A Toast to Exiled Kings
by Inga Walton
A fascinating and unusual exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (International) serves to highlight the extraordinary depth of their magnificent collection of English glass. Curated by Dr. Matthew Martin, NGV Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, Kings Over the Water (until 30 December, 2013) focuses on over 100 vessels from the little-seen and outstanding collection of Jacobite glassware. “Many of these works have been exhibited before, but only selections from the collection have been on view since the four-year redevelopment of the building concluded in 2003. I have been cataloguing the glassware on and off for about three years, and this was the first time they have been looked at closely since the early 1980s”, he says.
With the exception of a couple of items purchased outright by the NGV or acquired through the Felton Bequest, the majority of the vessels come from the internationally renowned glass collection of G. Gordon Russell of Sydney who began acquiring works in the early 1950s with great discernment and care. Russell’s collection numbers some 372 pieces and consists mainly of British drinking glasses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but also includes some noteworthy examples of Dutch and Venetian glass. Russell’s principal agent was Howard Phillips of London, a specialist in English glassware, who sought out items for Russell both from well-known collections and private or family holdings.
Anxious that his incomparable collection should remain in Australia and not be dispersed, Russell had offered it on most generous terms to the NGV, at that time the only public art museum in Australia which had made a serious attempt to collect examples of early glass. Upon learning that the gallery was unlikely to be able to accept Russell’s offer because of a shortage of funds, William and Margaret Morgan created an Endowment in 1968 specifically to acquire the collection in its entirety for Melbourne. The first part was received by the NGV in 1968 and the second instalment in 1973. Through their endowment, the Morgan family continues to add rare and valuable glass treasures to NGV’s holdings that serve to complement the Russell collection. Thanks to their philanthropy, NGV possesses one of the richest and most remarkable collections of early English glass in the world.
In 1688, James II (1633-1701), the last Catholic King of England, Scotland and Ireland, was deposed by parliament in the ‘Glorious Revolution’. He went into exile in France, where he was received by his cousin and ally Louis XIV (‘Le Roi Soleil’). This was the culmination of a disastrous four-year reign which began with the Monmouth Rebellion and its unpopular aftermath, the Bloody Assizes (1685). James’ increasingly belligerent attitude to Presbyterians in Scotland, his policy of allowing Catholics to occupy the highest offices of the Kingdoms, and the Declaration of Indulgence (1687) further polarised support for the monarch. With his authoritarian style and adherence to the theory of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’, James struggled to assert his will against the Parliament. Its members were alarmed at the growth of the absolutist model of monarchy current in other European countries, and opposed to the loss of legal supremacy for the Church of England.
The birth of a long-awaited male heir, James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales (1688-1766), to James’ second wife, the devoutly Catholic Mary of Modena (1658-1718), provoked immediate controversy and (unfounded) rumours that the child was an imposter, or changeling, smuggled into the birthing chamber. Of James II and Mary’s seven children, only two survived childhood, James (afterwards known as ‘The Old Pretender’), and his sister Louisa Maria Teresa, styled as Princess Royal (1692-1712). Up to this point, James II’s pro-Catholic policies had caused less general disquiet since the surviving children from his first marriage, Mary II (1662-94) and Anne (1665-1714), were his legitimate successors and had been brought up Protestant. As the newborn prince supplanted them, he represented the very real prospect of a permanent Catholic dynasty in England, and spurred influential Protestant political figures into action. Via a hand-delivered letter, seven high-ranking signatories (later known as the ‘Immortal Seven’) invited William, Prince of Orange (1650-1702), James II’s nephew, and husband of his eldest daughter Mary, to ‘invade’ England with an army.
Many rallied to William’s cause when he landed 5 November, 1688 and, despite the numerical supremacy of his army and the offer of French troops, James II fled, allegedly throwing the Great Seal of the realm into the Thames. The English Parliament passed a Bill of Rights (1689) denouncing James and confirming the new terms under which William III and Mary II would jointly rule; the Scottish Parliament also declared that James had forfeited the throne. James did not accept his exile quietly and immediately began plotting his return. The historical precedent to which James and his supporters looked for his restoration was quite recent: his brother Charles II (1630-85) had been invited to return from exile to the throne of their father as recently as 1660, after the collapse of Oliver Cromwell’s Interregnum. James started his campaign in Ireland, whose parliament still considered him King, and had issued a bill of attainder against those who had rebelled. James landed there in March, 1689, but was then defeated by William at the Battle of the Boyne (1690). He deserted his loyalists and returned to France, never to return to any of his former kingdoms.
