National Museum of Scotland: Experience The Events That Led to The Battle of Culloden

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Season 3, Voyager, has begun. The Outlander producers and writers have brought us back to the 18th century, exposing viewers to the catastrophic events that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives at the Battle of Culloden. We also witness the violent suppression that soon followed to ensure the complete defeat of the Jacobite uprising of 1745. These events have moved Outlander fans, such as ourselves, to look beyond fiction to discover the true realities the Highlanders faced during this difficult time of history. In doing so, we have learned more about The Act of Proscription (1746), a law aimed to destroy the power of the clans and subdue any other attempts of revolt by prohibiting traditional Highland dress and possession of arms. The way of life for the Highlanders was ultimately destroyed, with devastating effects that reached well beyond the boundaries of war.

It is now 271 years after the Battle of Culloden. The strength of emotions that are elicited from the reflection of all that was lost on that battlefield can still be felt today. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series may have encouraged fans’ initial interest to follow these historical events. However, it is believed that her admirers now do so for a greater reason than solely searching for the literary footsteps of her noble characters. They research components of history, travel to sacred sites, and find ways to experience the magic of this majestic country to discover the true heart of Scotland: the culture, the people, and its heritage. Yet to understand the resilient spirit of this great nation, it is important to recognize the darker and more poignant moments of history that sculpted the past and led to the present. There is no better place to do this than spending time at The National Museum of Scotland.

A visit to Culloden Moor, a place where thousands of men lost their lives, undoubtedly evokes emotion. Many who have visited this battlefield have spoken about the importance of remembrance as they walk the moor, view the memorial cairn, and pay respects to each gravestone. This was Scotland’s last war for freedom and the history held on these  grounds undoubtedly give proof of its high costs.

As we reflect on these events, another place of discovery to understand what led up to this battle can be found at a new exhibition at the The National Museum of Scotland – Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. Here, one can “discover a compelling story of loyalty, loss, rebellion, and retribution.” Whether you are an avid lover of history, desire to see some of Scotland’s priceless national treasures, or want to explore the greater story of the Jacobite cause beyond fictional novels, you must discover this new exhibit while in Edinburgh, Scotland. This temporary exhibition runs until the 12th of November, 2017.

Step back through time to learn more about the Stuart claim to the throne by following the layers of history that preceded the rebellion and witness true priceless artifacts of Scottish history that were used by The Bonnie Prince himself. It is a unique opportunity and one that should not be missed.

Photo Credit / National Museums Scotland. Portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, artist and date unknown, detail from a miniature (c) National Museums Scotland.

Below is a press release from National Museum of Scotland:

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites: A New Exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland

Rare treasures from Rome and the Vatican will go on display in the United Kingdom for the first time as a key part of a major new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.

These outstanding artifacts form part of the largest exhibition about the Jacobites to be held in over 70 years. Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites presents more than 300 spectacular treasures, drawn from National Museum of Scotland’s own collections and those of 44 lenders including other major institutions across Scotland, the UK and Europe. These include Royal Collection, the Royal Armouries, the Musée de Louvre, the National Galleries, National Records and National Library of Scotland as well as a number of private collections.

Paintings, tartan costume, jewelry, books, weapons, rare documents and personal objects owned by the Jacobite kings shed new light on a period which has long captured the popular imagination.

Highlight objects in the exhibition associated with Charles Edward Stuart himself include the ‘lost’ Ramsay portrait of Charles, the only image of him taken during his time in Scotland, his elaborate silver traveling canteen and a letter from an eight-year-old Charles to his father, apologizing for startling his mother.

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites presents a detailed and dynamic re-examination of this familiar yet much-contested story, showing how the Jacobite challenge for the three kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland was a complex civil war, and revealing the wider European power politics at play during this famed period of history.

David Forsyth, Principal Curator, Medieval and Early Modern Collections at National Museums Scotland, said:

“The story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites holds an enduring and at times romantic fascination. Charles Edward Stuart is actually the final chapter in a story which starts in 1688 with the deposing of his grandfather, James VII and II of England and Scotland, sending the Stuarts into courtly exile. And so, as the exhibition shows, whilst Scotland is the battleground, it is in Europe – first France and latterly in Rome – where the Stuart story unfolds over this period, with courts held, honours dispensed, tributes accepted and campaigns planned.” 

