Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the The University of Edinburgh & National Museums Scotland's online course, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds I’m in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh looking at some Jacobite objects. And this object on the far right at the bottom of this case is a Jacobite miniature. If I was able to extract the object, which I would love to do, and hold it, you would see how very small this miniature is. It’s probably about half the size of my palm. And it’s mounted on a lovely mother of pearl mount. I wonder if that might have been part of a snuff box at one time because it certainly looks like it might have been. The miniature shows the head and the upper torso of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the figurehead for the ‘45 rebellion.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds And he’s dressed in a wig, and he wears two different types of tartan plus the Order of the Garter. This image becomes the iconic image of Prince Charles Edward Stuart once he’s in Scotland. It’s after the oil on canvas portrait that was executed by Allan Ramsay in 1745 when Charles was here in Scotland. And it’s massively reproduced, if we can use the term mass production. Understanding it in 18th-century terms, it would be quite legitimate here, I think. So what we have then is an image of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, but massively reduced in size. And what does this mean, and what is it all about?

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds So if I were able to hold it in my hand, you’d notice then that there’s automatically an intimacy between the viewer and the object. And this is because these miniatures were what we might call affective objects. They were objects of emotion. And objects where his, Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s portrait could be physically close to that of the viewer. Miniatures are important because, as their name suggests, these were secretive objects. They could be easily carried. They could be easily hidden. And so what they do is they enabled the Jacobite supporter to avoid prosecution for his or her Jacobites sympathies by secreting this kind of miniature in a pocket or on their person.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 seconds And we also know that some miniatures were worn as jewellery. Perhaps, as in this case, they were also put on to other objects, perhaps the lid or the interior lid of a snuffbox. Or again, you would only reveal it to fellow supporters of the Jacobites. I think it’s useful to think of these miniatures as being jewel-like in their proportions, these miniature proportions, but also in the relationship between the owner and the miniature, which was one of great affection, love, and loyalty.

Portrait in miniature: Prince Charles Edward Stuart

What is it?

This is a miniature portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, fixed to a mother-of-pearl mount.

Why is it important?

This portrait became an iconic image of the Prince in Scotland. It derives from the oil on canvas portrait by Ramsay – only notice that here the Prince wears two different types of tartan plus the Order of the Garter.

In this short film Viccy Coltman discusses the miniature.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

The University of Edinburgh