This momentous political and military struggle continued after the death of James II with the Stuart supporters, or Jacobites (from Jacobus, the Latinised form of James), declaring James Francis Edward to be James III. To support the Stuart claim was treasonous, so popular songs and works of art bearing the likenesses, mottos and emblems of the exiled dynasty became a vital weapon in the battle to win the public over to ‘the Cause’. Jacobite material culture, including medals, portraits, ceramics, prints and this beautiful glassware used coded symbols to express loyalty and solidarity. By far the most common symbol was the six-petalled white heraldic rose, an ancient emblem of the Stuarts. The white rose also had connotations of strict legitimacy, and was adopted by James III as his personal badge to refute the rumours surrounding his birth. A bud to the right of the central rose represented the heir-apparent, Prince Charles Edward Stuart. A second rosebud to the left represented Prince Henry Benedict, later Cardinal Duke of York (1725-1807), Charles’ younger brother.
Other popular emblems employed included the thistle, representing the Stuarts’ claim to the Scottish throne; the thistle surmounted by a crown was an ancient badge of Scotland. The Prince of Wales feathers, traditionally granted to the heir to the English throne, were James III’s by right from birth and represented the Stuart heir-apparent’s claim to this title; sometimes a daffodil (the floral symbol of Wales) appears instead. The oak leaf and the acorn held great significance, since the oak was an ancient Stuart badge and an emblem of the Stuart Restoration. Charles II hid in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House, Shropshire, following the Battle of Worcester (1651), the last engagement of the English Civil War. Charles wore oak leaves when he returned to England from exile in France in 1660 to assume the throne. A star, symbolising the ascendency of the Stuart cause; butterflies and moths, which may have represented the ideas of rebirth and regeneration; and occasionally Forget-me-nots were also incorporated. Stuart supporters relied on the ambiguity of these fashionable motifs and decorations to obscure their real intent and purpose.
The Jacobites instituted, amongst other things, the practice of drinking toasts to their beloved King “over the water” using glasses engraved and decorated with these pictorial references. When a toast to the health of the King was offered, a glass of wine would be held above a bowl or glass of water- thus literally toasting the King over the water. Jacobite clubs- small, private gatherings of Stuart sympathizers- were the focal points of Jacobitism in the mid-eighteenth century. Around 120 clubs have been identified during this period, although they varied considerably in the type of membership and the extent of their political activities. A number of Masonic lodges were known to be Jacobite, as were many hunts, particularly if they were maintained by an aristocratic patron sympathetic to ‘the Cause’. Wine glass (c. 1750) commemorates ‘The Friendly Hunt’, a Worcestershire hunting meet probably connected with a Jacobite society in Worcester known as the Friendly Association. A Cordial glass (c. 1775) is inscribed ‘Buxton Hunt’ suggesting similar sympathies on the part of the participants. These organisations are thought to have been responsible for many of the commissions for glasses decorated with Jacobite symbols and mottos.
Earlier vessels incorporated coins associated with former reigning Stuarts in the hollow knop of the stem. Goblet (c. 1715) contains a minted sixpence (1639-41) from the reign of Charles I (1600-49). This would have held particular significance for many Jacobites given Charles’ bitter struggle with parliament led to his execution, and started the cult of the ‘Martyr King’. Since the reign of Elizabeth I, the English monarch has distributed silver coins, known as Maundy money, to the poor on Maundy Thursday. Wine glass (c.1708-15) contains a silver Maundy twopence (1686), and Goblet (c. 1725), a silver Maundy threepence piece (1687). Handled by James II, the coins would have been highly valued by Jacobite sympathisers as a symbol of the monarch’s piety and charity.
Wine glass (c.1715) has a pierced silver threepence (1683) from the reign of Charles II, suggesting that at one time it may have hung from a chain like a talisman. “It’s possible that this is a ‘touch coin’, so named as they had been touched by the monarch and so were believed to be imbued with the God-given ability to heal which was attributed to persons of royal blood”, Martin suggests. “We see this in the long-standing tradition that the monarch could cure Scrofula (also known as the ‘King’s Evil’), by laying hands on the sufferer. The belief in the ability of monarchs to heal by touch derived from a conviction that they were God’s anointed, ruling by His will- the philosophy of absolutism to which the Stuart kings subscribed”.
