Exhibition | Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 10, 2017

Press release (24 February 2017) for the exhibition:

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, 23 June — 12 November 2017

Curated by David Forsyth

Louis Gabriel Blanchet, Portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1739 (Royal Collection Trust).

This summer National Museums Scotland will present the largest exhibition about the Jacobites to be held in over 70 years. As well as drawing on National Museums Scotland’s own collections, the exhibition will feature spectacular loans from the United Kingdom and Europe. More than 300 paintings, costumes, documents, weapons, books, and many unique objects owned by the exiled Jacobite kings will help tell the wider story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites.

David Forsyth, the exhibition’s lead curator, said, “The story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites has had an enduring and generally romantic fascination for subsequent generations, from Sir Walter Scott to the current Outlander TV programme, along with many other representations in literature, TV, and film. This exhibition will enable us to use the best material there is—real objects and contemporary accounts and depictions—to present the truth of a story more layered, complex, and dramatic than even these fictional imaginings.”

The Jacobites (from Jacobus, the Latin for James) were supporters of a movement to reinstate the Roman Catholic Stuart king, James VII & II and his heirs to the throne after his exile to France in 1688. Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites presents a detailed and dynamic, multi-faceted re-examination of this familiar yet much-contested story, showing how the Jacobite challenge for the three kingdoms was a complex civil war, which even pitched Scot against Scot. Support for the cause was drawn from Scotland, England, Ireland, and Continental Europe; it was part of the broader dynastic and political rivalries of Europe’s great powers.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Bonnie Prince Charlie has a place in popular consciousness as the romantic personification and figurehead of the movement. This is at least in part due to the Victorian fascination with the period, illustrated by the portrait which opens the exhibition of the Prince arriving at a ball at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The work, by John Pettie, was painted over a century after Charles’s death and actually depicts a scene from Sir Walter Scott’s novel Waverley.

In fact, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Maria Stuart (1720–1788) was born and died in Rome, spending less than fourteen months in Scotland during his lifetime. The exhibition will explore the full story of the Jacobites, which spans two centuries and encompasses Britain, Ireland, and Continental Europe.

The Stuart Dynasty: Divided by Faith

At the heart of the story lies one family—The Royal House of Stuart—one of Europe’s most enduring dynasties, a dynasty with a claim to unite three kingdoms: Scotland, England, and Ireland.

James VII & II had taken the throne in 1685 after the death of his brother, Charles II. By 1688 political and religious pressures drove a wedge through the family. James’ Catholic faith, shown in spectacular altar pieces bought in 1686 for his chapel at Holyrood, caused widespread concern and, when he announced the birth of a male heir which heralded the prospect of a Catholic succession, he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution, replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange, while her baby half-brother was smuggled out the country for his own safety.

These events led to James VII & II, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s grandfather, spending the rest of his days in exile in France, while the house of Hanover succeeded to the throne in 1714. The Hanoverian line is shown through the basin and ewer of the Winter Queen, Elizabeth of Bohemia, daughter of James VI & I, whose grandson George became King after the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

Courtly Exile in Europe

Short tartan frock coat with velvet collar and cuffs and lined in wool twill and linen, associated with Prince Charles Edward Stuart (National Museums Scotland).

The baby smuggled to safety was Charles’s father, James Francis Stuart (1688–1766); to supporters loyal to the exiled Stuarts, he became James VIII & III and was formally recognised as such by Louis XIV of France. The exhibition will bring to the forefront the lives of the Jacobites in exile at the courts they established in Saint Germain, France, and later in Rome, where they were joined by many of their followers. A display of remarkable and symbolic objects including the targe (shield), broadsword, and travelling canteen, commissioned by supporters at home, will be shown in the context of the exiled Stuart court in Rome. These objects, all later recovered from the baggage train at Culloden, were produced to promote the Jacobites’ dynastic claims, affirming their royal status and showing their connections with their distant supporters while in exile. Secret signs and insignias marked out those loyal to the ‘kings over the water’, ranging from a subtle white rose to a seditious full tartan suit, made for leading English Jacobite Sir John Hyde Cotton.

James Francis Stuart married a Polish Princess, Clementina Sobieski. His marriage certificate will be shown, as will the baptismal certificate of their first
son, Charles Edward Stuart.

Five Jacobite Challenges for the Throne

Meanwhile, in Scotland, this tumultuous period was characterized by five Jacobite challenges to the throne, in 1689–90, 1708, 1715, culminating in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s campaign of 1745–46. Weapons, plans, paintings, and commemorative objects show the earlier campaigns. Charles’s time in Scotland, while short, forms one of largest sections of the exhibition, including spectacular costume including items associated with Charles himself and dresses of the time thought to have been worn at the Court he briefly held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Alongside this, the ‘lost’ Ramsay portrait of Charles in the guise of a European prince, recently acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland, will be shown.