“The 1745 rising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie is the last of five Jacobite challenges for the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland. The Battle of Culloden in 1746 came to mark the end of any serious prospect of the Stuarts reclaiming their kingdoms, but it is not the end of Charles’ story. His father, James VIII and III, lived another 20 years after Culloden, Charles died in 1788, followed by his younger brother Henry in 1807. So, as well as being wonderful objects in their own right, these loans enable us to take our visitors to the end of the Stuart story, whilst emphasising the European connections which are central to understanding Jacobitism.”

Photo Credit / National Museums Scotland. Front view of Bonnie Prince Charlie frock coat, (c) National Museums Scotland. This frock appears to be made of wool, linen, and velvet. It may have been worn during his time in Scotland.

Learn About The Jacobites

The National Museum of Scotland has brought to the forefront the lives of the Jacobites in exile at the courts they established in France and later in Rome, where they were joined by many of their followers. A selection of remarkable and symbolic objects were produced to promote the Jacobites’ dynastic claims to the throne both at the exiled courts and back home, where supporters paid tribute to the ‘kings over the water’.

Through objects drawn from National Museums Scotland’s own rich collections and loans from 44 different public and private lenders across Scotland, the UK and Europe, the exhibition reveals the depth and complexity of a story clouded by Victorian romanticism. The period and the movement are often wrongly reduced to ‘Scotland vs England’, ‘Lowland v Highland’ or ‘Protestant v Catholic’, none of which accurately characterize the layers of conflict and intrigue.

The exhibition will explore the full story of the Jacobites, which spans two centuries, and encompasses Britain, Ireland and continental Europe. Bonnie Prince Charlie has a place in popular consciousness as the romantic personification and figurehead of this movement.

Photo Credit / National Museums Scotland. Dress targe or shield presented to Prince Charles Edward Stuart by James, 3rd Duke of Perth c. 1740, (c) National Museums Scotland. This ceremonial targe was presented prior to Culloden and was later recovered following the battle. In the center is a figure of Medusa, a mythological creature that could turn people to stone with her gaze.

Discover More About The Stuart Family

James VII & II had ascended 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 caused widespread concern and, when he announced the birth of a male heir which heralded the prospect of a Catholic succession, he was deposed and 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, where his son, James Francis Stuart, grew up.

Three further challenges to the throne were mounted in 1708, 1715 and 1719. Charles Edward Stuart was born in Rome in 1720, and was raised there as a prince. He only spent 14 months of his life in Britain as he led the ultimately doomed 1745 challenge, advancing as far as Derby before retreating, pursued by Government forces to eventual catastrophic defeat at Culloden.

The denouement to the story and to the exhibition is the remaining years in exile of James, Charles and his brother Henry who joined the priesthood of the Catholic Church, being ordained as a priest in 1748. His ambitions were thereby effectively thwarted once and for all, and he dwindled towards a dissolute end. Henry, Charles, and their father James are all buried in the Vatican, the latter being the only king interred there.

Photo Credit / National Museums Scotland. Silver travelling canteen of Prince Charles Edward Stuart c. 1740, (c) National Museums Scotland. This elaborately decorated canteen may have been presented to BPC upon his 21st birthday. Inside it held a wine-taster, a cruet, a teaspoon and marrow scoop, a corkscrew, a nutmeg grater and a knife and fork.

Visit the National Museum of Scotland

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, supported by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers, runs from 23 June to 12 November 2017. Admission is £10 for adults, £8 concessions, £7 children, with free admission for under 12s and National Museums Scotland members.

Photo Credit / National Museums Scotland. Framed, coloured print of the Battle of Culloden, published by Laurie and Whittle, 1797.



Sass3 must send our sincerest thank you to the National Museum of Scotland for allowing us the opportunity to share this special exhibition with our readers. If you have visited this exhibition, we would love to hear about your most memorable findings. If you are unable to attend the museum during this time period, do not worry. The Museum has a huge range of permanent displays, including the full history of Scotland told over seven floors. The story of the Jacobites can also be found here, where some of the highlights from this special exhibition will return after November. We anxiously look forward to being able to appreciate all that this museum offers on our next visit to Scotland in March 2018.

Would you like to read more about Diana Gabaldon’s or Andrew Gower’s visit to the museum? If so, please click on the links below to learn more.

Reference on 9/10/2017

All photos from our blogs are owned by Timeless Sass3nach Journeys, unless noted or attributed. The use of our photos is not permitted unless consent is given.

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