The Life of Robert Strange

Today we look at the life of Robert Strange, an engraver from Scotland who joined the Jacobites but later reconciled with the government and was even knighted by King George III.

Born in Orkney in 1721, Robert Strange was 12 years old when his father died. To ease the pressure on the family finances Robert was sent to Edinburgh to be under the care of a half-brother who worked as a writer. Before long he was copying documents for his brother but in his spare time he enjoyed doing drawings. One day in 1735 his brother, while looking for some document, came across some of these drawings and immediately recognized that they showed talent. Unbeknown to Robert his brother took the drawings to Mr Richard Cooper, an established line-engraver practicing in Edinburgh. Mr Cooper also saw the potential talent and took Robert into his house on a six-year apprenticeship. Strange loved the work and at the end of his apprenticeship in 1741, he set-up on his own in Edinburgh at just 20 years old.

Portrait of Robert Strange

Strange already had Jacobite sympathies but in 1743/44 his life changed when he met the girl who was later to become his wife, Isabella Lumisden. Isabella and her brother Andrew were passionate, dedicated Jacobites and in 1745, when the rebel army was in Edinburgh, Andrew Lumisden became Prince Charles’s private secretary. Robert Strange wanted to marry Isabella but before she agreed she insisted that Robert should join the Prince’s army and support the cause. Robert conceded and joined the Life Guards. He was with the army throughout the rebellion, fighting at both the battle of Prestonpans and the battle of Falkirk.

Two weeks before the Battle of Culloden  Prince Charles commissioned Robert to engrave some plates to print bank notes to pay the troops. Charles was running low on money, especially after the capture of the Jacobite ship ‘Le Prince Charles’, and was facing the prospect of being unable to feed or supply his army. Robert engraved the plates, which included illustrations of a rose and thistle, but the fateful battle intervened and the notes were never used.

Robert Strange’s Jacobite banknotes

After Culloden Robert, like many Jacobites, was forced into hiding in the Highlands. Later in 1746, when the Act of Attainder for High Treason was passed, Robert had a stroke of luck as his name was not mentioned. Unfortunately, his future brother-in-law, Andrew Lumisden, was on the list and he was forced to flee into exile in France. It might have been a different story if the bank notes Robert had printed had been used but for now he had a chance to reinvent himself.

In early 1747 Robert came out of hiding and ventured back to Edinburgh. He secretly married Isabella but was still under suspicion and had to be careful. He could not return to work as a line-engraver, yet he had to earn some money. He painted and sold miniature paintings of the Jacobite leaders of the ’45 to those supporters who were still around. He remained in Edinburgh until September 1748 when, feeling the need to improve and develop his art, and perhaps seek new opportunities, he went to France. He spent several months in Rouen studying drawing and then went to Paris to study fine line-engraving under the French master, Le Bas.

An engraving of Prince Charles by Robert Strange

Eventually he returned to Britain in 1765 with an international reputation as an engraver established. It took Robert a while to be accepted into the London art circle but thanks to his friend Benjamin West he went on to engrave a Van Dyck portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, which belonged to George III. Here he had unlimited access to the Royal Collection and caught the eye of King in a favourable way.  The print was published in Paris where it proved very popular and he was even received by Louis XVIII and Marie Antoinette. In 1786 he engraved Wests’ Apotheosis of the Children of George III and must have done a good job as on 5th January 1787 was knighted by King George III, the only engraver to be knighted in the 18th Century.

Robert Strange lived the rest of his life in England, having moved from Jacobite to knight, before he died in his home in 1792. Hopefully you have enjoyed this little insight into his life and as always please like, share, tweet, comment and keep on reading.

All the best, K & D

What was the Act of Settlement?

In 1701 the English Parliament passed the Act of Settlement, but what was this act and why was it put into place?

Basically, the Act of Settlement was passed in 1701 to decide who would take the English and Irish crowns following Queen Anne. The issue arose because Queen Anne, and also her sister Queen Mary, failed to produce any surviving children to take the throne. The most logical heir would be James VIII & III, son of the deposed King James VII & II, but as a Catholic this was not an avenue the government wished to go down.

