The fountain at Linlithgow Palace is said to have flowed with red wine to welcome Bonnie Prince Charlie to the Scottish palace of his ancestors.
It was a suitably grand reception for the Prince as his campaign to restore his family line to the British throne gathered pace.
But than five months after the triumphant arrival, the historic home of the Stuart kings was devastated by a fire that broke out during its occupation by the Duke of Cumberland and his men on February 1 , 1746.
As embers flew through the winter night, the campaign to restore the Stuarts to the British throne was also to soon extinguish and fade.
Nicki Scott, cultural resources advisor for Historic Environment Scotland said: “In a sense, the palace is going up in flames as the Jacobite cause is going down in flames.
“This is the tail end of the Jacobite story. There is almost this sort of mirroring in the fact that this great icon of Stuart monarchy is destroyed as the Stuart monarchs are really becoming a spent force.”
While not known if the fire was started deliberately, it is unlikely there was any real attempt to extinguish the flames as they took hold of this highly symbolic retreat.
With a royal palace on the site since the 1100s, the lavish home of the Stuarts started to emerge under the reign of James I when a royal fortune was spent on rich tapestries and the latest fashions in sculpture, paintings and textiles.
James V was to again remodel the palace and build the grand entrance way and the beautifully detailed fountain that greets visitors in the main courtyard.
It was in this courtyard that Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived following a dramatic entrance to the town, likely on September 15 1745.
He had spent several nights at the homes of Jacobite-supporting nobles in the area, including Callander House and Bannockburn house, while his troops rested in fields around Dunblane and Sauchie.
Ms Scott said: He comes to visit, to pay homage and to make that connection. It’s as if he is saying ‘here I am, this true Stuart heir.’ He is walking in the footsteps of his ancestors.
His visit was brief but celebratory with the legend of the red wine fountain, once a great, crowd pleasing tradition of coronations and other Royal entries, enduring to this day.
Ms Scott added: “He stops very briefly here but the fountain is said to have flown with red wine to celebrate his arrival.
“If they did set the fountain up to do that, it shows how important his visit was to many of the locals here. They are willing to go to that sort of effort. Certainly I imagine a good deal of red wine was drunk in honour of him being here.
“Even it the story of the fountain is not true, the fact that legend comes about I think is testament to the amount of celebration there was for his visit here.”
The wine fountain was earlier said to have been on show to celebrate the marriage of James V and Mary of Guise in 1538 with similar accounts detailing how water was ‘turned to wine’ in York to mark James VI arrival to mark the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
During Bonnie Prince Charlie’s short visit, Linlithgow broke out in a show of “loyal enthusiasm which he could scarcely have anticipated,” according to John Jesse’s 1846 account The Pretenders and Their Adherents.
While the staunchly Jacobite provost of the town was keen for the Prince to make his retreat to Edinburgh, his wife and daughters waited on the Prince who arrived “clad in tartan dress and decorated with the white cockade”.
Jesse added: “The Prince on entering this ancient town was conducted in a kind of triumph to the venerable palace of his ancestors, where the housekeeper Mrs Glen Gordon is said, in an excess of Royal zeal, to have freely regaled all the respectable inhabitants of Linlithgow with wine, which either the old palace or her own finances would afford.”
Just days later, the Prince was to march into Edinburgh, the city gates left open for his arrival, and take up residence in the Palace of Holyrood House.
Around the time of the Battle of Falkirk, the last victory of the Jacobites fought on January 17 1746, the north quad of Linlithgow Palace was taken over by the Duke of Cumberland and his troops.
The fire which was leave Linlithgow Palace much as it appears today was to break out less than two weeks later. Charred timber joists in the north quad can still be seen.
Ms Scott said: “It is as the Hanoverians leave to pursue the Jacobites north, eventually to Culloden, that a fire takes hold and basically guts the palace.
“We don’t know whether it was accidental or whether it was on purpose.
“It’s a very substantial fire. There does not seem to have been a great effort to put it out.”
Claims have long endured that furniture from the former palace apartments went missing around the time of the fire.
Ms Scott added: “Various items were rescued from the fire, such as furnishings. They were rescued but not turned back over shall we say.
“They may have found their way into people’s own private collections. There may well be households in this area that have things lurking in the attic that were probably from the palace.”
Some of the surviving wood panels are now held by the National Museum of Scotland.
She added: “You can almost feel a little sad that such a grand opulent place dies almost in this way .
“It seems a bit almost anti-climactic. Linlithgow Palace then really just becomes really a ruin in the landscape and then through the 1800s and the 1900s, it becomes a monument that we preserve.”
For more information and for your chance to WIN a six-night Jacobite Journey in Scotland, go to www.jacobitetrail.co.uk/win.