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The silver canteen

David Forsyth looks at in detail at Prince Charles Edward Stuart's silver canteen or picnic set.
Here, we have the travelling canteen of Prince Charles Edwards Stuart, or as we affectionately know it here in National Museum Scotland, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s picnic set. This was made for the young prince, who was in exile in Rome with the rest of the Stuart family in about 1740 to ‘41. We know this because it’s been marked and dated for an Edinburgh silversmith, Ebenezer Oliphant. It was made for the prince, who was very keen on hunting and it would be used when he was out on the chase. It was a much-prized object.
And he brought it back to Scotland when he came over to Great Britain in 1745 to claim the three kingdoms on his father’s behalf and was then left, abandoned after the Battle of Culloden. Not only this is a very beautiful object, it’s actually seditious as well. Why is that? Well, here we see on this cartouche on the front the Prince of Wales’s feathers. It’s also been chased with the thistle and the leaves of the Order of the Thistle. Charles Edward Stuart had been made a Knight of the Thistle as an infant by his father, James VIII. Oliphant came from a long line of Jacobite sympathisers.
In fact, members of his family came out, as they say, in 1745, in support of the young prince and his father. This object was not destined for the Hanoverian court in London but was probably commissioned by a still-anonymous Jacobite sympathiser to be sent out to the Jacobite court in Rome. This is a statement of loyalty to the exiled Kings over the water. We also know that it’s related to the Order of the Thistle, because on the top here, we have the Badge of St. Andrew. So this would be the collar badge of the Order of the Thistle. So it’s an object which absolutely drips in iconography.
But it’s seditious and would be dangerous to be found with, which begs the intriguing question– why Oliphant felt he could mark his name on it? Perhaps because the object was destined to go abroad to join the prince in the exiled court. In terms of its purpose, it has all the accoutrements that a young prince would expect, the knife and fork, a little dish to taste wine. And of course, most importantly, the corkscrews to open the bottle of wine. But perhaps not for a modern day palate, or modern tastes, the little spoon has as its handle a marrow scoop.
What is it?
This is another iconic object from the National Museums Scotland collection, the travelling canteen – or luxury ‘picnic set’ – of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
It neatly contained 31 items of dining equipment, including two cups, items of cutlery, a cruet set and a corkscrew cum nutmeg grater.
Who made it?
It was made by an established Edinburgh silversmith, Ebeneezer Oliphant. The Oliphant family were ardent Jacobite supporters and we saw Margaret Oliphant’s ball gown, which was said to have been worn at Prince Charles’s court at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, earlier this week.
Why is it important?
This object is not only beautifully made, it is extremely seditious, as the inscriptions are treasonous to the Hanoverian dynasty. It bears the Prince of Wales’s feathers (suggesting that Charles Edward is the rightful heir) together with the Scottish Order of the Thistle.
The prince brought this precious object with him, from Rome through France and across Britain during the 1745 campaign. After the battle, it was found abandoned on Culloden field.
In this short film David Forsyth, Principal Curator, National Museums Scotland explains more about the silver canteen – and why it is such a significant Jacobite object.
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Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

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