Exhibiting Support during a Disputed Election: A Coventry Presentation Cup
This silver gilt cup shows how items of material culture provided opportunities for the political engagement of voters and non-voters alike through their funding, presentation, and public display, long after the end of polling.

After the return of Tory candidates in the Coventry election of June 1826, in November a petition was presented to parliament challenging the result. In December, the Coventry Herald reported that this cup, to be presented to the Whig candidate Edward Ellice by the ‘Freemen, and Inhabitants of Coventry’ in gratitude for ‘defending their Rights and Franchise’ against ‘Arbitrary infringements’ during the election, and another cup to be presented to Ellice’s fellow Whig candidate Peter Moore by the ‘Ladies of Coventry’, had each been ‘exhibited to the public’ in the windows of Coventry shops over the past few days. The cups were paid for by ‘small subscriptions’ amongst the ‘friends’ of the two candidates in the city: an eighteenth-century version of crowd-funding.

Funded, viewed, and formally presented by a range of different individuals (including the ‘Ladies of Coventry’), these cups show how items of electoral culture could be used to comment on, and potentially try to influence the result of, an election still under dispute (the original result was ultimately upheld by parliament, in March 1827), and the involvement of voters and non-voters in this process.

Copyright The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, SH.1990.128