Entrusted only to those loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie, it showed their allegiance to the Jacobite cause.AS HE hid out in the Highlands after the battle of Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie needed to pass secret messages to his loyal supporters across Scotland.
But even the mention of the Young Pretender, who was being pursued by government troops with a £30,000 bounty on his head, would mean a messenger being tortured and executed.
So, in a forerunner to the modern secret service, heralds from the prince would wear a gold ring, set with an emerald, to signal their allegiance.
As supporters met in a moonlit glen, the recipient of a message would search for the simple band, which bore a concealed cypher to prove the bearer's allegiance to the Jacobite cause.
Only when he saw the jewel did he know the information, which often contained details of the prince's hiding place, was the truth.
Tomorrow, the ring, which bears the inscription "CRIII 1766: Charles Rex, 1766" under the stone, will go on sale at an Edinburgh auction house.
According to Colin Fraser, a Scottish silver specialist at the auctioneer Lyon and Turnbull, the ring tells the story of the persecution of the Jacobites, who wanted Charles on the throne, in the wake of their defeat at Culloden in 1746, a year after the 1745 uprising.
"This ring was used as a 'signature' when travelling with correspondence from Charles," Mr Fraser said yesterday.
"No document could carry a signature or seal, as if the bearer was found in possession of such marked papers by government troops, he would almost certainly have been sentenced to death.
"Therefore, this ring would accompany the messenger to show they had originated from Charles and (the papers] were considered an official document.
"This Jacobite 'secret service' provided an invaluable service to Charles, who had to keep all his loyal supporters abreast of his plans and movements."
Mr Fraser explained that the ring would have been passed only to the prince's most trusted assistants.
As a Jacobite piece – such items are rare – the ring already has value. However, the date of the cypher is also important. When Charles's father, James, died in France in 1766, he considered himself the rightful king of Scotland and gave himself the title King Charles III.
The ring is being sold by a private owner, who obtained it from a museum in Montrose some years ago.
How and where the museum obtained the object remains a mystery, however.
Mr Fraser said: "We don't know of any others.
"We know of their existence, historically and through documentary evidence, but we don't know of any other exact examples ."
The ring is valued at between £2,000 and £3,000, but it is expected to fetch much more on the day of auction.
Mr Fraser added: "We're expecting a surprise on the day. There's been a healthy interest and there'll be healthy competition.
"We're expecting good money from this – any Jacobite relics are rare."
To say Jacobite relics are rare is an understatement. Something like this is unbelievable rare.
The estimate is a laugh. Expect 10, 20 times that or more. However, I would like to see the provenance!!!!!!!!