Prosperity to Scotland…and no Union

Charles Edward Stewart by Allan Ramsay. Painted in Edinburgh before the Jacobite march on London.

In 2009, art detective Dr Bendor Grosvenor caused something of a scandal when he proved that the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s iconic portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, a five foot high work done in pastel by the French artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour, was not in fact of the Young pretender but of his younger brother Henry.

So the well-kent face that had adorned so many souvenirs and shortbread tins rapidly disappeared, to be replaced it appears, as far as shortbread tins are concerned, by touristy images of London.

Grosvenor was keen to make amends for ‘demoting’ the iconic image. After finding and reading a letter from a member of the Prince’s staff requesting that Alan Ramsay, one of Scotland’s greatest artists of the period, attend the Prince at Holyrood House in Edinburgh in the autumn of 1745, Grosvenor suspected that Ramsay may well have painted Charles Edward Stewart, and that a long-lost portrait of the Prince by Ramsay might exist. The Young Pretender was aware of the value of images in a cause, and the portrait was quite likely for propaganda purposes, to be circulated by way of engravings during his drive into England,

Dr Bendor Grosvenor on the road in his search through Scotland and England for a possible lost Alan Ramsay painting.

In a 2014 Culture Show Special The Lost Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie Bendor Grosvenor retraced Bonnie Prince Charlie’s journey from Scotland to England in the hope of finding the Ramsay painting which was eventually tracked down at Gosford House, home of the Earl of Wemyss and March, in East Lothian. The Ramsay oil painting is much smaller than the French one – a mere ten inches by eight inches, just right for being translated into engravings.

The real Charles Edward as painted by Allan Ramsay. The painting was in the collection of the Earl of Wemyss and March at Gosford House in East Lothian. One of the owner’s ancestors was involved with the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The painting can now be seen in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

The programme is a mix of art, history of the period and stunning scenery. At Glenfinnan Grosvenor recalls the Jacobite manifesto included a demand for the recall of the Scottish Parliament, the end of punitive taxation, and the restoration of Scottish independence, as well of course for a Stewart monarch to regain the throne and become king of all parts of the UK. The Jacobite forerunner of the now apparently mandatory Tory three word mantra was Prosperity to Scotland…and no Union.

Dr Bendor Grosvenor

Nearly two and threequarter centuries after the ’45, the call for Scottish independence is still being uttered, though the probablility possibly nearer now than ever before. With an independence referendum mooted for 2020 and with the shambles of Brexit and a UK government out of touch with voters in Scotland, many former No voters, like Dr Bendor Grosvenor (who now lives in the Scottish Borders), are now coming round to supporting Scottish independence as a means of returning to membership of the EU and of building a more progressive and inclusive Scotland.

The programme has been broken into four parts – each roughly 15 minutes long. Well worth watching when you have a spare hour over the festive period. Enjoy.

Update

On 31st December Dr Bendor Grosvenor tweeted:

Born OTD in 1720, Bonnie Prince Charlie. To him (and this portrait by Allan Ramsay) I owe meeting my wife, and thus my daughter and my move to Scotland. Thanks Charles, happy birthday.

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