Scotland’s very own game of thrones will take centre stage in the biggest-ever exhibition of Jacobite treasures and artefacts linked to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
More than a century of power struggles, the splitting of the Stuart dynasty and the exile of the Jacobites will be charted at the National Museum of Scotland next year.
Little-seen costumes, glassware, jewellery, costume, documents and paintings will be brought together for the first time for the show. It will coincide with a year-long celebration of history, heritage and archaeology across Scotland.
The museum hopes to capitalise on worldwide interest in the hit time-travel TV series Outlander – which focuses on the romance between a Second World War nurse and a Jacobite warrior – and surpass the success of its hugely-popular Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition, which attracted nearly 80,000 visitors three years ago.
It is promising to paint a “richly detailed picture of a tumultuous, complex and fascinating period in Scottish, British and European history.”
However the centrepiece of the show will explore the man behind the myth of “The Young Pretender”, one of the most romantic, but most misunderstood, figures in European history. Charles Edward Stuart, the Rome-born grandson of King James VII of Scotland, is best remembered for arriving in Scotland from France in 1745 to lead the final Jacobite Rising, which ended in bloody defeat at Culloden, the last battle on British soil.
The show has been confirmed weeks after a “lost” portrait of the prince was acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland. Allan Ramsay’s work, valued at £1.1 million, was found by an art historian in the collection of the Earl of Wemyss at Gosford House, in East Lothian.
David Forsyth, the museum’s principal curator of Scottish history, said: “The new exhibition is very much a follow-on from our highly-successful Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition. It is the logical next step in the story of the Stuarts and their aspirations for Scotland, the wider British picture and the European dimension.
“It’s the first major exhibition on the Jacobites and the Stuarts for than 70 years. It will be very much based on our own collections, there will be new acquisitions and we’re speaking to other major collections in Scotland, UK-wide and in the continent, as well as key private collectors whose families are intimately connected to the Jacobites.
“There is quite a lot of romance and misappropriation around the stories of the Jacobites. The idea will be strip back the romantic notions and use the objects themselves as evidence.”
The exhibition, which will run from June until December next year, is being promoted today at VisitScotland’s annual “Expo” trade fair in Edinburgh. The tourism body has reported soaring interest in locations used for Outlander, which is partly set at the time of the 1745 Rising and has just started a second season.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “The Jacobites form a fascinating part of Scottish history and the story is reaching a new audience through Outlander. This promises to be an enthralling exhibition.”