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 isnt 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 dOrs (gold coins valued at £5 million today). The gold had been sent by the French King Louis XV to finance the rebellion.
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 Selbys 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.
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 Princes 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.