A Snuff Box beautifully painted with the double upside down faces of four main protagonists of the Clarke Scandal 1809


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THE STORY - And What a story, which I had no idea of when my eyes first fell on the wonderful pillar box red colour of this little tin which was slightly covered with a card. When I picked it up I marvelled at the illustration on the front and then I was told about it's history, but I was shown that the lid had separated from the hinge which could not be seen as it still fits snuggly, I walked away a few paces due to this, but I found myself turning round I could not leave this piece it was so very special. And here is the story which believe me is a good one. The four faces on the box are those of Prince Frederick The Duke of York, Mary Anne Clarke, Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle and Captain William Dowler. Mary Anne Clarke was a Courtesan from humble origins who had left her husband looking for wealth and prosperity and managed to attract the attention of The Duke of York as one of her Lovers who housed and took care of her, but this wasn't enough for Mary Anne, and her lavish lifestyle so she took to selling Army Commissions at cut price prices by adding names to the Dukes List as he was Commander in Chief of The Army. Mr Wardle maybe also a lover found out about this and brought up the subject in Parliament in 1809 calling Mary Anne Clarke as a witness and she testified that she sold these commissions with the knowledge of The Duke of York, also William Dowler another lover of Mary Anne was also called as a witness. The scandal broke causing much humour and mockery in the country with many cartoons being printed on the scandal by the likes of Thomas Rowlandson and indeed The Duke had to resign his post. It needs not be said this was the end of the affair between The Duke and Mary Anne. And this little tin is a piece of that history and it is beautiful with the painting on the lid of the double upside faces, there names in gold next to them and there is gold scrolling around the edge of the tin. It's strange the way the faces have been painted make me think of the Punch and Judy Puppets. The tin is made simply of tin and I would of thought would of been made at an affordable price at the time as part of the celebration of the scandal. And of course I have researched my little tin the Scandal itself was easy to find out about but finding another one of these tins is not, I could find no other example in all my time of looking.

AGE - 1809

CONDITION - I have already mentioned that the lid of the snuff box has come away from the hinge flap, but it does slip back into it snuggly and it means I can not test whether the hinge is working or not, I have to say by eye it looks like it does. There is of course wear to the paint especially along the edges of the tin and the hinge but thankfully not in the painting of the faces, please see all photographs as they display this better than I can describe it. The other lovely thing is there are no dents in the tin that I can see.

DIMENSIONS (Approx) - 2&3/8" / 6cm square with a height of 3/4" / 1.5cm

Such a remarkable object to celebrate and mock such a Royal Scandal caused by such a remarkable woman, and the strange thing for me was after the scandal she was forced to leave London and took residence in a town in Loughton in Essex which is where I was born and brought up. I have to so say I don't like the use of the word rare as sometimes I think it is used too easily but I do believe this little piece is, both rare and beautiful and full of history and artistry, a truly wonderful item to own.

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