the wrath of an occupying British Army. Thousands of Jacobites were arrested. Over 100 were hung. Hundreds more were forcibly drafted into military service or deported overseas as indentured servants. Scotland was forever changed by the dismantling of traditional clan culture and the imposition of British laws. Over the following decades, the Jacobite flame that had burned so brightly during the ’45 stuttered into the dying embers of a lost cause.
Pictured: Expected Arrival?, silver, 1748, France, Norbert Roettier, GLAHM:40257, McFarlan.
For over seven decades, Jacobite medals were incendiary objects designed to illicit emotive responses through overt imagery. Charles in particular recognised their power and actively exploited core messages through his issues. Audiences engaging with these objects spilled over from supporters of the Stuarts to collectors. Despite medals being manifestly treasonous, Jacobite specimens were actively sought and even struck in Britain. Medals had evolved into affordable material culture coveted by a burgeoning middle class, meant to be shared and admired in private or during social occasions. Through the numismatic marking of memory, the emergence of a romantic Jacobite myth began to take shape.
Pictured: Death of Charles III, silver, 1788, Italy, G Hamerani, GLAHM:40319, McFarlan.
City of Glasgow College
Charles Edward Stuart has been repackaged for a modern age of mass tourism, blockbuster fiction and box sets to watch on any device. What do Bonnie Prince Charlie and the ’45 Rising mean, if anything, to a modern generation in Scotland? Does the Young Pretender have any relevance in the present political and social climates, or is he now better-known for being a character on Outlander?
Inspired by these questions, HND 2 Jewellery students from City of Glasgow College were tasked with re-interpreting The Hunterian’s Jacobite medal collection. Exploring themes such as identity, conflict and symbolism, their modern art medals are striking reflections on an extraordinary period of history that still captures popular imagination around the world.
Hunterian Insight Talks
Chasing the Jacobite Dream: Medals and Memory
14 April 2020
Jesper Ericsson, Curator of Numismatics, The Hunterian
- Staff of The Hunterian, in particular Harriet Gaston and Chris MacClure
- Lisa McGovern, Curriculum Head of Craft and Design, City of Glasgow College
- Sam Dyer and India Fullarton, University of Glasgow Photographic Unit
- HND 2 Jewellery students, City of Glasgow College
- Professor Murray Pittock
- Cameron Maclean