Owing to the covert nature of Jacobite allegiance, it was initially assumed that these vessels were produced in secret in the provinces. However, the vast majority of authentic Jacobite glasses are wheel-engraved, which was a relatively new decorative technique in England in the 1740s, a skill confined to the major London glass workshops. It involved the use of tools consisting of small copper wheels attached to spindles to engrave the surface of the glass, with a linseed oil and fine emery powder mixture used as an abrasive. The majority of the surviving objects appear to be the work of around only five engravers, presumably made to order by leading London firms for clients with Jacobite sympathies.
An elaborately decorated Goblet (c.1760) with its wheel-engraved, enamel-twist stem bears strongly Jacobite imagery: three crowns upon a heart from which arise three roses. The heart is flanked by the initials I, F and S, for James Francis Stuart, King James III. The three crowns and three roses represent the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland to which he laid claim. “The post-1745 date of the goblet suggests a nostalgic significance to this symbolism”, Martin contends. “Almost no Jacobite glasses by the five major engravers responsible for these objects are known on glasses with enamel twist stems. Such stems only appear to have been introduced in England around 1747-48. This suggests that Jacobite engraving of glass began to cease around the time that enamel twist glasses were introduced in the years immediately following 1745”.
Only five years into their joint reign, Mary II died of smallpox and thenceforth William III ruled alone. As the couple were childless, following William’s death the throne passed to his sister-in-law Anne. Her seventeen pregnancies by her husband Prince George of Denmark yielded no surviving children. Under the terms of the Act of Settlement (1701), the throne then passed to George I of Hanover (1660-1727), whose mother the Electress Sophia (1630-1714) was a Protestant granddaughter of James I. Although religion played a significant role in the propaganda surrounding the overthrow of James II, it was not necessarily an overriding factor in the Jacobite movement. A large proportion of Jacobite supporters were in fact Protestants and members of the Tory party. Others were partisans in the cause of Irish and Scottish nationalism. Both groups supported the claims of an indigenous (Stuart) dynasty over those of a ‘foreign’ (German) house, as the Hanoverians were characterised. More importantly, they opposed what was seen as the subordination of the monarchy to the will of a small group of powerful and self-interested, English land-owning aristocrats within parliament: the Whig party.
As so few members of the aristocracy or gentry would openly associate themselves with the Stuart cause, the appearance of Jacobite emblems and a family crest on the one object is rare. The NGV has several examples, including the Shelley bowl and dish (c.1745) named after the Shelley family- of whom the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was a member- part of whose property they formerly were: there are three other bowls from the set known. Wine glass (c. 1740) features an engraved heraldic lion which is probably a family crest, perhaps that of the Fairfax family. The bold inclusion of a family crest opposite the seven-petalled heraldic rose and bud leaves no doubt as to the family’s (treasonous) political loyalties.
Amongst the earliest types of Jacobite glassware are the so-called ‘Amen’ glasses, of which some thirty-seven are known; the NGV has two. The majority of ‘Amen’ glasses are engraved with at least the first two verses of the Jacobite anthem, with various other decorations including the royal crown and cypher. Analysis of the handwriting on the extant genuine ‘Amen’ glasses suggests that they are all the work of a single hand. The artist concerned has been identified as Scottish line-engraver and ardent Jacobite Sir Robert Strange (1721-92), with all of the glasses apparently executed between 1743 and 1749. One Amen glass (c.1740-50) is named for the Morton family who once owned it, the other is known as the Risely Amen glass (c.1743–50), after Sir John Risely in whose collection the glass was in the early twentieth century.
The titular James III first tried to reclaim his birthright by landing by sea at the Firth of Forth in 1708, but was driven back. After the death of his half-sister Queen Anne in 1714, a more concerted attempt was mounted in 1715. It is referred to by Jacobites as ‘The ‘Fifteen’ or ‘Lord Mar’s Revolt’ (after John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar who led the battle) staged at Sheriffmuir. It was technically a draw, but the Jacobites were hampered by Mar’s indecisiveness in the aftermath, which lead to a strategic defeat. The Jacobite struggle reached its apogee in 1745 when James II’s grandson, Charles Edward Louis (1720-88), known as ‘The Young Pretender’ or ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, led an armed invasion, the last pitched battle fought on British soil. This attempt started promisingly at the Battle of Prestonpans where the inexperienced government troops were routed; most of the British army was engaged on the continent in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48). The buoyant mood of Stuart supporters and further hopes for the restoration were soundly quashed at the bloody Battle of Culloden. This earned Charles’ opponent on the field, Prince William Augustus, the sobriquet of “Butcher Cumberland”.
