Royal Armouries

Peter Oliver: an American Loyalist in exile visits the Tower

Images

colour portrait of a man in a short wig in a wooden frame

Portrait of Peter Oliver (1713-1791) by an unknown artist, about 1790. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Harvard University Portrait Collection, Gift of Mrs.Robert deW. Sampson to the Medical School, 1961, H583. Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

  • colour portrait of a man in a short wig in a wooden frame

    Portrait of Peter Oliver (1713-1791) by an unknown artist, about 1790. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Harvard University Portrait Collection, Gift of Mrs.Robert deW. Sampson to the Medical School, 1961, H583. Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Edward III

    Carved wooden head of Edward III. English, about 1688-90 (XVII.41)

  • colour photo of the head of a wooden horse

    Head of a carved wooden horse from the Line of Kings. (XVII.7)

Peter Oliver: an American Loyalist in exile visits the Tower

Description

Peter Oliver (1713-1791) was born in Boston, Massachusetts where he went on to serve as a high court judge. He was highly unpopular with those opposing the introduction of the Stamp Act of 1765 and he actively worked against those who resisted British efforts to impose laws and taxes on the colonists. On the outbreak of the American Revolution Oliver was forced to flee to Britain – temporarily, he hoped. However, following the Americans’ victory in the War of Independence, Oliver had to abandon any idea of returning home and lived in London. In the 1780s he wrote a history of the events leading up to the American Revolution, as well as an account of his flight to England and experiences here. The latter included his comments on visiting the attractions at the Tower from a distinctly Loyalist perspective:

‘Viewed the Tower of London, wth the Regalia, which were very splendid, as also the Horse Armoury, where are 15 English Kings on Horseback, dress’d in the equipage of their eras…..’.

He also viewed the Menagerie but:

‘none of them is so great perfection of nature as I had seen in America some of the most curious having died in the severity of the preceding Winter……The Lions seemed to have lost their natural ferocity; and I doubt not, that if the omnipotent American Congress were caged in some manner their diabolical ferocity would subside into the tameness of any of these Tower animals….’.

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