Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Charles Smith (1688 - 1768), Jacobite Agent and Banker 1750s

Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (1723-92)

Portrait of Charles Smith (1688 - 1768), Jacobite Agent and Banker, Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
By descent to the sitter''s son, Hugh, who married Elizabeth Seton of Touch By family descent at Touch House, Stirling until 1928 With Spink & Son, London Mrs Harrie G.Carnell; by whom bequeathed in 1944 to the Dayton Art Institute, U.S.A. By whom de-accessioned in 1996
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Although to date he has not figured largely in the history of the first and second uprisings, recent archival research at Windsor has re-established Charles Smith as a key undercover informer and Jacobite supporter in the years preceding Bonnie Prince Charlie''s invasion of Britain. It is a tribute to his success that only now has he fully emerged in the history of these times.
The sitter was a prosperous liqueur merchant based at Boulogne-sur-Mer, who was ideally placed to act as an agent and informer for the exiled Stuarts. The Stuart Papers at Windsor contain a large number of letters - over 130 in all - covering a period of some fourteen years between 1731-45 and sent to and received by Charles Smith in his role as an agent for the Jacobites. It also become clear in the course of research that this represents only a portion of the correspondence and many of his replies are at present missing.
By necessity as a liqueur merchant Smith was partly resident in France, but his Scottish background and links help explain his allegiance to the Stuarts. He was married to Elizabeth Paterson, a sister of Sir Hugh Paterson of Bannockburn (1686-1777). Paterson, Member for Stirlingshire in three Parliaments and forfeited his baronetcy in 1716 for supporting the first Jacobite rising, led by his brother-in-law the 6th Earl of Mar. In the second Jacobite rising of 1745 he offered Bonnie Prince Charlie the hospitality of his house at Bannockburn, and the Prince used it as his headquarters both in 1745 and on the retreat in 1746.
The local Stirling connection was strengthened when Smith''s son, Hugh, married the heiress, Elizabeth Seton of Touch. The Touch estates had been in the Seton family since at least the sixteenth-century. On his marriage Hugh Smith assumed the name and arms of Seton. -1-
For probable political reasons, during and after the second rebellion Smith spent more time in Scotland. In 1745 he became a burgess of Edinburgh, which gave him a license to trade in the city. He then appears to have retired to his son''s estate. The Scots Magazine of August 1768 records the death on the 25th of that month, At Touch, Stirlingshire, aged 80, Charles Smith, Esq; of Boulogne, in France,
This veracious and penetrating portrait displays the same manner of uncompromised directness that Reynolds managed to achieve with other sitters such as Johnson, Sterne and Ferguson. Although sittings of a Mr Smith are listed in the artist''s journals for January and February 1759, February 1761 and May 1762 and a payment by the same of 21 on 5 July 1762, it is not clear to whom they belong. 3 However, since stylistically the present portrait would appear to date from the first half of the 1760s, at least some of these listed sittings must have been for Charles Smith. The portrait passed by family descent at Touch House, Stirling, until it was sold in 1928. Also sold at the same time was a companion portrait of Smith''s wife. A portrait of Sir Hugh Paterson painted in 1776 by John Thomas Seton (fl. 1759-1806) was bequeathed to the Scottish National Portrait in 1890 by H.J.Rollo. A portrait of his sister, Katherine (mother of Bonnie Prince''s mistress, Clementina Walkinshaw) also by Seton is on loan to the same museum from the National Gallery of Scotland.
The majority of the letters are addressed to James Edgar (d.1762), Confidential Clerk to James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, who co-ordinated the gathering of intelligence from around Europe. Smith''s role was initially as a go-between for the highly sensitive bulletins sent by Andrew Cockburn from London, informing the Old Pretender and his exiled supporters of current political events and public opinion in England, as well as giving military information and news of Stuart sympathisers. As can be seen also, however, even from this early stage his commitment extended to offering personal military support. The reports were sent to Smith in Boulogne who then forwarded them to George Waters (d.1752), a banker in Paris, from where they were sent on to Rome.
In a letter, dated 6 April 1731, written partly in cypher, and sent to the Old Pretender by Cockburn (using the code-name Dalivall), he initiates the recruiting of Smith as an agent:
When I was at Mr.Allund''s [Boulogne] with Mr Pemey [Smith] the k.b.893.762 [13th of March] ... he added ... if at any tyme you had any 809 [message] in 570.1200 [heast] upon nottice from you or Mr Ffleury [Edgar] he could 955.1292.400.889.231.346 \prepare wine a board] any 1174 [ship] there ...
He furder said that if 1427.808 ]yr. Mty.] had any occasion as in the 1434.15 [year] he could in three 1318.1114.164.989 [weeks advertisement provide] and have 1086 [ready] so many 1174 [ships] as would 1277.1213.1249.1339.1131.346.758 [transport ten thousand men] to Mr Finney [England] ... 4
RASP 144/51.
Within less than a week, 11 April, Edgar wrote to Smith:
I therefor have send you enclosed a letter address for Mr Dalival [Andrew Cockburn], which the King desires you may send with all the precautions and secrecy possible to Mr Co___ne, and H.M. recommends to you continue the same precautions & secrecy in all letters may come to your hands relating to this correspondence ...
