Spectacle case and spectacles


The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum
London, United Kingdom

This spectacle case may have belonged to James II, although the folding spectacles most certainly were made several decades after his death in exile in 1701. The painted mother-of-pearl case is of the very highest quality - certainly fit for a king's use - and was probably made in France. Folding spectacles are mentioned in the advertisement of a French maker in 1745. They are described as 'in the English style'. It is likely that folding spectacles had been made for a decade or so before 1745, but there is no evidence that they were made during the lifetime of James II.

A letter that accompanied the spectacles, written at the end of the 18th century, describes in detail how the case passed by gift from James's son, the Old Pretender, through several hands, until it came into the possession of a Mr Walker in 1770. By that time it must have been revered as a Jacobite relic by those who favoured the Stuart claim to the English throne.

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  • Title: Spectacle case and spectacles
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Location: France