Skip main navigation

‘Wanted’: Prince Charles Edward Stuart

Viccy Coltman discusses an engraving by Richard Cooper depicting Prince Charles Edward Stuart, in a form of 'wanted' poster.
This is an engraving from 1745, produced by an Edinburgh engraver, Richard Cooper. And this is reputed to be the first time that we see Prince Charles Edward Stuart dressed in tartan. If we look at the image, we see immediately that this is not a pro-Jacobite image, but an anti-Jacobite image that was produced by one of his opponents, rather than one of his supporters. And it’s often quite useful with Jacobite material culture to do this– to think about how objects are both pro and anti the cause that they are wanting to support or diminish. This is a really lively representation, and it’s what we would call a satire, in which the prince is shown looking fairly ridiculous.
So you’ll see that he’s in tartan. And it’s a hand-painted image where the tartan has this unfortunate yellow, musty colour, which is certainly not recognisable as any tartan that I know. He wears the Order of the Garter– again, a musty, sort of unfortunate yellow. And he wears the tartan in this really chaotic, inappropriate fashion. Where he’s not wearing it according to the Highland precedents– and the sporran is slightly off to one side, and it bunches in front of him, where it looks rather, unfortunately, like a phallus, or some kind of phallic image. In contrast with that alleged evocation of masculinity, the Prince’s pose shows him to be looking what we would identify as quite foppish.
So he looks rather effeminate, and emasculated. You’ll notice, in one of his hands, he’s dropped something– this is a piece of paper which is inscribed, “manifesto.” What does that say about the Prince? That says that he’s not particularly committed to what he’s supposed to be doing with the Jacobite cause. His other hand holds a broadsword– but notice, again, how he looks rather puppet-like. This is not drawing that sword in an assertive, martial pose. It’s much more passive and ridiculous. There’s a piece of text at the foot of this image, and underneath his feet. And it’s worth me reading it to you, so you can see what it says.
It says, “A likeness, notwithstanding the disguise”– so notice there, the tartan is described as a disguise. “That any person who secures the son of the pretender is entitled to a reward of 30,000 pounds.” So this is effectively an image that imagines a bounty on Charles’s head, that asks those who are anti-Jacobite to capture the Prince, and to claim their prize money.
And also, he wears a bonnet. And one of the things you’ll become familiar with is the iconography of the prince. But often it’s shown with a cockade– which is like a little white flower. Notice he doesn’t have the cockade, he has these ridiculous feathers, which are tinted pink. And again, that contributes to this representation of him as foppish, as effeminate, as not committed to the cause for which he is the figurehead.
What is this image? Who made it?
This is an engraving dating from 1745, which was produced by an Edinburgh engraver, Richard Cooper.
Why is it important?
This is reputed to be the first time that we see an image of Prince Charles Edward Stuart dressed in tartan. Tellingly, it is a piece of anti-Jacobite propaganda that is far from complimentary towards its sitter-subject.
Where is it now?
This engraving is in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland. A copy is on permanent display at the National Museum of Scotland, in the Jacobite gallery.
In this film, Viccy Coltman looks at the image by Cooper and decodes its negative message.
This article is from the free online

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education