Primary History

British History: Silver Jacobite canteen

  • An 18th century picnic set

    This silver canteen was made by an Edinburgh goldsmith called Ebenezer Oliphant in 1740-41.

    A canteen is basically a picnic set that is carried around when travelling. This one includes knives, forks, spoons and a cup.

    When it was made picnics were just starting to become popular with the very wealthy. The idea of eating outside in the countryside was still a new idea. The poor were far too busy working to enjoy nice days out like this!

    The canteen has some interesting details that hint at its owner. There are symbols representing thistles and also three feathers. Both of these symbols refer to the honours held by the Stuart kings and queens.

    But at the time it was made the Stuart monarchy had been chased out of the country and a new Royal family ruled Britain.

    Why was this?

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  • Who owned the canteen

    In 1688, James VII of Scotland and II of England lost his kingdom when his daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William of Orange, forced him to leave the country and flee to France. Some people still thought that James was their rightful king. These people were known as Jacobites (Jacobus is Latin for James).

    After James VII died, the Jacobites supported his son, James Edward Stuart, nicknamed 'The Pretender'. His son, Charles Edward Stuart, born in 1720, became known as 'the Young Pretender' but is better known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.

    It was expected that Charles would be the one who would get the kingdom back for his father.

    Charles was living in Italy when he was given the canteen for his 21st birthday. Perhaps his father thought that the task would be so easy that Charles would have time to enjoy a nice picnic in the lovely Scottish countryside!

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  • Back to Scotland

    In 1744 Charles Edward Stuart travelled to Paris (with the canteen) to raise French support to go to Scotland and get back the throne for his father.

    He arrived first at the little island of Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides. The canteen was back in Scotland! He had seven friends with him. That was all the support he brought for the Scottish Jacobites.

    The rash adventure

    Charles landed on the mainland of Scotland two days later. He sent messages to the clan chiefs who might support him. Eventually on 19th August 1745 at Glenfinnan, before 1300 supporters the royal standard (flag) of the Stuarts was raised and Charles formally claimed for his father the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland.

    So began a journey for Charles and his canteen!

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  • Separation

    The final battle of the uprising and the last battle on British soil took place at Culloden in Inverness-shire, northern Scotland.

    The Jacobite army of 5000 were cold, tired and hungry. The Hanoverian army led by the Duke of Cumberland had 9000 soldiers who were well fed, armed and had slept.

    The Jacobites were in a poor position on the moor and the Hanoverians killed huge numbers of Jacobites.

    When Charles had to flee from the battlefield, he had to leave his luggage behind. He and his canteen were separated!

    The canteen was captured and presented to the Hanoverian leader, the Duke of Cumberland, who presented it to one of his soldiers. It was given to the National Museums Scotland in 1984.

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Fun Facts
  • Before he arrived on Eriskay in 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie had never been to Scotland.

  • A famous song called the Skye Boat Song was written about Charles' exciting escape to France after the battle of Culloden.

  • The Duke of Cumberland who defeated the Jacobites was Bonnie Prince Charlie's cousin.

  • After the battle of Culloden Scots were not allowed to wear tartan or play the bagpipes.

  • The Jacobite defeat at Culloden was the last ever battle to be fought on British soil.

  • There were more Scottish soldiers in the Duke of Cumberland's army than there were in the Jacobite army.

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