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But those with an interest in English ceramics or political history, knew differently. The initials W.L. stand for Wilkes and Liberty and, together with the number 45, refer to the 1763 publication of the 45th issue of John Wilkes' periodical The North Briton. In this edition, Wilkes attacked the King's speech at the Opening of Parliament in praise of the controversial Peace of Paris. George III took exception and sued him for seditious libel. Wilkes was arrested and jailed but freed the following year in a landmark court ruling that judged Wilkes - as MP for Middlesex - protected by privilege from arrest on a charge of libel.

Its condition notwithstanding, the 8 1/2in (22cm) plate attracted interest from dealers and collectors and sold to a British collector in the room at £2500.

Other ceramics to attract trade and private interest at the 327-lot sale included a colourful 10in (25cm) Wemyss pedestal vase celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee which contributed a further £1550 to the overall sale total of £38,500.