Jacobite Jaunt

This week was time for our annual Jacobite Jaunt, where we head off with our volunteers to explore more sites that tackle Jacobite history. This year there was really only one choice for our destination and that was the National Museum of Scotland, which is running a special Jacobite exhibition, from 23rd June to 12th November, this year.

The National Museum of Scotland (NMS), which can be found in Edinburgh, is a beautiful building and worth a visit any time you head to the capital, but this year it is extra special as it hosts one of the largest exhibitions of Jacobite history for at least 70 years.

Following on from their very successful exhibition around Mary, Queen of Scots the NMS have now formed a fantastic display of artefacts including weapons, letters, portraits and unique trinkets that take the visitor on a dramatic journey through the whole of Jacobite history.

When we arrived at the museum we were lucky enough to have a short talk with one of the curators before being shown around by one of their excellent volunteer guides. Needless to say we were all very keen and excited to be visiting and we were not disappointed.

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Ticket for the exhibtion

 

The exhibition covers the whole of the Stuart dynasty breaking down the action into sections so that the highly complex story is taken in nice manageable stages. The objects on display are fascinating and we all spent hours in the exhibit trying to take in every bit of detail. The collection is comprised of pieces from the NMS as well as many other collections throughout Britain and Europe.

One of our highlights was seeing our own sword, known as the ‘Brodie Sword’ on display in the exhibition. It was lovely to see it on display in the capital and taking part in such an iconic exhibition alongside other incredible displays. Also on display are stunning letters and articles that, if you have the time, are wonderful to read. There are some great portraits and images that carry through subtle messages of power and monarchy. We also spotted a beautiful pin cushion embroidered with the names of men who fell at Culloden which was a lovely personal and sentimental item to see.  The exhibition covers the history very well and it was great to follow the journey right from 1688 all the way through to Culloden and beyond.

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The Brodie Sword in the exhibtion

 

If you are in Edinburgh we strongly recommend visiting the exhibition. We were all very reluctant to leave and it would have been easy to spend a day in the beautiful museum. The NMS has done a fantastic job and it is a great spot to begin your introduction to Jacobites before you head north to see us!

As always please like, share, comment, tweet and let us know if you have been to the exhibition.

All the best,

K & D

 

 

 

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The Basket Hilted Broadsword

Unsurprisingly one of the highlights of visitors time here at Culloden is attending the workshops that volunteers come and run in the exhibition looking at weapons of the ’45 Rising. The chance to see and touch replicas of the real items on display in the cases helps bring the story to life.

In particular people are interested about the swords that we have on display. It is not unusual for guests to enquire about the famous large Scottish two handed sword of ‘Braveheart’ fame but during Culloden and the ’45 weaponry had moved on to the sleeker and more refined basket hilted broadsword.

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Example of the broadswords with targes

 

For those who get to feel the weight of the sword it is often lighter than they expect and is easily wielded by one hand leaving the other free for the targe and dirk. The Scottish version of the sword was typically broader than other swords around at the time. It’s Gaelic name would have been claidheamh-mór which translates as ‘great sword’ in reference to this larger size.

Despite us referring to its special Scottish nature most swords were originally made in Europe with German steel often creating the main blade of the sword. There were also basket hilted swords in England as early as the 1500’s so Scotland was not exactly the pioneers of this new style of weapon.

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Basket hilted sword possibly belonging to Prince Charles Edward Stuart

 

Eventually though there were Scottish sword makers and the hilts made in Scotland began to form their own style with wider coverings around the hand than the thin bars of English hilts. Some hilt makers, or ‘hammermen’, became quite renowned in Scotland producing intricate works. We are lucky enough to have on display the ‘Brodie Sword’ which is believed to have belonged to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. It is a decorative piece rather than a fighting weapon and its hilt is elaborately decorated with the head of medusa with her snakes curling around the hilt and is a great example of 18th Century workmanship.

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Basket Hilted Broadsword

 

The style of the sword was not just for decoration. The hilt itself helped form a protective guard around the soldiers hand and a weight at the base of the hilt would be used to pommel enemies in close quarter combat. Those that were well made would form a perfect balance with the sword blade which would help make the soldiers slicing actions smooth but powerful. Combined with the targe and dirk in the other hand, basket hilted broadswords made the Jacobites a formidable opponent even against the Governments muskets and bayonets during the ’45 Rising.

