Near the end of Outlander’s season premiere, Jamie gives Claire a medicine box. She’s clearly touched by the gesture, almost awestruck as she opens the various drawers and examines the medicinal oils and 18th-century surgical instruments (which are admittedly a little scary looking).
Jamie is proud that his wife is a healer—he mentions it frequently—and Claire, a 20th-century woman caught in the 18th century, values having a skill and passion beyond the domestic sphere. His present is a gesture of love and respect. Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire on the series, even went so far as to call the gift “one of the most touching things Jamie has ever done for Claire.”
Claire Fraser’s medicine box
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“Do you like it?” he asks during the first episode. “Jamie, it’s wonderful,” Claire responds. “Where did you find it?”
Jamie then explains that he saw the box while visiting the goldsmith to have a ruby set, but the reality of how that box ended up on the Outlander set is a bit more complicated.
“The medical box was researched extensively. We found references to a type of eighteenth-century, portable chest—a surgeon’s chest. We had three versions made bespoke for the show by a specialist antique company, Wetton and Grosch,” says Stuart Bryce, the set decorator for the show. “It is one hundred percent period accurate.”
On the Outlander community website, where show creator a behind-the-scenes look at their process, Bryce explained that there were actually three different boxes made, to be used in various scenes throughout the season.
“The first version is the ‘master,’ all bells and whistles, but it is prohibitively heavy to work with as a movable prop, either for Caitriona, or even for a horse to carry, so we had two lighter versions built too,” he said.
“Within the wooden chest are lots of little drawers and compartments for all the tinctures and tools and instruments required, from the microscope to cutting instruments, a little mortar and pestle and notebook of medical notes from its previous owner which the Outlander Art Department created page by page.”
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A few items in the box were also custom-made for effect, like the bottles that got smashed as Stephen Bonnet’s band of pirates pillage the Fraser’s camp.