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Royal Tartans

David Burnell

Posted on October 14 2018

Royal Tartans

The vast majority of tartans are modern and do not pre-date the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Few of those connected with the Royal Household today date back further than the reign of Queen Victoria, but it is appropriate to record some historical information about those turbulent times.

The Royal House of Stewart or Stuart, the "High Stewards" of Scotland can be traced back to a Breton nobleman in 1097. Later, when the reign of James V ended in 1542, the direct male line of the Stewarts failed, but the succession continued through Mary Queen of Scots to James VI (VI of Scotland and I of England) who died in 1625. On the death of Prince Charles Edward (Bonnie Prince Charlie) in 1788 and his brother Prince Henry Cardinal Duke of York (d. 1807), the male line ended. The House of Stewart continued down the female line to Queen Victoria and onward to our Royal Family today.

The Jacobite risings and the subsequent exile of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1746 after Culloden nearly caused the disappearance of Scottish tartans altogether but the continued use of them by the regiments, and the interest in them of the Hanoverian court at the end of the 18th Century, followed by the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822, did much to preserve the wearing of Tartans and Highland Dress.

Tradition has it that those who have no tartan of their own can wear the Black Watch (The Universal or Government Tartan) or the Hunting Stewart, but not the Royal Stewart without the express authority of the Queen. However, commercialisation in recent times has rather blurred this. The one tartan which cannot be worn byanyone unless the Queen's permission has been granted is the Balmoral.

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