As a graduate of history working with the collections is often like getting to witness the past. One of the most interesting parts of Scottish history that I studied was the Jacobite uprisings. The Jacobite uprisings existed in Britain and Ireland in the 17th and 18th century, they were the attempts to reinstate the exiled King, James VII of Scotland and II of England and in later years his decedents of the House of Stuart, most famously Bonnie Prince Charlie. Those who supported the exiled King were named Jacobites and those who did not were called Hanoverians or Government supporters. The University of Aberdeen Museums has a number of interesting objects and stories from the Jacobite rebellions in Scotland.
Marischal College had strong links with Jacobite sympathiser, the 10th Earl Marischal George Keith, who had to flee after the 1745 rebellion. It was the 4th Earl Marischal, George Keith who had founded Marischal College in 1593. After Culloden in 1745, George Keith, the 10th Earl Marischal, having supported the Jacobite cause, lost both the title of Earl Marischal and his links with Marischal College. He had to send the Marischal Staff of Scotland from his exile in Potsdam back to Marischal College in 1760 and it now resides in our collections.
The 18th century was a dangerous time for the Jacobites both before and after the last rebellion in 1745. Many kept their loyalties secret to avoid prison, exile or execution for treason. The Jacobites had very subtle ways of revealing their affiliation to fellow supporters. We have some beautiful examples of these subtle indications of rebellion.
These silver buttons for example are small and would require very good attention to detail to notice that they are engraved with the Jacobite rose. We also have a snuff mull which has been engraved with two entwined hearts and the words ‘Rob Gib’s Contract’. These words are a Jacobite password and the hearts have often been associated with Jacobite symbols. They are both indicators of a hushed and growing rebellion leading up to 1745.
We also have objects associated with those fighting against the Jacobite Rebellion. This beautifully created Toddy Ladle would have belonged to a Hanoverian supporter. We know this due to the threepenny piece of George II which forms the base of the ladle. The idea would be that the affiliation of the owner would not be revealed until the whisky had been poured giving the owner time to ascertain whether the guest drinker was friend of foe.
The Jacobite uprisings were glorified and romanticised by historians in the 18th and early 19th century and it is easy to see why, with secret passwords and dangerous loyalties it can easily become the source of legends. It certainly is a most interesting part of Scottish history and I am delighted the University of Aberdeen Museums has some treasures to show from it.
Written by Louise Wilkie, a graduate of history from the University of Aberdeen and a Curatorial Assistant in the University of Aberdeen Museums Collections Centre