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Not currently on display at the V&A

Ring

ca. 1740 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The ‘Old Pretender’ or ‘Old Chevalier’, James Francis Stuart (1688-1766) whose portrait is set in this ring, was the son of King James II of England. James supported the Catholic faith rather than the Protestantism of the Church of England and was therefore exiled in favour of his eldest daughter Mary II and her husband William of Orange by the Revolution of 1688 .Queen Mary of Modena and the young prince James went into exile in France soon after his birth and remained there until the death of King James II in 1701. Although he was attainted for treason and stripped of his titles in 1702, Prince James was recognised as James III by the Catholic powers of Europe and made several attempts to regain the English throne.The Old Pretender, King James VIII of Scotland and III of England to his loyal Jacobites, died in Rome on New Year’s day 1766. He was buried in the crypt at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Rings set with his image and those of his Stuart ancestors were worn by his supporters and those of his son Charles, popularly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The image on this ring may be based on a 1712 portrait by Alexis Simon Belle, in which James is shown wearing the blue sash of the Order of the Garter, worn by the exiled Stuarts as a sign of their legitimacy. James Francis had been invested with the Garter by his father James II in 1692 at the age of four, prior to an unsuccessful attempt to invade England. Medals, jewels and small images circulated amongst Jacobite supporters and were a key way to keep up interest in the cause and for supporters to identify themselves. The contemporary spy 'Pickle' described the arrival of an Irish priest in 1750 who had carried from Paris to London 'a quantity of coloured Glass Seals with the Pretender's Son's Effigy, as also small heads made of silver gilt about this bigness, to be set in rings, as also points for watch cases, with the same head, and this motto round "Look, love and follow" '.

Images of the exiled king and his family were a key part of Jacobite material culture. Circulating and wearing the images of the Stuarts reinforced the notion that this was the legitimate royal family, temporarily in abeyance, but poised to return and take back the throne.

The V&A bought this ring for £3 3s in 1899. A letter from the vendor Mrs Georgina Stilwell records that 'Dr Cowan of Bath is staying with us now and says the rings belonged to his Great Grandfather, Mr Cowan, who was M.P. for Donegal & handed down to his Grandfather, the Rector of Strabane in Ireland.'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold set with a crystal enclosing a miniature on vellum
Brief Description
Gold ring, the oval bezel set with a crystal enclosing a miniature on vellum of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, with openwork shoulders, possibly England, about 1740
Physical Description
Gold ring, the oval bezel set with a crystal enclosing a miniature on vellum of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, with openwork shoulders
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.1cm
  • Width: 2.1cm
  • Depth: 0.9cm
Object history
Several rings with images of the Old Pretender are in the British Museum (Dalton, O.M., Catalogue of the Finger Rings, Early Christian, Byzantine, Teutonic, Medieval and Later in the British Museum, London, 1912, cat. 1373 to 1375).



Originally purchased from Mrs G.E. Stilwell, Yateley, Hants. on RF 80250/1899. A letter from Mrs Stilwell dated 1899 suggests that the ring previously belonged to Mr Cowan, MP for Donegal and subsequently to his son, the Rector of Strabane in Ireland.
Subjects depicted
Summary
The ‘Old Pretender’ or ‘Old Chevalier’, James Francis Stuart (1688-1766) whose portrait is set in this ring, was the son of King James II of England. James supported the Catholic faith rather than the Protestantism of the Church of England and was therefore exiled in favour of his eldest daughter Mary II and her husband William of Orange by the Revolution of 1688 .Queen Mary of Modena and the young prince James went into exile in France soon after his birth and remained there until the death of King James II in 1701. Although he was attainted for treason and stripped of his titles in 1702, Prince James was recognised as James III by the Catholic powers of Europe and made several attempts to regain the English throne.The Old Pretender, King James VIII of Scotland and III of England to his loyal Jacobites, died in Rome on New Year’s day 1766. He was buried in the crypt at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Rings set with his image and those of his Stuart ancestors were worn by his supporters and those of his son Charles, popularly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.



The image on this ring may be based on a 1712 portrait by Alexis Simon Belle, in which James is shown wearing the blue sash of the Order of the Garter, worn by the exiled Stuarts as a sign of their legitimacy. James Francis had been invested with the Garter by his father James II in 1692 at the age of four, prior to an unsuccessful attempt to invade England. Medals, jewels and small images circulated amongst Jacobite supporters and were a key way to keep up interest in the cause and for supporters to identify themselves. The contemporary spy 'Pickle' described the arrival of an Irish priest in 1750 who had carried from Paris to London 'a quantity of coloured Glass Seals with the Pretender's Son's Effigy, as also small heads made of silver gilt about this bigness, to be set in rings, as also points for watch cases, with the same head, and this motto round "Look, love and follow" '.



Images of the exiled king and his family were a key part of Jacobite material culture. Circulating and wearing the images of the Stuarts reinforced the notion that this was the legitimate royal family, temporarily in abeyance, but poised to return and take back the throne.



The V&A bought this ring for £3 3s in 1899. A letter from the vendor Mrs Georgina Stilwell records that 'Dr Cowan of Bath is staying with us now and says the rings belonged to his Great Grandfather, Mr Cowan, who was M.P. for Donegal & handed down to his Grandfather, the Rector of Strabane in Ireland.'

Bibliographic References
  • Oman, C.C., Catalogue of Rings (London, 1930), p.119, no.789
  • Oman, Charles, British Rings: 800-1914 (London, 1974), cat.83 B
  • Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue (London, 1982), p.215 (34 E 14)
  • Guthrie, Neil 'The material culture of the Jacobites' (Cambridge University Press, 2013)
Collection
Accession Number
6-1899

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record createdJuly 17, 2006
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