The Jacobite Rose

I'll sell my rock, I'll sell my reel,
My rippling-kame and spinning wheel,
To buy my lad a tartan plaid,
A braidsword, dirk, and white cockade.

 - Rabbie Burns

The White Cockade, William Ewart Lockhart. Kelvingrove Art Gallery

The White Cockade, William Ewart Lockhart. Kelvingrove Art Gallery

Recently, my thoughts have been drifting and questioning my local area and where I come from.  A big part of the history of Moidart is The Jacobite uprising in 1745.  This time in the Highlands brought Clans together to join in support of the Stuart line (as well as many other reasons I am sure).  After the rebellion failed, it was the beginning of the end of Highland traditions and their way of life.  For some reason I have been thinking of this alot, maybe because it was this month many years ago it started...

In August 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Kinlochmoidart, gaining support from local clans and gradually sailed up Loch Shiel to Glenfinnan where he raised the standard to lead the second Jacobite rising in his father's name.  I have been reading this period recently and find it fascinating, however for this blog I’m going to steer in a different direction.  The area that greatly interests me is women in history and in particular Jacobite women and their dress.  You don’t often hear stories of the women of this time in Scotland, apart from the famous Flora Macdonald, who helped Charlie sail over the sea to Skye dressed as her maid.  I have finished reading Damn' Rebel Bitches by Maggie Craig, which focuses on the women of the Jacobite period.  It tells stories drawn from original documents and letters.  These women were very proud and bold, and this shows through the clothing they wore.

Jenny Cameron was an independent woman who was rumoured to have been Bonnie Prince Charlie’s mistress as well as numerous stories of her reputation as a loose women with no morals, which seems now like crude propaganda against the Jacobites.  Even slanting at the way she dressed, in The Memoirs of a Remarkable Life and Adventures of Miss Jenny Cameron portrays Jenny as an Amazon who wore men’s clothing.  However looking at her portrait, she does appear rather different to the wild woman who the author at that time claimed… One thing the sources all agree on is that Jenny raised over 200 men to the Jacobite cause.

Another strong women was Lady Murray of Broughton, who was the wife of Charles Stuart’s secretary and travelled with the Jacobites.  She was considered a beauty and her description from sources at the time illustrate her fieriness. Below extract from Damn’ Rebel Bitches:

“Mrs Murray’s costume when she left Edinburgh with her husband and the Highland army on the advance into England.  The beautiful Margaret Murray was armed.  She carried a brace of pistols fastened to her side-saddle and wore a fur trimmed outfit, made up specially to match the uniform of the Jacobite hussars, of whom her husband was the titular colonel.  Her hat was “distinguished with a white plumoshe fether”.

An important item to wear on clothing was the White Cockade (a white rose flower made of ribbon), which would be worn to show you were a Jacobite.  This symbol came from the legend that Charles Stuart plucked a white rose on his way to Glenfinnan to raise the standard.  You can see in the below painting a Jacobite woman making her statement. 

Portrait of a Jacobite Lady, Cosmo Alexander, The National Trust for Scotland,

Portrait of a Jacobite Lady, Cosmo Alexander, The National Trust for Scotland,

Tartan appears to be worn in many paintings of Jacobites, it was a major part in their identity.  After the failed rebellion, tartan was banned across Scotland.  Any person wearing tartan could face prison or transportation to a foreign plantation to work.  I find tartan interesting as it's not often worn in today's world.  Apart from men’s kilts, which get taken out of the wardrobe when a special occasion or a wedding calls for it.  I think if people see clothing in a tartan, (other than a kilt) then it is as a statement of some kind (or if I’m being cheeky what an elderly woman might wear!).  I know when I wear my tartan trousers I get comments of how bold I am to wear something that eccentric.  I don’t feel people particularly like tartan or find it attractive, rather than it is making a point or rebelling in some way – much like the Jacobites or the recent punk era in the 1980s. 

It certainly makes me want to break away from the norm and make tartan more accessible – just to wear during the day – tartan skirts, jackets, dresses, trews and dungarees.

It is interesting to think how common tartan was and how it's rarely used now – especially by women.  Reading about these Jacobite women made me see how proud they were and showed who they were by their dress.  It’s something we have lost today, people are self conscience and do not want to stand out - just to blend into the crowds a bit more. 

Hmmmm… I feel it's time for a change, what about you?

L x


Please click on the Pinterest board for more images of Jacobite women  - 




Memoirs of the Jacobites of 1715 and 1745. Volume III. by Mrs. A. T. Thomson

Damn' Rebel Bitches by Maggie Craig

Memoirs of the Remarkable Life and surprising Adventures of Miss Jenny Cameron by Rev Archibald Arbuthnot


Interesting read: