White stoneware sherd with medallion
William III Jug

Portraits and slogans have appeared on ceramics as a medium of political exchange and commemoration for centuries. Made in the Westerwald region of the Rhine River Valley in Germany, this jug fragment found in 2007 is decorated with an oval medallion that commemorates William III, King of England from 1689 until 1702. Below the portrait is a small equestrian figure of the king.  Surrounding the portrait is the legend: “WILHEMVS:III.D G.MA.BRIT.FRANC…,” which translates as: William III, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France (…and Ireland). Since Queen Mary II is not depicted, the medallion may have been made after her death in December 1694.  

Impervious to liquids, lead-free, and sturdy, Rhenish stoneware was a superior ceramic for food and beverage serving and storage during the 17th and 18th centuries. Decorative stoneware jugs were used both domestically and in taverns for serving and drinking beer, ale, and cider. It is interesting to note that this jug was broken and discarded around the time of the move of Virginia’s capital from Jamestown to Williamsburg.