Prince Charles spent the summer months of 1746 wandering in the northwest Highlands and Islands of Scotland hiding from British forces, as a bounty had been placed on his head, before finally sailing to permanent exile on the continent. In the battle’s punitive aftermath, concerted suppression of the Highland clans led to measures such as the Dress Act (1746), which banned the wearing of tartan, along with other aspects of Gaelic culture. These events continue to arouse strong feelings, and could be said to have contributed to the sentiment of later Scottish Independence and Nationalist movements. The rarest of Jacobite portrait glasses are those bearing enamel likenesses of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ wearing tartan and the ribbon and star of an order, probably that of the Garter. All possess enamel twist stems and so all likely date from the period after the failure of the 1745 uprising. Only eight such glasses are known to exist, and may be divided into two groups: five executed in red, blue, white, green and yellow enamels, and three executed in the narrower palette of red, blue and white. The NGV is fortunate to have one of each: Wine glass (c. 1760) is one of the three rarer works, while its companion (c. 1770) is of the five in the more colourful range.
Making its NGV exhibition début is an extremely rare Punch bowl (c.1756), the most recent acquisition towards the Jacobean suite, donated by Elizabeth Morgan in 2011. “The consumption of alcoholic punch was a ubiquitous practice in eighteenth century English drinking culture, and bowls for the preparation of this beverage were a common type of household object”, Martin remarks. “This punch bowl is adorned with the Jacobite emblems of a six-petalled heraldic rose and a closed rosebud to the right. It also bears an engraved inscription, “Success to the York/Capt. Richardson”, which commemorates the launch of The York, a Jacobite privateer vessel under the command of Captain John Richardson. This is the only example of a Jacobite privateer bowl currently known to exist, and is an immensely valuable addition to the extant collection”.
After the death of James III in Rome, Pope Clement XIII officially recognised the Hanoverian Succession in 1766, refusing to acknowledge the claims of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, the putative James IV. Jacobitism, as a living political cause, was at an end. Nonetheless, the doomed political and military adventure that was the failed Stuart bid to recapture the English throne has assumed a potent ‘afterlife’. It has resonated through the ages and continues to cast a romantic spell, particularly in literature, and the poetry of Robert Burns (1759-96). Sir Walter Scott featured ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and the 1745 Jacobite uprising in his hugely successful novel Waverley (1814), widely regarded as the first major historical novel of modern times. The subsequent novels Rob Roy (1817), which takes place just before the 1715 Jacobite Rising, and Redgauntlet (1824), which traces the beginnings of a fictional third Jacobite Rebellion, used nostalgia for the cause as a means to reflect upon Scottish identity in the context of the political union with England.
Prince Albert’s purchase of Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire as a private retreat for himself and Queen Victoria in 1852, and her preference for its secluded environs after his death in 1861, only added to the ‘Highland’ mystique. A childhood fan of Scott’s novels, Robert Louis Stevenson’s coming-of-age story Kidnapped (1886) is set in 1751 and also has a prominent Jacobite character; it has been filmed six times (1938-2005). This was closely followed by George Alfred (G.A.) Henty’s Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden (1888). More recently, Dorothy Kathleen (D.K.) Broster wrote a series of popular historical novels collectively known as The Jacobite Trilogy, beginning with The Flight of the Heron (1925) continuing with The Gleam in the North (1927) and concluding with The Dark Mile (1929). The Flight of the Heron has twice been made into a TV serial (1968 & 1976). The silent film Bonnie Prince Charlie (1923) starred Ivor Novello in the title role, and the colour re-make in 1948 proffered a similarly mis-cast David Niven.
Martin also points to the popularity of the ‘Jacobite’ theme in genre artworks, “Despised as traitors and uncivilized barbarians in the eighteenth century, the Scottish Highlander became, in the nineteenth century, a romanticised figure of tragic loyalty to ancestral traditions and a victim of English overlords”, he observes. “Currently on display in the nineteenth century paintings gallery, After the Massacre of Glencoe (1889) by Scottish artist Peter Graham (1836-1921) reflects this noble image of the Jacobites, depicting the tragic aftermath of the brutal massacre of members of the MacDonald clan by troops loyal to King William in 1692”. The exhibition concludes with an acknowledgement of the status quo: anti-Jacobite glasses with emblems expressing loyalty to the Hanoverian monarchs. Most common of these was the prancing stallion, or the white steed of Saxony, an emblem of the German House of Hanover, often accompanied by the motto ‘George and Liberty’, celebrating the new political settlement.
Decorative Arts Passage, Second Floor, NGV (International), 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 3004: www.ngv.vic.gov.au