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Surviving fragment of Bonnie Prince Charlie tartan to stay in Scotland

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A section of the plaid worn by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) is to stay in Scotland after it was recently purchased at an Edinburgh auction, the Scottish Tartans Authority has announced.

The specimen is a newly discovered piece of the plaid gifted to the famous Jacobite heroine ‘Colonel’ Anne MacKintosh by Prince Charles Edward Stuart when he stayed at Moy Hall, near Inverness, in February 1746 – two months before the Battle of Culloden

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The piece was purchased by a private collector at a recent Lyon & Turnbull Auction in Edinburgh and has been generously offered to the Scottish Tartans Authority on a long-term loan basis.

Background to the Bonnie Prince Charlie plaid

There are a number of smaller pieces of the cloth in various museums and private collections, all said to be from the same plaid. Peter MacDonald, The Scottish Tartans Authority’s Head of Research & Collections, has spent over 20 years researching the plaid and has shown that some of the alleged pieces are, in fact, later copies.

He is keen to point out the significance of this fragment and said: “Other than the piece still at Moy Hall, this new find is the largest known surviving specimen of the original plaid.  My research has identified a unique threading arrangement in the original Moy Hall tartan cloth, a feature that can be clearly seen in the Lyon & Turnbull piece, thus verifying its provenance as a section of the original”.

The missing link

The plaid was divided amongst supporters of Prince Charles Edward Stuart as a keepsake and of seventeen specimens so far identified, including two located in North America, only six are known to be part of the original.

It is hoped that further study of this piece will flush out other fragments of the plaid including the ‘missing link’, a sample that includes the second selvedge (opposite edge of the woven fabric) which has been a subject of academic debate and disagreement for half a century.

Scottish Tartans Authority Chairman John McLeish said: “It is incredibly exciting to work with such an iconic specimen that has a direct connection with one of history's most romantic figures. We are delighted to have been involved in retaining this important artefact here in Scotland and this adds a real boost to our plans to establish a National Tartan Centre in Stirling by 2020."

For more on the Scottish Tartans Authority, visit their website.

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