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Last Jacobite Challenge

After further advances followed by a long retreat, the campaign came to an abrupt and bloody end in little more than an hour at Culloden. The plan of the battle, a portrait of the Duke of Cumberland and numerous weapons and effects of those who fell will form a reflective backdrop as a Gaelic lament plays in the background.

Retribution across the Highlands was swift and brutal. Charles spent five months evading government forces eventually sailing for France, leaving the Jacobite cause in tatters. Portraits of Anne MacKintosh and Flora MacDonald introduce two of the key figures in Charles’ eventful escape.

Kings over the Water

The denouement to the story and to the exhibition is the remaining years in exile of James, Charles, and his brother Henry who, after Culloden, joined the priesthood of the Catholic Church while Charles, his ambitions thereby thwarted once and for all, dwindled towards a dissolute end. A pair of portraits of Henry and Charles in their later years serves to illustrate their contrasting fates. Henry, Charles, and their father James are all buried in the Vatican, the latter being the only monarch interred there.

A closing selection of Jacobite memorial treasures is presented, including the ‘Spottiswoode’ Amen glass, c.1775. On loan from William Grant and Sons, owners of Drambuie, this is one of the finest ‘Amen’ glasses in existence, so called due to its engraving with the Jacobite anthem of James VIII and dedicatory inscriptions to his sons, Prince Charles and Prince Henry.

The exhibition is supported by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers and will be accompanied by a programme of public events and by two publications.

The National Museum of Scotland is part of a new trail of 26 attractions across Scotland whose history is intertwined with the Jacobite story. Learn more here.

David Forsyth, ed., Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites (Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland, 2017), 256 pages, ISBN: 978 191068 2081, £25.

Broadsword with a silver hilt made by Edinburgh goldsmith Harry Bethune, ca. 1715 (National Museums Scotland, H.LA 124). The inscription shows support for James ‘VIII’, the son of the deposed King James VII and father of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

S T U D Y  D A Y — 2 8  O C T O B E R  2 0 1 7

Chaired by historian Fiona Watson, our expert panel will examine the wider Jacobite story: Bonnie Prince Charlie’s court at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Stuart courts in exile in France and Italy, and how our conservators prepared costume pieces for display.

10:00  Registration

10:30  Fiona Watson, Welcome and Introduction
Watson is an author, broadcaster, and historian. She is best known for her 2001 BBC series In Search of Scotland. She is former Senior Lecturer in Scottish History and founding Director of the Centre for Environmental History at the University of Stirling.

10:45  David Forsyth, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Rise and Fall of the Jacobites
Drawing on exceptional material from Scottish collections as well as treasures from across the UK and France, this talk will reveal who the Jacobites were and explores the cause that drove their campaigns. Forsyth is Principal Curator of Medieval–Early Modern Collections in the Department of Scottish History and Archaeology at National Museums Scotland and the curator of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites.

11:15  Deborah Clarke, Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
In 1745, the Jacobites seized the city of Edinburgh and Bonnie Prince Charlie set up court at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This talk uncovers the famous court of the ’45 Rising and discusses the ceremonies and events that took place during the Prince’s residence at the Stuart palace. Clarke is Senior Curator, Royal Collection Trust, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

11:45  Danielle Connolly and Miriam McLeod, Conserving the Jacobites
The National Museum of Scotland’s Jacobite textile collections are of international importance. They are often unique objects, covering a range of materials and techniques. This talk will highlight the painstaking textile conservation work undertaken on large costume pieces—such as the silk dress said to have been worn by Margaret Oliphant of Gask at the Great Ball of Holyrood after the Battle of Prestonpans—and the small but highly symbolic white cockade. Connolly is Assistant Textile Conservator at National Museums Scotland; McLeod is Textile Conservator at National Museums Scotland.

12:15  Lunch Break and Opportunity to View Exhibition
National Museums Scotland Research Librarians will be on hand to showcase related material in South Hall. The scope of the library collection reflects the strengths and variety of the Museums’ collections and Library staff can offer advice and support in locating items and using the collections. The Research Library is our main reading room on level 3 of the National Museum of Scotland.

13:30  Edward Corp, The Stuart Court in France and Italy
An analysis of the Jacobite Court in exile—re-assessing its importance and highlighting the significance of Stuart relations with the European monarchy and the Papacy. This talk will also explore how the court came to an end—and how it has since been misrepresented. Corp was Professor of British History at the University of Toulouse until 2011 and since then has been Emeritus Professor. Edward curated The King over the Water, a major exhibition on the exiled Stuart Court at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2001 and wrote the associated publication The King over the Water: Portraits of the Stuarts in Exile after 1689 (National Galleries of Scotland, 2001). He has also written a three volume history of the Stuart Court in exile: A Court in Exile: The Stuarts in France, 1689–1718; The Jacobites at Urbino: An Exiled Court in Transition; and The Stuarts in Italy, 1719–1766: A Royal Court in Permanent Exile.

14:15  Panel Discussion and Audience Q&A, Chaired by Fiona Watson

Additional programming details are available here»



%d bloggers like this: