It’s not often a single, utilitarian domestic object like a wine glass can teach us a history lesson, but in the week that David Cameron and Alex Salmond have agreed there will be a referendum on Scottish independence, here’s a glass celebrating the Jacobite cause. It would have been used to toast the “king over the water”
and the romantic notion that Charles Edward Stuart would return one day to lead Scotland to freedom after the disaster of Culloden in 1746.
An example of the so-called “Amen glass” – a hymn or prayer engraved into the body of the glass concludes with the word “Amen” and one of fewer than 40 know to have survived – it comes from the Edward V. Phillips Collection of 16th, 17th and 18th century furniture, glass and works of art. It is one of the most significant collections to be offered in the region in recent times.
The late Mr Phillips was known in the Powys area near Knighton as a private and quiet man,
well respected and renowned for his horticultural knowledge and skills. Few were aware, however, that after retiring from his business as a corn merchant in the Cotswolds and moving to the area in 1994, that he then began creating a collection of museum quality and importance.
Totalling more than 500 lots, the collection includes: two William and Mary oyster veneered collectors’ cabinets on stands; a Queen Anne burr walnut escritoire; a 17th century walnut and marquetry display cabinet on stand; two William and Mary oyster veneered chests of drawers; fine 18th century dining chairs; Elizabethan and 17th century joined oak stools; Charles II oak dining chairs; 16th and 17th century oak coffers; no fewer than 40 16th century Nuremberg alms dishes; 16th and 17th century warming pans; 25 rare silver mote spoons; 12 mille-fleurs pastoral tapestries depicting gothic country life and a collection of 19th century British School watercolours by noted artists such as David Cox.
But is it the glasses celebrating the Jacobite cause that are causing the most excitement, the Amen glass being just one piece in what auctioneers Halls of Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury, describe as an extraordinary and fine collection of 150 examples of 18th century glasses, the condition of which collection is truly remarkable. Only one piece has any obvious damage: a chip to the footrim.
Time for that history lesson. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688-1689 was a period of strife with its origins in 1669, when James, the son of Charles I, converted to Catholicism. He was crowned James II in 1685 and immediately started to convert his Roman Catholic faith into royal policy.
This naturally alarmed the English Protestants who, after three years of unrest, forced him to flee for his life to France, replacing him with the Protestant monarchy of William III of Orange and his wife, Mary, James II’s daughter. The belief that James was the legitimate ruler became known as Jacobitism (from Jacobus or Iacobus, Latin for “James”) a real stronghold of which was the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
The sale of the Edward V Phillips Collection is on Tuesday and Wednesday November 6-7. For more information contactJeremy Lamond, telephone 01743 284777 or visit www.hallsgb.com/fine-art.
James II spent the remainder of his life under the protection of King Louis XIV of France, but his son James Francis Edward Stuart and grandson Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender (Bonnie Prince Charlie) attempted to restore the Jacobite line.
In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in a last desperate bid to overthrow the reigning Hanoverian family. Despite substantial, if often furtive, support from the Jacobites who championed their cause, he was defeated by the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and fled with a few loyal supporters to the Isle of Skye.
By their nature, Jacobite societies on both sides of the Border were officially outlawed and meetings had to be held in secret.Discovery resulted in imprisonment and ultimately execution for treason. Despite this, supporters met often, the meeting always ending with a toast over a bowl of water, signifying the “King o’er the sea,” or James III, as James Edward Stuart styled himself.
As a result of the need for absolute secrecy, the Jacobites signalled their support with objects that were either small and easy to conceal, or decorated with intentionally obscure symbolic designs and inscriptions alluding to the cause.
The most common was the rose, depicted fully open and often with two closed buds on the stem. The open flower is thought to represent the throne of England, and the two buds the two Stuart sons of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Prince Henry, the Cardinal Duke of York.
The addition of the words “Fiat”, meaning “let it be” or “let it come to pass”, or Redeat, Redi, or Revirescit, suggesting hope that the prince will return, are another common feature. Others are engraved with a likeness of the Young Pretender.
The Amen glass is the most famous and the earliest of all Jacobite glassware. However, with fewer than 40 known examples, values were driven so high that forgers were quick to copy them in 19th century using genuine Georgian glass. There is no doubt about the authenticity of the “Lennoxlove Amen glass” in the Phillips collection. It was formerly in the collection of Lord Blantyre, Laird of Lennoxlove in East Lothian, and sold at Christie’s in 1947. It has also been on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was purchased by Mr Phillips at Asptrey,London in 1986. This time out it is estimated at £20,000-£30,000 and could make more.
The glass is inscribed in diamond point with a crown and cipher, hidden within which is the figure eight, representing James VIII of Scotland, James III of England, the Old Pretender. The engraved verses are perhaps commemorating the execution of 29 Jacobites who were hanged, drawn and quartered on Kennington Common in London in 1746.
Said auctioneer Jeremy Lamond: “This glass is testament to the fact that this was perhaps one of the few times in the history of alcohol when the glass was more dangerous to the imbiber than its contents.”
The secret Jacobite toast continued to be honoured throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and other highlights include Jacobite portrait glasses with estimates between £2,000 and £6,000; a rare Jacobite decanter (estimate £4,000-£6,000) glasses of Jacobite significance, for private drinking and a section of Georgian sweetmeat glasses with estimates ranging from £150 to £800.
Predictably, the Protestant supporters of William and Mary had engraved glassware of their own, usually depicting an equestrian figure of William. When George I became king in 1714, thereby establishing the House of Hanover, glasses were decorated with the Hanoverian white horse together with a white heraldic rose.
The collection also includes examples of all the known types of drinking glass from early heavy balusters to the lighter air and cable twist stems of wine glasses from later in the century. Another feature is a number of firing glasses, so called because of their thick bases, ideal for cracking on the table following a toast, sounded like cannon fire. There are cordial glasses for more formal drinking, wine glasses in seemingly endless capacities, short ale glasses, ratafia glasses and on top of all that, several glass candlesticks and tapersticks, oil lamps and a lacemaker’s lamp.