The Brodie Sword

WGrant Jacobean collection_12Jan2016_0590To celebrate the return of the Brodie Sword, from display at the National Museum of Scotland’s Jacobites exhibition, we thought we would re-share the story of this intriguing sword.

Sword and Symbols

With the recent exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, many iconic and beautiful pieces related to the Stuart court and its followers were brought together under one roof.

As part of the exhibition the book Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites was published by NMS; with a chapter dedicated to  ‘Weapons fit for a Prince’ it brings new insights into the Brodie sword within the context of two other pieces – The Kandler Sword and a Targe

The Brodie sword was reportedly commissioned by James Drummond the 3rd Duke of Perth to be presented as a gift to the Stuart heir to the throne.  A basket-hilted broad sword, the Brodie sword dates to the 18th Century, along with the sword the matching scabbard has survived and can be seen on display at Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre.

The basket hilt is constructed from moulded silver; with the individual pieces of silver cast and then soldered together to create the hilt.

The design centres on the Greek mythological being of medusas’ head. Medusa was a symbol used by the Stuart royal family, as for every head of the snake cut of more would appear.

A pair of snakes coming out from the head twist forming the wrist guard, on the hilt there are many military trophies – from Hercules club, swords, arrows to guns – with a dolphin found at the pommel. It was suggested by Helen Wyld and George Dalgleish that the Dolphin might relate to the French word Dauphin meaning heir to the throne (Wyld & Dalgleish, 2017).

The basket hilt features many images of conflict it also contains images of peace. From the olive branch (meaning peace) on the sword  to yet more olive braches and the cornucopia (representing plenty) on the matching scabbard, the idea is that when the sword is sheathed at the end of the campaign and the ultimate goal of restoration for James VIII & III being achieved Great Britain will see peace and prosperity.

The Brodie Connection

This sword was said to have been removed from Charles Edward Stuart’s baggage train in the immediate aftermath of Culloden, the Dukes of Gordon (who fought on both sides of the ’45 conflict) had many objects related to the ’45 – everything from pieces of tartan to the beautiful sword.

It was in the care of the Dukes of Gordon until it came into the care of the Brodies through the marriage of Elizabeth Brodie (1794-1864) to George, fifth Duke of Gordon in 1813.

The castle ancestral home of the Brodie clan is a picturesque Brodie Castle in Moray. The castle has a history dating back over 400 years there is a magnificent collection of books, art and objects to explore.

We hope you’ve enjoyed finding out a little more about this amazing piece. Hopefully you will have a chance to come and visit it ! As always please like, share, follow, tweet, comment and let us know if you were able to visit the Jacobites exhibition at NMS.

Discover more about the symbols of the ’45 at our Swords and Symbols event on the 26 November 2017


Forsyth, D. (2017). Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. Edinburgh: National Museum Scotland .

Wyld, H., & Dalgleish, G. (2017). “A slim sword in his hand for batle” Weapons fit for a Prince. In D. Forsyth, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites (pp. 80-93). Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland .




The Unsolved Appin Murder

On 14th May 1752 Colin Campbell of Glenure was murdered and the subsequent capture of his killer is a story full of intrigue and one of Scotland’s most famous unsolved murders.

The Campbell’s were supporters of the Government and, following the defeat of the Jacobites and the end of the ’45 Rising, were not popular with those who had taken up arms to fight with Prince Charles Edward Stuart. There was also said to be anti-Campbell sentiments from the scenes of the Glencoe massacre in 1692 when the Campbell’s, on Government orders, killed members of the MacDonald clan.

On the 14th May Colin Campbell, along with a few other men, had just crossed Loch Leven and were on the road through Lettermore wood when a musket shot rang out. Campbell was hit and killed but there was no sign of the shooter.

The local Stewart clan had suffered evictions at the hand of the Campbells and were prime suspects. Less the two days later an arrest was made. James Stewart, or James of the Glen, was arrested for Campbell’s murder. He was taken to Inveraray Castle, a Campbell stronghold where he was placed on trial. The trial was seemingly rigged from the start. On the jury eleven out of the fifteen men were Campbells and the presiding judge was the Duke of Argyll, the Campbell clan chief. Stewart was found guilty and sentenced to death.

It is widely held that Stewart went to the gallows as an innocent man. He is said to have had an alibi for the time of the shooting and no real evidence appears to have been present to put him in the frame for the murder. The Stewart family apparently knew who the true killer was but refused to give him up and Stewart was hanged by the ferry crossing. His body was left hanging for some eighteen months and it is said as the body deteriorated that his skeleton was held together by wires to remain as a stark warning to others.

The true killer still is not known, however, in 2001 a descendent of the Stewart clan claimed that the secret had been passed down through the generations. They named the real killer as Donald Stewart of Ballachulish. They claimed four young Stewarts had planned the murder and they had chosen their best marksman to take the infamous shot, Donald Stewart.

James Stewarts body was eventually buried. It is said a local man, known as ‘Daft MacPhee’ couldn’t take seeing Stewarts remains every day and tore up the gallows, throwing them into Loch Linnhe. The remains floated south before becoming caught. Here they were carefully gathered and buried by none other than Donald Stewart of Ballachulish.

The tale of the Appin murder inspired Robert Louis Stevensons book Kidnapped and to this day remains one of Scotlands great mysteries. We hope you found this post interesting and as always please share, like, tweet, and comment.

All the best, K & D

The Ferocious Highland Charge

During the Jacobite Risings in the 17th and 18th Century the Jacobites became known for their fearsome battle tactics and the most formidable of these was the Highland Charge. A fast paced and deadly move the action combined all their power into one attack that took down many men who stood to face them.

The Highland Charge may seem like an impulsive rush towards the enemy but in reality there was an orchestrated set of steps that were deployed to ensure the optimum levels of destruction. Firstly before even starting battle the Jacobites looked at the terrain around them to try and find the best spot for their charge. They wanted firm ground that would be quick underfoot and a slope to carry them to their enemy. Speed was essential for the charge to work.

The Highland Charge


The Jacobite army would stand facing the enemy and begin banging their targes, yelling their clan mottos or cries of battle. Before they even moved they tried to instil some fear in the men opposite. At the time the Highlands were seen as a wild place and those that lived there must be wild also. For the British army, many of whom could be new recruits the site of these ‘savages’ in front of them may have seemed quite imposing.

Eventually the Jacobites would begin to move forward. Slow at first they conserved their energy. As they got closer the British army would begin to fire their grapeshot and their muskets. The charge was not for the faint hearted. The Jacobite soldiers would be running though fire and would undoubtedly suffer losses. When they reached striking distance the Jacobites would fire their muskets. Rather than reload like the British across from them they would throw the muskets down and begin their sprint. The smoke from the musket fire acted as a brief screen to shadow them as they charged.

Images from our Battle Immersion Theatre


The Jacobites would race into the front line of the British army with their broadswords, targes and dirks. The men were skilled in close combat and would use the targe to deflect the enemies bayonets or blades with the dirk hidden behind to slice across a mans neck. As they took out one man the broadsword would already be swinging to take out the next. Such an impenetrable mass would quickly break through the ranks and typically after only a short burst of hand to hand fighting the enemy would begin to withdraw.

The Highland Charge was a daring but highly effective tactic that saw the Jacobites win almost every battle in the ’45 Rising right up until the Battle of Culloden. Here the boggy ground, poor communication and the tactics of the British army saw the Highland Charge, along with the Jacobite rising defeated.

We hope you enjoyed this post on the Highland Charge. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and if you are here be sure to talk to our volunteers who are excellent at demonstrating the charge.

All the best, K & D