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Jacobite Propaganda: James VIII and III

Prof Viccy Coltman in the first in a series of films looks at Jacobite medals issued as a form of propaganda.
So when we think about the Jacobite court in exile or in flight, as I like to think about it, we need to think about how they used propaganda to keep the cause alive. And oil on canvas portraits like that by Pierre Minyard are part of a pictorial propaganda scheme. Another form of material culture that the Jacobites used extensively are medals. And medals as an art form date back to the Renaissance. So it was part of the material output of a European court to issue medals. And a number of Jacobite medals survive, and they tell us something about the cause and what we might think of as the hyperbole of the cause.
So medals are to do with ideology and to do with conveying a message about Jacobitism in very succinct ways. So medals are incredibly tiny. So these are around the size of coinage that we use. But we can’t think of them as coinage because they’re not part of an economic transaction. They’re much more commemorative. And the medal I have in front of me is one that shows James III and VIII. And often, medals have on one side a head in profile. And this is typically a bust portrait and it’s usually looking to one side. So it’s an outline of a face. And here we have James with a laurel wreath in his hair. So what does that mean?
That is a sign of victory. And what is the victory? So what we have to do with the medallic record is we have to think about the relationship between one side and another. We call that the obverse and the reverse. And on the other side of this small bronze medal is a map that shows Britain and Ireland. And it has a Latin inscription, “reddite”. What does that mean? That means restore. All around the side of this outline map, we have ships. What this is saying is that this is saying that James III and VIII is going to restore the kingdoms by a naval invasion.
So this is projecting the restoration of the Jacobites and how their cause is going to impact on Britain. So I want to say something about the iconography and the inscriptions. Often on Jacobite medals, we have image and text, although text is a rather expansive term for what tends to be key words. And they’re often in Latin. So the status of Latin at this time is that it is the language of the laity, but also the language of the learned. So if you’re educated, you can read Latin. So what happens with Latin is that it becomes a kind of code for those who are educated. So those who are educated can read it and can understand it.
And for those who are not educated, it’s just a form of hieroglyphics. So what the Jacobites do in keeping with what courts had done since the Renaissance is they used medals and they put out medals to say something about the cause and where it’s going. And one of the questions of my pictogram was, is it the only one? Medals, we know, were produced in their thousands. And so what we have here is a message which is reduced to a key word, an image. But actually because this exists in its thousands, it’s widely disseminated.
While in exile in Europe the Stuarts needed to constantly reinforce the legitimacy and urgency of their cause to reclaim the throne. We just saw how James VII and II and his wife, Mary, commissioned paintings and portraits to do precisely that.
In the first in a series of films, Professor Viccy Coltman looks at the issuing of Jacobite medals as a form of propaganda.
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