Spink Solves the Riddle of the Jacobites’ Lost Gold
This rare and exceptional Jacobite item is available for
private treaty and/or auction with a guide price of £150,000 + buyer premium.
For all those treasure hunters in Scotland who have for generations been searching for the fabled lost gold of the Jacobites, Spink have some bad news: the mystery has been solved, it isn’t there. In an extraordinary story every bit as thrilling as an episode of Outlander, a newly discovered silver cup has revealed how the gold was smuggled out of the Highlands to London by an Englishman then sent to Bonnie Prince Charlie in France.
As the Battle of Culloden raged between the British Army and the rebellious Jacobites on 16 April 1746, two French ships, Mars and Bellone, sailed towards Loch nan Uamh on the West coast of Scotland. They were laden with six casks filled with £35,000 worth of Louis d’Ors (gold coins valued at £5 million today). The gold had been sent by the French King Louis XV to finance the rebellion.
1745 Louis d’Or, Louis XV obverse and reverse, sold at auction by Spink for $1,700
But they were too late. The Jacobites were beaten and those that survived the battle, including their charismatic leader Prince Charles Edward Stuart, were being hunted by the redcoats throughout Scotland.
Instead, the gold was hurriedly unloaded at dead of night by clansmen and buried by the loch, to help the Jacobites rise again one day. The prince entrusted the hoard to Ewen MacPherson of Cluny, chief of the Clan Macpherson, his most loyal officer.
Two years later, from exile in France after months on the run, the Prince sent coded word to a Jacobite secret agent to recover the gold. He recruited Charles Selby, a Jacobite sympathiser and English Catholic to manage the operation. The gold was dug up by the Highlanders and smuggled to Selby’s farmhouse over the English border at Yearl, near Wooler in Northumberland. Selby, with a trusted servant, then rode the gold down to London himself, in two runs, where it was received by clandestine Jacobite bankers, converted to notes and sent to the Prince in France. Some £6000 was recovered in this way, the rest of the gold having already been pilfered or given away in the Highlands.
Portrait of Charles Selby (1702-1789) titled on reverse Charles Selby of Earl with Cup presented to him by Prince Charlie, oil on canvas, English provincial school, circa 1760. Private Collection, courtesy Koopman Rare Art Ltd
Selby refused all payment for risking his life in the Jacobite cause. Instead he was given a silver cup belonging to the Prince and engraved with his Jacobite royal crest, which had been recovered by Cluny Macpherson from the battlefield at Culloden. Selby had himself proudly painted holding the Prince’s cup and after his death, when it was safe to do so, his son arranged for it to be engraved:
Prince Charles Edwd Stuart
Chas Selby Esqr of Earle
In Remembrance of His Many Services in
1745 & 1746
The story of how an Englishman saved the Jacobites gold remained hidden until 2018 when, after more than 250 years, the silver cup emerged at auction in America. After months of research in Scotland and England, historian Martyn Downer pieced this remarkable story together, tracing the lost portrait of Charles Selby to his descendants in England.
For more information or to view the cup, please contact:
Email: [email protected], Tel: +4420 7563 4007
SPINK UK | 67-69 Southampton Row | Bloomsbury | WC1B 4ET | London
More extensive feature on the Jacobite treasure of Loch Arkaig has been published in the Spink Insider magazine:
THE ENGLISHMAN WHO SAVED THE JACOBITES’ GOLD by Martyn Downer
Martyn Downer is a specialist in historic objects and works of art. He is author of four books including “Nelson’s Purse: The Mystery of Lord Nelson’s Lost Treasures” (2004).
Spink is the world's leading auctioneer of Stamps, Coins, Banknotes, Medals, Bonds & Shares, Autographs, Wine & Spirits, Books and Handbags & Accessories. Since its foundation in 1666, the Spink name has become synonymous with tradition, experience and integrity. Holder of royal warrants and numerous records for prices achieved at auction, Spink offers an unparalleled range of services to collectors worldwide. Headquartered in London, with offices in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland, Spink holds over 70 auctions a year. Catalogues can be accessed through the Spink website (www.spink.com), Spink Live online bidding platform (www.live.spink.com) or via the Spink App for mobile phones and tablets.