The Young Pretender's 'secret service' ring goes up for auction
Entrusted only to those loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie, it showed their allegiance to the Jacobite cause
AS HE hid out in the Highlands after the battle of Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie needed to pass secret messages to his loyal supporters across Scotland.
But even the mention of the Young Pretender, who was being pursued by government troops with a 30,000 bounty on his head, would mean a messenger being tortured and executed.
So, in a forerunner to the modern secret service, heralds from the prince would wear a gold ring, set with an emerald, to signal their allegiance.
As supporters met in a moonlit glen, the recipient of a message would search for the simple band, which bore a concealed cypher to prove the bearer's allegiance to the Jacobite cause.
Only when he saw the jewel did he know the information, which often contained details of the prince's hiding place, was the truth.
Tomorrow, the ring, which bears the inscription "CRIII 1766: Charles Rex, 1766" under the stone, will go on sale at an Edinburgh auction house.
According to Colin Fraser, a Scottish silver specialist at the auctioneer Lyon and Turnbull, the ring tells the story of the persecution of the Jacobites, who wanted Charles on the throne, in the wake of their defeat at Culloden in 1746, a year after the 1745 uprising.
"This ring was used as a 'signature' when travelling with correspondence from Charles," Mr Fraser said yesterday.
"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 they had originated from Charles and (the papers] were considered an official document.
"This Jacobite 'secret service' provided an invaluable service to Charles, who had to keep all his loyal supporters abreast of his plans and movements."
Mr Fraser explained that the ring would have been passed only to the prince's most trusted assistants.
As a Jacobite piece – such items are rare – the ring already has value. However, the date of the cypher is also important. When Charles's father, James, died in France in 1766, he considered himself the rightful king of Scotland and gave himself the title King Charles III.
The ring is being sold by a private owner, who obtained it from a museum in Montrose some years ago.
How and where the museum obtained the object remains a mystery, however.
Mr Fraser said: "We don't know of any others.
"We know of their existence, historically and through documentary evidence, but we don't know of any other exact examples ."
The ring is valued at between 2,000 and 3,000, but it is expected to fetch much more on the day of auction.
Mr Fraser added: "We're expecting a surprise on the day. There's been a healthy interest and there'll be healthy competition.
"We're expecting good money from this – any Jacobite relics are rare."
BATTLES OVER SCOTS AND ENGLISH THRONES
THE Jacobite Risings refer to a series of wars, rebellions and uprisings which took place between 1688 and 1746 over the rightful ownership of the Scottish and English thrones.
Jacobites – who took their name from the Latin form of James – wanted to see James VII and II, known as the Old Pretender, returned to the throne after he was deposed by parliament during the Glorious Revolution. Two major campaigns took place in 1715 and 1746.
With the arrival of George I of the House of Hanover, Jacobites attempted an insurrection led by the Earl of Mar in 1715, which saw them get as far as Preston before being stopped by the Hanoverian forces.
The second uprising began with the arrival of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Scotland in 1744. Bonnie Prince Charlie's troops enjoyed success at the Battle of Prestonpans, before marching towards London, getting as far as Derby. His advisers refused to consider marching on the capital, forcing their retreat, and the uprising was brought to an end with crushing defeat at Culloden on 16 April, 1746.
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