Revealed: How Oxburgh Hall was part of plot to overthrow the King
A West Norfolk stately home has been revealed as an unlikely base of support for an 18th century bid to overthrow the monarchy.
A new study has suggested that the then owner of Oxburgh Hall gave money to the Jacobite revolt which aimed to install the legendary Bonnie Prince Charlie as King nearly 300 years ago.
And researchers believe that Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld, the 3rd Baronet, may even have been involved in the interception of arms intended to fend off the invasion of England.
The findings have been outlined ahead of a new exhibition, due to start in the coming weeks, which features items that have never been displayed at the hall before.
Anna Forrest, curator for the National Trust which now owns Oxburgh, said: “We can now say there’s a strong indication that the 3rd Baronet, Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld, was a secret Jacobite.
“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.”
Sir Henry, a devout Catholic, was born in 1689, the year that new laws preventing Catholics from becoming monarch or a monarch from marrying a Catholic were passed in the wake of the deposition of King James II.
Subsequent attempts to restore him and his successors to the British throne all failed, the last decisively at the Battle of Culloden in 1745.
The research has revealed that Sir Henry made payments of £285, the equivalent of £55,000 in today’s money, to a banker named George Waters.
It is believed the money would have been used to finance the Jacobite Rebellion campaign, which aimed to overthrow the Protestant King George II and install James II’s grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, in his place.
Ms Forrest added: “We’ve found further evidence that the Government accused him of sending horses and servants to support the uprising and that he was 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.”
The new research and exhibition at Oxburgh Hall comes as work on a £6 million roof restoration project at the site continues.
Several items have been loaned by the current Baronet, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, for the exhibition, which will also feature a newly renovated portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie himself.
But National Trust officials say they were particularly excited by the discovery of a drinking glass which shows the secret signs of Jacobite loyalty.
After the 1745 uprising, swearing loyalty to that cause was deemed an act of treachery, so glasses and other items were commissioned and engraved to show allegiance.
The glass, which is one of an original set of 11, is now set to return to Oxburgh for the first time since it was sold in 1908, on loan from the Drambuie Collection.
Ms Forrest said: “The engravings on it include a rose and twin buds to represent the ‘Old Pretender’ James Francis Edward Stuart, and his two sons, Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and Henry Stuart.
“The word ‘Fiat’ is also inscribed on the glass and means ‘let it come to pass’.”