This male accessory was particularly popular in the eighteenth century when the use of snuff was very fashionable. The little boxes were often decorated by artists and were a sign of affluence. Sometimes they were also used to pass on secret messages to a lover. The way you handled the box conveyed a particular intention or request.
The royals regularly gave official-type gifts in recognition of services rendered. This snuffbox was a gift from King William I to Jean van Hal for the part he played in having Peter Paul Rubens’ paintings returned to Antwerp in 1815. These artworks had been seized during French rule twenty years earlier and, very much against the wishes of the people of Antwerp, taken to Paris.