We hope you enjoyed this short insight into the broadsword. As always please like, share, comment, tweet and if you want to know feel free to come along and see the broadswords on display for yourself.

All the best, K & D

 

 

 

The Brodie Sword.

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The Brodie Sword

This week we thought we’d take the chance to highlight one of the artifacts on display in our Culloden Exhibition and have chosen the Brodie Sword.

Reportedly commissioned and gifted by the Duke of Perth it is one of two swords and targes made for Prince Charles and his brother Henry. The sword would have been a symbol of power and used for display only, not as a weapon. The sword came to the Brodie family through the marriage of Elizabeth Brodie to George, 5th Duke of Gordon in 1813 with the tradition that it had been taken from the Princes baggage train after Culloden.

The sword is a basket-hilted broad sword from the 18th Century. The hilt is unmarked silver most likely of north European origin whilst the blade is German. The basket is a conventional shape outlined with rococo scrolls and is made from numerous small pieces cast in low relief and soldered together. It is highly decorative, and includes many symbols of Jacobitism, including the Medusa head.

The symbology on the basket is based on Greco/Roman mythology suggesting an intellectual owner. Symbols include two serpents forming the wrist guard for wisdom and guardianship, a lion  for royalty and a dolphin on the pommel to represent power of earth and sea.

The labrys or doubled headed axe (later used as a Fascist emblem) is a symbol of power and appears in the centre of faches (pronounced fatch-ey), a bundle of birch rods tied with a leather strappins. Faches were dipped in pitch and lit for use as a flaming torch. Their symbolic meaning is of power through unity and civilization/enlightment by force if necessary. Interestingly this is also where the term fachism comes form.

The medusa head was to strike fear into the enemy and was also a Jacobite symbol, in Greek myth if the medusas’ head was cut of the body would die but the head would continue to live, The Stuarts used this metaphor to infer that Britain would suffer without its natural head of state i.e. the Stuarts.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about this piece and you know where to come to see it in real life! As always please like, share, follow, tweet, comment and let us know if you’ve seen this sword or its brother, which is on display in Glasgow.

All the best, K & D

A Little Bit of Swordplay

Since Easter is fast approaching, some places may suggest some beautiful, topical crafts for the family to enjoy. Maybe painting eggs or making cupcakes, but here at Culloden we tend to do things a little differently!

So if you’re bored of making the same old things for Easter why not mix it up and make the kids their very own basket-hilted broadsword and targe!

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We have devised a brilliant way to occupy the childrens time, keep them playing for hours and all without making too much mess.

So, just how do you make a sword?

First, equipment, you will need:

Milk bottle, cardboard, scissors,masking tape, duct tape, glue (optional) and colouring pens/pencils.

1. Cut the handle off a milk bottle. We recommend at least a four pint bottle so there’s enough room for the blade but it can be done with two pints and a bit of strength.

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2. Cut out a sword shape from the cardboard with a narrow strip at the bottom to fit into the hole of the milk bottle handle. Also cut out two smaller strips of cardboard for support.

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3. Attach the two strips of cardboard along the thin strip as support using masking or duct tape. They should extend into the main sword piece to give stability and add some character to the sword.

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4. Not bad, but still looks like cardboard. So, cover the sword with duct tape to give it a beautiful shiny silver finish. Or you can use different coloured tape to create your own unique interpretation of a sword.

5. Insert the sword into the handle ensuring a tight fit. Muscles may be required. (Glue can be used to secure more fully into position)

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6. Last but not least, brandish your sword with pride! (We gave our to Bonnie Prince Charlie, not sure how happy he looks about it!)

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You can also make an accompanying targe (shield) with cardboard and colouring pens/pencils, finished off with a handle on the back made from either cardboard or rope.

Alternatively, if you fancy letting other people do all the work join us at Culloden for crafts on Sunday 5th April!

Enjoy your Easter and please share your homemade sword and targe pictures with us on Twitter (@CullodenNTS) or FaceBook (Culloden Battlefield & Visitor Centre) we’d love to see them. Have fun! K & D