Instead, the Act of Settlement was passed. The act disqualified anyone who became a Roman Catholic, or who married one, from inheriting the throne and this removed a lot lines who were closely related to Queen Anne and the Stuart line. The Act also helped strengthen Parliament position by restricting the monarchs power. They are not allowed to leave the country without Parliaments approval, nor are they able to throw the country into war without Parliaments agreement. Eventually it was decided that Electress Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI & I, would be next in line to the throne.

Sophia of Hanover


With the Act in place everything was sorted, but then, unfortunately Sophia died just a couple of months before Queen Anne in 1714. So, the throne eventually passed to her son King George I, who was Queen Anne’s second cousin, and he became the first Hanoverian ruler of Britain.

The Act of Settlement was, in many ways, also a major cause of the Act of Union in 1707, which formed the Kingdom of Great Britain. Unhappy with the Act of Settlement Scotland passed the Act of Security in 1704, which gave them the right to choose their own successor to Queen Anne. England retaliated with the 1705 Alien Act which stated that if Scotland did not accept the Hanoverian succession, or begin proceedings on a union of parliaments, then Scottish imports to England would be banned and Scots living in England would be treated as aliens. Finally, in 1707 the Act of Union was agreed and Scotland and England joined to become Great Britain with Queen Anne as its monarch to be followed by the Hanoverian line.

Reporduktion des "Act of Settlement" im Leibniz-Saal des Niedersächsischen Landtages.
Act of Settlement

The Act of Settlement ran relative unaltered in its main parts until 2013. Here the Succession to the Crown Act altered some of the laws within the Act of Settlement. The 2103 act instigated absolute primogeniture for those born in the line of succession after 28th October 2011. This meant that the eldest child would be heir to the throne regardless of gender, whereas previously males were given preference. The act also ended the disqualification of a person who married a Roman Catholic. The act was brought into force on 26th March 2015. Interestingly though the provision of the Act of Settlement requiring the monarch to be a Protestant still remains.

Following the implementation of the Succession to the Crown Act we saw George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews restored to the line of succession after he married a Catholic in 1988 and he now sits in 34th place to the throne.

Hopefully this has helped explain the Act of Settlement for you all. As always if you enjoyed the post please like, comment, share and tweet.

All the best, K & D

5 Great Summer Walks

With summer heading our way, and hopefully some wonderful weather to go with it, we’re taking a look at some of the best walks the NTS has to offer.


Pathways of exotic plants at Inverewe Gardens

Firstly Inverewe Gardens. Perfect for a pleasant stroll through gorgeous grounds, Inverewe Garden is a special place on the North West coast of Scotland. Its unique ecosystem allows plants from all over to grow and its home to pine martens, squirrels, buzzards and if you’re lucky even an eagle. There is usually plenty of colour and enough variety to dazzle all the senses. Their Pinewood trail takes just 45 minutes and is perfect for families, plus you can stop off at the restaurant after for a quick pick me up.

A view up to the castle of Culzean

Secondly, Culzean Castle and its lovely beach. A classic mixture of sand and rocks this beach lies below the stunning castle and offers a more secluded beach environment than usual. As you walk along you get great views out to sea and, to the south, the granite rock that is Ailsa Craig. You’ll also see caves dotted in the cliffs and, if you fancy, you can join a guided tour taking you into the cave chambers where you can discover tales of smugglers from years ago.

The majestic Falls of Glomach

If you fancy something a bit more adventurous you can head to the Falls of Glomach. One of the highest waterfalls in Britain, with a drop of 113m (370ft), the Falls of Glomach are set in a steep narrow cleft in remote Highland country. The easiest walk is 2.5 miles uphill from the car park at Dorusduain but the rewarding views and atmospheric misty conditions definitely make it worth the effort. This is one of the few walks where rain is actually welcome as the runoff makes the falls even more spectacular.

The beautiful coastline of Rockcliffe

Rockcliffe, on the other hand, can offer something for everyone. From mudflats to meadows, rocky shore to heather-topped granite outcrops, this area is home to a huge diversity of wildlife and a network of paths gives access to most of the area. One of the highlights is the Mote of Mark which dates back to the late 6th or 7th century AD. This defended settlement is thought to have been the citadel of one of the princes of the ancient kingdom of Rheged. Huge stone and timber ramparts surrounded a large timber hall and some smaller stables and workshops, where bronze jewellery was made. Today you can only see the remains of the ramparts but it is still an impressive site. You can also see Rough Island, a bird sanctuary, where oystercatchers like to nest and ringed plovers are also found. If you time it right you’ll also see the oystercatchers probing for cockles in the soft estuary mud when the tide is out. If that’s not enough though you may catch sight of porpoises in the water as the feed to close to shore or, if you are very lucky, even a peregrine falcon as it hunts on the mudflats and cliffs.

Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage

Finally, for more of a woodland walk, we turn to The Hermitage. Here you can follow in the footsteps of notable visitors of the past including Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and Turner. The area takes you through spectacular Douglas firs, including one of the tallest trees in the country, and then on to a lovely little folly called Ossian’s Hall which sits overlooking the Black Linn waterfall.  With summers long hours if you visit in the evening there is also a chance of seeing bats flying over the river or perching in the trees and you can often here the calls of a tawny owl of two.

Hopefully these walks have tempted you to head out on an adventure. As always please like, tweet, comment, share and keep your fingers crossed for some sunshine.

All the best, K & D


The Intriguing Darien Scheme

Today we look at the intriguing story of the Darien Scheme, an unsuccessful attempt by Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called “Caledonia” on the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién.

The plan was the brainchild of William Paterson, a Scot born in Tinwald in Dumfriesshire in 1658, who made his first fortune through international trade and was well known down south as one of the founding directors of the Bank of England. His plan was to create a link between east and west, which could command the trade of the two great oceans of the world, the Pacific and Atlantic. Trade with the incredibly lucrative Pacific markets was a hugely expensive business, since all merchant ships had to make the hazardous trip round Cape Horn on the southern tip of South America. This added months to the journey, and the ships involved had a high chance of being lost at sea. If a colony could be established at Darien, goods could be ferried from the Pacific across Panama and loaded onto ships in the Atlantic from there. This would thus speed up Pacific trade making it much more reliable.

The Isthmus of Darien


In 1693, Paterson helped to set up the Company of Scotland to make his idea a reality. The original directors of the Company of Scotland were Scottish and English in equal numbers, with the risk investment capital being shared, half from the English and Dutch, and the other half from the Scots. However, under pressure from the East India Company,  who were afraid of losing their trade monopoly, the English Parliament withdrew its support for the scheme at the last minute. This forced the English and Dutch to withdraw and left the Scots as sole investors of the scheme.

Thousands invested their money with roughly £500,000 gathered, about half of the national capital available. Thousands more volunteered to travel to Darien and a new home.The money was used to fit out five ships for the expedition, the Unicorn, St Andrew, Caledonia, Endeavour and Dolphin, despite efforts by the English authorities to block them.  In 1698 the vessels containing merchandise, military stores, provisions and 1,200 persons finally sailed from Leith to Darien to form the proposed colony.

darien chest
A example of a Darien Chest which housed the money for the scheme


On 2nd November 1698 the ships landed and renamed the land Caledonia with its capital New Edinburgh. However, problems were quick to arise. The crossing had not been pleasant with many men falling ill and power struggles already apparent. The situation grew worse because of lack of food. The land was not the paradise they had hoped it would be; it was unsuitable for agriculture and in the spring torrential rain brought with it disease. Soon the death toll was reaching 10 people a day. Only seven months after arriving 400 Scots were dead and many were emaciated and yellow with fever. Faced with the threat of attack from the native Spaniards the decision was made to abandon the scheme.

Unfortunately, news did not travel quickly in the 17th century. Six more ships set sail from Leith in November 1699 loaded with a further 1,300 excited pioneers, all blissfully ignorant about the fate of the earlier settlers. In all sixteen ships ended up making sail to Darien but only one would return. Scotland had paid a terrible price with more than two thousand lives lost. Together with the loss of the investment the Scottish economy was almost bankrupted and left many landowners and nobles almost completely ruined.

The Darien Scheme lost over £232,884, made up of the life savings of many of the Scottish people and the Scottish economy was in a dire situation. Seven years later Scotland agreed to the Act of Union with some claiming the disaster of Darien as a major reason for the alliance. As part of the deal, England paid off Scotland’s debts with the ‘Equivalent’, a sum of £398,000, most of which went to cover the Company of Scotland’s losses. The institution established to administer this money eventually became the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Darien Scheme was a bold an ambitious plan that ultimately backfired for all those involved. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed hearing a little about this scheme, as always please like, share, tweet, comment and ponder what may have happened had the scheme been successful.

All the best, K & D