The ‘Old Pretender’ or ‘Old Chevalier’, James Francis Stuart (1688-1766) whose portrait is set in this ring, was the son of King James II of England. James supported the Catholic faith rather than the Protestantism of the Church of England and was therefore exiled in favour of his eldest daughter Mary II and her husband William of Orange by the Revolution of 1688 .Queen Mary of Modena and the young prince James went into exile in France soon after his birth and remained there until the death of King James II in 1701. Although he was attainted for treason and stripped of his titles in 1702, Prince James was recognised as James III by the Catholic powers of Europe and made several attempts to regain the English throne.The Old Pretender, King James VIII of Scotland and III of England to his loyal Jacobites, died in Rome on New Year’s day 1766. He was buried in the crypt at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Rings set with his image and those of his Stuart ancestors were worn by his supporters and those of his son Charles, popularly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The image on this ring may be based on a 1712 portrait by Alexis Simon Belle, in which James is shown wearing the blue sash of the Order of the Garter, worn by the exiled Stuarts as a sign of their legitimacy. James Francis had been invested with the Garter by his father James II in 1692 at the age of four, prior to an unsuccessful attempt to invade England. Medals, jewels and small images circulated amongst Jacobite supporters and were a key way to keep up interest in the cause and for supporters to identify themselves. The contemporary spy 'Pickle' described the arrival of an Irish priest in 1750 who had carried from Paris to London 'a quantity of coloured Glass Seals with the Pretender's Son's Effigy, as also small heads made of silver gilt about this bigness, to be set in rings, as also points for watch cases, with the same head, and this motto round "Look, love and follow" '.