Jacobite Era Coins and Medals in The Hunterian Collection

Published on: Author: Harriet Gaston Leave a comment

A student post by Bethany Sanderson, Hunterian Placement Student (Memorialising Scottish Culture and Literature).

The Hunterian’s coin collection is one of the most thorough in its narrative of Scottish history. Approximately 70,000 coins and medals are kept here, containing some of the most well known figures of Scottish culture and history, including Robert Burns and Walter Scott. During my placement with The Hunterian as part of my Scottish Literature course at the University of Glasgow, my study was based on the coins, and especially the medals, surrounding the history of the Jacobites. The collection I was using was incredibly detailed, with medals taken from dates spanning throughout the entirety of the Jacobite era.

Throughout my study placement with The Hunterian, I was able to see that the medals related with this movement form a unique series in Scotland’s numismatic history; this is seen especially when comparing the medals issued by their opponents. The medals are no longer seen as simply commemorative, but can be viewed as objects to be used in a propaganda war. During the early 18th Century, the political cartoon and use of satire was very popular in England, and this was used heavily in anti-Jacobite propaganda, which of course included medals issued by those in power. The Jacobites their supporters used this genre of satire to produce propagandist medals of their own, often directly referencing the anti-Jacobite slogans and cartoons which were published.

The Jacobite era medals in The Hunterian’s collection allow those who study them to form a more personal narrative with this aspect of Scottish history, as the images and language used on the medals clearly show the feelings and political motivations of those who commissioned them, rather than just the dates and locations of battles that one would see in a history book.

The coins seen here, while only a few from the entire collection, can clearly show a narrative of the Jacobean era, containing some of the most notable dates from this period of history. They show how key members of the Jacobean movement, James III and Prince Charles, as well as the opponents to the movement, Duke of Cumberland, are memorialised and romanticised. As a student of memorialising Scottish culture, this was fascinating to see and study in detail, especially as The Hunterian collection of coins contains items from both sides of the political movement, allowing those who study it to compare the designs and language used.

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