Be so good as to let me know you have received this, and as this letter is dangerous to be kept unless with great care, I think you should burn it after you have read it. 5
Smith wrote back to Edgar, 10 May 1731:
... I shall to the utmost of my Power endeavour to acquit my self and with all the prudence and secrecy I am capable of ...
It is a great pleasure to know all the Royall family are well May God Almighty preserve them and ... they soon be in Brittain. 6 Smith was extremely useful because of his other life as a travelling businessman. He visited Paris and London regularly, thereby being able cultivate contacts who were sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. On 6 February 1733, he wrote to Edgar:
I have some thoughts of going to London about beginning of Aprile nixt for three or four weeks tho I will be determined by your Answer if I can be of any service here to Mr Browns [The Old Pretender] Affairs will regulate my own business
After his trips Smith would report on the political and military climate:
I came home only last night from London ... I was much surprised to find such a spirit and adversion to the present Government of the nation in Generall never was more discontent or ready to Imbrace any opportunity to get free of these people.8
Often individuals mentioned in the letters are only referred to by code-names, such as Mr Draper and Mr Williamson. In most of the correspondence the Old Pretender is referred to as Mr Brown (and occasionally Mr Thomson). Smith himself used the pseudonyms of Charles Ramsay or Charles Stepney on some of the letters. Gradually Smith was entrusted with greater responsibility to gather intelligence through a network of informers in England, Scotland, the Netherlands and eventually Wales. One example involved an informer who had been working for the influential politician, James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1673-1744):
As to John Fergusone he has been for sometime past at Bridgewater & Bath as steward to a small estate of the Duke of Chandos. 9
Regular correspondents were a critical means of gathering intelligence. Edgar wrote to Smith, 12 October 1735:
d ... ever since the
we have had no regular correspondence with S_ accident happened to Mr Corser ...
It were a thing much to be wished that proper methods could be found to sound the Patriots, or one or two of the principal of them. 1(1
On several occasions Smith was sent on specific missions by the Prince. He wrote directly to him, 5 July 1738:
I went to London to talk to His Grace the Duke of Hamilton ... he has nothing on Earth so Much at heart as your Majesties Interest. 1:L Smith was also responsible for renumerating informers and paying pensions to loyal Jacobites in exile. One such informer referred to as John Brown merchant sent reports from Leghorn via Smith, who in turn paid him as directed.
Other matters were of a less secretive nature. As the Old Pretender was rumoured to be sliding into dissipation and melancholy, Edgar wrote to Smith, 12 October 1737:
Mr Brown [The Old Pretender] wants some good canary wine ... order 200 botles of the most perfect... Mr Brown himself likes and takes frequently a glass of that wine. 12
It is not clear whether Smith himself was paid for his services but he was certainly sent gifts of family portraits by the Old Pretender.
On 14 August 1734, Smith wrote to Edgar:
The Pictures are just come which are exceeding well done and Return My humble and hearty thanks for the Honour Mr Brown has done me nothing could be more acceptable to me. 13
On other occasions Smith organised the shipping of goods, including pictures to England and Scotland. In 1735 he was asked to ensure the safe transportation of five miniatures of the Old Pretender and his family, sent by the Earl of Dunbar to his mother, the Dowager of Stormont.
In 1740 Smith asked Edgar to commission for him, the Princes two pictures of same size you sent for my Lord Weemyss ... by the best hand, which he duly did. 14
Towards the end of the 1730s Smith''s role was hotting up and he began providing more regular and important information, as well as vital news on the movements of the English fleet, which would have been available in a port like Boulogne. He was also giving opinions on reliability and honesty of individuals and sources, and providing hospitality and money to Jacobites passing through Boulogne on their way to Paris or Rome.
Increasingly plans turned towards rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie toured the Netherlands for support. On 8 June 1737 Smith using the code-name Ramsay wrote to Edgar that, we see Young Mr Browns progress in the Dutch Gazette I wish his nixt may be nearer home. 15
Smith was subsequently asked to provide specific military intelligence. Edgar wrote to him, 21 May 1738:
As to arms ... what quantity could be got? in how short time? & how & from whence they can be transported? In the same letter he emphasises that they must be Broad Swords such as the Clans use. 16
In the early 1740s with England at war with Spain and relations with France deteriorating, Smith''s position became increasingly precarious.
On 9 November 1740, the Old Pretender issued a Protection order to Charles Smith, established at Boulogne. 17
On 22 February 1742, Edgar wrote to Smith:
the present is without doubt a very critical juncture ... as things stand such events may fall out from one day to another, which might make yr being at yr own home very necessary. 18
The correspondence between Smith and Edgar appears to have become less regular, although Smith wrote from London, 8 February 1744 that people here in London are very angry at the Hanoverian troops but the Ministry seem determined to dispise all discontents. 19 Among Edgar''s last letters to Smith he writes, 12 January 1745, all I wish is that the present embroils may only end in the manner you and I long for. 20
Smith died in August 1768. His last recorded letter to Edgar (after a period of some five years) was written in May 1750. More details have yet to emerge about his life after this date and how he was reconciled to the Hanoverian Establishment, if at all. His final days were spent among family and friends in Stirlingshire.
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