This seemingly innocuous teapot has a seditious past. Painted with an image of Charles Edward Stuart (known to his supporters as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”), this was a Jacobite object. The Jacobites were those who, following the “Revolution” of 1688-9, when James II fled Britain and was replaced as monarch by William and Mary, supported the return of the exiled Stuart monarchy to the British throne. This support made them treasonous criminals in the eyes of the Hanoverian Protestant state. As a result, they had to keep their written communication to a minimum, and destroy much of what they received. Jacobite objects were often used as an alternative means of communicating politically and demonstrating loyalty to the Stuarts.
Caution was necessary, however, and an explicitly Jacobite object such as this would have needed to be kept hidden. Drinking tea was an important social activity in the eighteenth century, but this object would not have been everyone’s cup of tea. The owners would certainly have had to have been sure about the political loyalties of their company before they used it. This teapot was not just a tool for a pleasant social occasion, but a highly risky means of reinforcing group political loyalties.
Image: Jacobite teapot, Staffordshire, c. 1750-65. White salt-glazed stoneware painted in enamels, width c. 22cm (spout to handle). Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – Object number Object Number: C.112 & A-1950. Given by Mrs W. B. Dickson, 1950. Picture – Fitzwilliam Museum Online Collection – http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/71372. Available under Creative Commons.