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Reign & Rebellion

Special Exhibition
November 5, 2022 to September 5, 2023

Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Reign and Rebellion Discover Virginia through the lens of the Stuart monarchy, whose royal foothold impacted and influenced early America and shaped the struggles and determination of those who lived in the colony in the 17th and 18th centuries.

This upcoming special exhibition will span the centuries at both museums and make connections between the past and our present, to illuminate how the Stuarts — and their legacies in Virginia — are closer than you think.

“Reign & Rebellion” will intertwine groundbreaking moments in Virginia’s history, provocative personal stories and showstopper artifacts that lay the path of Virginia’s road to Revolution. With approach of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, the exploration of the Stuart dynasty has never been more relevant.

At Jamestown Settlement, the exhibition will consider how the reign of the Stuarts in the 17th century solidified Virginia’s identity as the Old Dominion, which had lasting impacts not only for the 18th century but for the world we live in today.

At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, the exhibition will explore how the legacies of the Stuart era contributed toward Virginia’s distinct American identity, resulting in formerly loyal Cavaliers fighting for independence from Great Britain.

The Stuarts

Queen Elizabeth I, the famous Virginia Queen and last of the House of Tudor, led the monarchy that reigned England from the 15th century. She is the namesake of the colony of Virginia, but her death without an heir in 1603 begat the reign of the House of Stuart. Elizabeth died childless, so the right to rule England transferred to James Charles Stuart, King of Scotland and son of Mary, Queen of Scots (Elizabeth’s first cousin, once removed). King James ruled Scotland, England, and Ireland until his death in 1625. While these years proved formidable for colonial ventures, such as Jamestown, the House of Stuart, which continued its reign over England and her colonies until 1714, not only shaped Virginia, but lit the slow-burning fuse which ultimately exploded into Revolution in 1775.

Reign and Rebellion schematic

Weaving is a visual element in the special exhibition’s bold design to connect the past to the present. Exhibition planners envision Virginia under the Stuarts not as a melting pot, but rather a tapestry, woven of many distinct fibers, both a part of and separate from each other, seemingly complete on the surface but underneath tangles, holes, and patches evidence a work in progress. “Reign & Rebellion” is being designed by The PRD Group with fabrication by Capital Museum Services.

When colonists established the first permanent English colony at Jamestown and continued to arrive in Virginia, they brought with them English history, culture, attitudes and worldviews that entwined with that of Virginia’s Indigenous population and the individuals forcibly brought from Africa. This convergence of cultures during the Stuart era prompted turbulent engagement with issues of race and class, religion and the role of government.

The Stuarts are easily identifiable with Jamestown, where Stuart monarchs, their colonial agents and turbulent events of the 17th century impacted European settlement of Virginia, colonial relationships with Virginia Indians, the rise of the slave trade and the often volatile relationship between Virginia’s haves and have nots. The Stuarts, whose namesake adorns geographic regions and educational institutions—Jamestown, the College of William & Mary and Williamsburg itself, also extend to Yorktown. The royal House of Hanover—the dynasty most associated with America’s colonial discontent—was plagued and distracted by Stuart pretenders to the throne, leaving increasingly independent-minded colonists to pay for costly wars and campaigns at home and abroad, many of which were direct results of Stuart-era policy, empire building and challenges to the throne.

Museum Admission

The special exhibition will be included with general admission to Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown: $30.00 for adults and $15.00 for ages 6-12 with a combination ticket. You can also explore each chapter of this special exhibition with individual museum admission. An annual pass offers year-round access to the special exhibition, along with daytime programs and events.

Residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, including William & Mary students, receive complimentary admission to both museums with proof of residency. Parking is free.

The special exhibition is supported in part by James City County and York County.

Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jamestown Settlement is located at 2110 Jamestown Road near Williamsburg, Va., and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is located at 200 Water Street in Yorktown, Va. The two museums are separated by a 30-minute drive along the scenic Colonial Parkway.

Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown are administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.