Bonnie Prince Charlie Jacobite Secret Service Ring sells for 14,640

An eighteenth century Jacobite secret service ring sold for £14,640 (including buyer’s premium) at Lyon & Turnbull’s inaugural Scottish Silver Sale on the 13th February 2008 in Edinburgh.

Colin Fraser, Silver Specialist at Lyon & Turnbull said “We are very pleased with the result. We had bids from across the country and overseas. The ring was bought by an anonymous private collector; however I can confirm that it will stay in Scotland.”

The significance of this unassuming item of eighteenth century jewellery is far greater than it appears. This ring was used as a ‘signature’ when travelling with correspondence from Charles. No document could carry a signature or seal as if the bearer was found in possession of such marked papers by government troops he would almost certainly have been sentenced to death. Therefore this ring would accompany the messenger to show the documents had originated from Charles.

The cipher of CR III 1766 is also important as this is the year that Charles’s father James dies in France and Charles now considers himself the rightful King of Scotland and gives himself the title King Charles III, rather than Prince of Wales, which even in exile he still used.

The sale also included a set of four Scottish provincial communion beakers by James Abercrombie of Aberdeen, circa 1740-1750, which sold for £24,000.
The Aberdeen maker first appears in the Hammermen records with his admission as a watchmaker Burgess on 29th September 1726. The advancing Jacobite armies in Scotland in the 18th century play a strong role in the history of Scottish silver and plate. An arriving Jacobite troop would often demand the use of homes, and land for billets. They collected any money or valuables to help ‘the cause’ and also tried to recruit new soldiers for the army, a practice that alienated a great number of the local people, and led to the larger towns and cities of Scotland taking pre-emptive actions to protect their property and wealth. The formation of militias across Scotland saw the skilled workers and tradesmen of Scotland taking up arms to protect their towns. James Abercrombie showed his loyalist feelings by enlisting as an ensign for the newly formed Aberdeen Volunteers on the 10th April 1746.
The taking of silver by the Jacobites to fund their cause was devastating to early Scottish Silver and led to the commissioning of a substantial amount of new sacramental plate after the ’45 rebellion, with production picking up greatly from 1750 onwards. It is very likely that the communion beakers being offered in this lot were made by Abercrombie to replace the set removed by the Jacobites from St. Nicolas’s Church in Aberdeen.

Other items in the sale included a rare silver Tain Quaich, circa 1740, sold for £15,000, and a rare oak cased George III presentation silver tea urn belonging to an 18th century Fife member of parliament made £7,200. A very important early Victorian golfing medal by James Nasmyth of Edinburgh, dated 1840, made for the Kingsbarns Golf Club fetched £20,400. The medal is one of three early examples known to be made for the Club. There is some mystery about the start date of one of the oldest clubs in Scotland, but on December the 10th 1844 it came to an auspicious close when Duncan, the tenant farmer, ploughed up the land the club was on!

The sale made £332,400 in total.