27 September 2018
A brief history of the Royal Stewart tartan, the world’s most popular tartan, which is one of the tartans that can be worn by anyone, in the absence of a specific clan tartan.
The distinctive red and green overtones of the Royal Stewart tartan are recognisable the world over and the Scottish Register of Tartans reports that this is the most popular tartan ever woven.
An early reference to the Royal Stewart tartan appeared in The Clan and Family Tartans of Scotland by W and A Smith, published in 1850. They wrote:
The Stuart tartan here given is that for which many years has been universally believed in Scotland to be the Tartan worn by our Scottish Sovereigns. Sometimes it is woven with a small stripe of green, bisecting the broad red belt; but we know that this green stripe is a modern innovation, and therefore we exclude it having the best authority for doing so.
The distinctive Royal Stewart pattern was published in The Scottish Gael by James Logan in 1831, but the tartan may well have been worn before then, indeed there are reports that it was born at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Read more about Bonnie Prince Charlie and Culloden here.
Variants of the Royal Stewart tartan
There are several variants of the Royal Stewart tartan:
- Old Stewart
- Dress Stewart
- Hunting Stewart
- Black Stewart
Can I wear the Royal Stewart tartan?
The Royal Stewart is a tartan of the Royal House of Stewart and personal tartan of the Queen. It is also worn by pipers of the Scots Guard, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Black Watch. Although officially, the Royal Stewart tartan can only be worn with the permission of the Queen, its huge popularity means that it has been adopted by anyone who doesn’t have their own tartan.