New research uncovers secret Jacobite at Oxburgh Hall

A Jacobite glass, which has returned to Oxburgh Hall for an exhibition, is on loan from William Grant & Sons.
Published : 17 Feb 2020 Last update : 22 Jan 2021

New research has uncovered the story of a secret Jacobite at Oxburgh Hall, revealing the owner of the house, Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld was likely to have been part of a rebellion to overthrow the Hanoverian King George II.

The Bedingfeld family have remained devout Roman Catholics throughout their 500 year history at Oxburgh Hall, refusing to change their faith even when Catholics were persecuted. This latest research shows active support for the return of a Catholic monarchy to Britain in the early 18th century and payments to the Jacobite cause, supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie and his claim to the throne. 

A secret Jacobite revealed

We knew when we started to find tantalising nuggets of new information about the Bedingfeld family, that we were onto something.

Following an extensive search through family archives, as well as public and private collections around the country, we can now say there’s a strong indication that the 3rd Baronet, Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld, was a secret Jacobite. 

" We discovered Sir Henry made four hefty payments to the value of £285, to the Jacobite banker, George Waters. That’s equivalent to £55,000 today. "
- Anna Forrest, Curator

These payments would have helped fund Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ - the grandson of the deposed Catholic King James II - and his supporters as they plotted to seize the throne from the Protestant King George II and restore it to the Catholic House of Stuart. 
We found further evidence that the Government accused the 3rd Baronet of sending horses and servants to support the uprising.

A portrait of Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld, the secret Jacobite, on loan from Sir Henry Bedingfeld
Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld portrait at Oxburgh Hall
A portrait of Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld, the secret Jacobite, on loan from Sir Henry Bedingfeld

He was also mixing in circles of well-known Jacobites. It’s also likely he was involved, or knew those who were, in the mysterious disappearance of a shipment of arms that was intended to defend against a Jacobite invasion.
This is a significant discovery, as it is an added layer to the story we thought we knew. It reveals the covert life of a key figure in Oxburgh’s story, which remained a Catholic stronghold during a time when you could be imprisoned or sentenced to death for your faith.

A glass with cryptic clues

Clues to his secret allegiance were engraved in an 18th century drinking glass, which has only just been traced. The glass will be one of the signigficant items on display in a new exhibition coming to Oxburgh Hall in 2020.

Jacobites had to meet and plot in secret. It was a treasonable offence to drink to the health of the House of Stuart after the Jacobite uprising of 1745, so Jacobites commissioned glasses and engraved them with the secret symbols of their loyalty. 

The Jacobite glass on loan from William Grant and Sons
The Jacobite glass on loan from William Grant and Sons
The Jacobite glass on loan from William Grant and Sons

We’re excited that our research led us to a Jacobite glass in Scotland, originally from Oxburgh’s collection. The engravings on it include a rose and twin buds to represent the ‘Old Pretender’ James Francis Edward Stuart, and his two sons, one of which was Bonnie Prince Charlie. The word ‘Fiat’ is also inscribed on the glass and means ‘let it come to pass’.
The glass is returning to Oxburgh Hall for the first time in more than 100 years. On loan from the Drambuie Collection with kind permission of William Grant and Sons, it’s one of a group of 11 glasses that were likely commissioned by the 3rd Baronet and later sold in 1908. The location of the other ten glasses remains unknown.

A story of Endurance

The research was undertaken as part of the preparations for a new exhibition in the house, which opens in 2020 and explores Oxburgh’s 500-year history in more depth.

The diary of the 3rd Baronets tutor, on loan from Sir Henry Bedingfeld
The diary of Thomas Marwood
The diary of the 3rd Baronets tutor, on loan from Sir Henry Bedingfeld

As well as the glass, several more items will go on display for the first time, including portraits on loan from the current Baronet, Sir Henry Bedingfeld. Of note is the 18th century portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, that has just undergone extensive conservation work and is an integral figure in the Jacobite story. 

The research and new exhibition has been made possible thanks to National Trust members and supporters and grants from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development through the LEADER programme.

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