Scrap of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie's dress' wows auction
A swatch of fabric from a dress said to have be worn by Bonnie Prince Charlie during his escape from Scotland has sold at auction.
Charles Edward Stuart famously disguised himself as Bettie Burke, an Irish housemaid, as he crossed to Skye in a rowing boat with Flora MacDonald and others in July 1746.
A cutting from the dress said to have been worn by the Prince on the journey has been sold by auction house Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh for £5,250 - far above the sale estimate of £1,000 to £3,000.
The framed material, which measures 16.cm by 16.5 cm, was accompanied by a handwritten note which details the provenance of the cloth.
It said the cloth was “given to Prince Charlie for his disguise as Bettie Burke, many years later he gave it to Lady Mary Stewart, wife of Lord Fortrose.”
Lady Mary raised a number of Clan Mackenzie soldiers for the Jacobite army despite her husband being the MP for Inverness Burghs at the time of the 1745 rebellion.
The fragment is different in appearance from another swatch of cloth also said to have been taken from the Prince’s disguise.
That fragment is pinned inside a copy of the Lyon in Mourning, a collection of essays and accounts collected after the 1745 Uprising. Many view the publication to be pro-Jacobite.
The copy is currently on show at the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.
The fabric contained in Lyon in Mourning was contributed by Margaret McDonald of Kingsburgh, who hosted the Prince for one night after he arrived on Skye.
A handwritten note in the original version of the book says: “The above is a piece of that identical gown which the Prince wore for four of five days when he was obliged to disguise himself in a female dress under the name of Bettie Burke.
“A swatch of the said gown was send from Mrs McDonald of Kingsburgh according to her promise.”
Colin Fraser, expert at Lyon and Turnbull, said checks had been made on piece of cloth recently sold at auction.
He said: “The cloth has been looked at and the way it has been printed, woven and produced all fit. All the factors in the way it was created fits with the time and place. From the fabric point of view, it is absolutely spot on.”
Mr Fraser said that the provenance of the auction cloth could be traced back to a “very powerful family” and a time when the item would have very little financial value.
He added: “The problem with the Lyon in Mourning is that there is no guarantee that the items in the book are genuine.”
He added: “Jacobite collectors collect completely open mind that they maybe buying into the romantic story of these things.”
Other Jacobite-era items recently sold by the auction house include a rare drinking glass owned by Bruce of Cowden.
The glass - which has a silver mount engraved with ‘God Blis King James the Eight’ - sold for £25,000, more than two-and-a-half times the original estimate.
The mounts were made by goldsmith Patrick Murray of Stirling, one of a small handful of craftsman who worked for Jacobite sympathisers. He also fought for the cause.
Serving in Lord George Murray’s Brigade. Murray was taken prisoner as a Jacobite in November 1745.
He was imprisoned at various locations around Scotland and was executed in Carlisle on 14th November 1746 for his part in the rebellion.
A Lyon & Turnbull spokesman said relics and memorabilia relating to the Jacobite era and Bonnie Prince Charlie continied to be highly sought after with avid collectors across the world