'Bonnie Prince Charlie' walking cane set to be auctioned in Edinburgh

07 August 2020
An important walking cane, long reputed to have belonged to Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), is to be offered by Lyon & Turnbull on 12 August 2020 in their Scottish Works of Art & Whisky auction.

The cane has an inlaid steel head with compressed gold inlaid pommel, with British crown surmounting initials ‘CE’.

Valued at between £10,000 and £20,000, Prince Charles Edward Stuart is thought to have gifted the cane to a French Noble family who presented it in 1909 to Alfred William Cox, and it is being sold by his direct descendants. It was exhibited at the Guildhall in Cambridge in 1911.

Longtime Jacobite associations

Colin Fraser, consultant specialist at the sale commented, “It is remarkable to consider this cane’s long history. When it was exhibited in 1911, it was recorded as having been ‘used by Prince Charles when he was at the French court, and was presented by him to a French nobleman, in whose family it has remained until a few years ago, when it was presented by the present holder of the title to the lender’."

The cane's later owner

By the 1911 exhibition the cane was the property (although lent anonymously) of Alfred William Cox. Alfred was a remarkable character of Victorian society. Son of Alexander Robb Cox (1826-1880) he came from a long line of successful Scottish jute merchants and factory owners working in Dundee and Liverpool.

In 1879, and on failing his entrance exams for the Military Academy at Woolwich, he was given £100 and an allowance to travel to Australia. His father's intention was for him to learn about the sheep trade and presumably set up his own. But before long he had fallen into his favourite leisure pursuit and was again involved in gambling on horse racing, which had perhaps originally led to his failed exams back in England. On hearing this, his father threatened to cut his allowance and seek his return.

For a short time at least, Alfred went into sheep farming. This was not to last long however, his interests inevitably shifted over a game of cards in which he won a share in what became the Broken Hill silver mine, for a sum of £120. He would return to England a wealthy man in the late 1880’s with his shares value then estimated at £1,260,000 (some £70m in today’s terms). On his return he became one of Britain’s most successful race horse owners and had many renowned winners, perhaps most famous is Bayardo, a short career which is still remembered today.

History highlights

Other items on offer this year include a pair of portraits of the Bonnie Prince’s mother and father King James III and Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska; a selection of symbolic Jacobite glassware; fine examples of Scottish silverware; as well as a selection of colourful pieces from the Scottish pottery firm Wemyss Ware.

For full auction details, visit the Lyon & Turnbull website. Information and images courtesy Lyon & Turnbull.

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History Scotland is publishing a themed Jacobite special in October, to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Find out more and reserve your copy here.