History Scotland

A newly-recognised sword of Prince Charles Edward Stuart

New research into the provenance of an 18th-century sword


Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was born at the end of December 1720 and lived for the first 23 years of his life in Italy. In 1744 he travelled to France, and the following year came to Scotland hoping to recover the throne for his father, the exiled James VIII/III. What happened after that has often been related, most recently in the special November-December 2020 issue of History Scotland (http://scot. sh/30HcoKK) commemorat­ing the tercentena­ry of his birth.

Before he left Italy, when he was living in Rome, Prince Charles was the proud owner of a superb set of highland weapons, including a magnificen­t cuirass and helmet, a dirk, a targe, some pistols, and a broadsword with a silver basket hilt. He also had a tartan suit with gold embroidery which he proudly wore when attending balls held in palazzi during the winter carnival seasons. These weapons and tartan clothes were sent as a gift from James Drummond, 3rd Jacobite duke of Perth, the weapons arriving early in 1739, the suit in 1740.

Weapons associated with the prince

Shortly after Charles went to France in 1744, an inventory was drawn up listing all the personal possession­s which he had left behind in the Palazzo del Rè, the Jacobite court in Rome. This inventory mentions his highland weapons, including the sword, which it specifies were made in Scotland. One reason for not taking them with him was that the prince left Rome incognito in the clothes of one of his servants, and travelled secretly and as lightly as possible. His highland weapons would have been an unnecessar­y encumbranc­e, and it was safer to carry a sword which would not immediatel­y attract attention. This means that when he arrived in Scotland he probably had a sword made in France, though at some point he might also have acquired a sword made in England. There is, for example, a sword now held by the National Museum of Scotland which is traditiona­lly believed to have belonged to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. It has a silver hilt made by Charles Frederick Kandler which bears the London hallmarks for 1740-41. It cannot be the one which arrived in Rome from Scotland in 1739, but the prince might have acquired it at a later date.

There are some other fine weapons associated with the prince: another sword with a

cast silver basket hilt; and two decorated targes with fine silver mounts including Medusa-head bosses, one at the National Museum of Scotland and the other at Warwick Castle. Recent re-examinatio­n of these weapons, however, offered evidence that they cannot be those which were sent to Prince Charles in Rome before he travelled to Scotland.

The ‘Brodie’ sword now at the Culloden battlefiel­d visitor centre seems to have been by the same maker as the silver mounts on the targe in the National Museum. Neither has any silver marks but their iconograph­y is closely linked, and it seems clear that they both belonged to the duke of Perth himself. Indeed mounts on the targe are decorated with the duke’s crest and motto, as well as with the St Andrew Cross of the Jacobite order of the thistle, an honour given to the duke in 1739 by the exiled James VIII/ III specifical­ly to thank him for sending the weapons to Prince Charles.The history of the targe at Warwick Castle is not known, and perhaps never will be unless the silver mounts are removed to reveal any hidden hallmarks. It has been suggested that it was a copy of the targe in Edinburgh and made for Prince William Augustus, duke of Sussex, in about 182030, but no trace of it exists in contempora­ry royal collection records. If that was the case, however, it cannot have been the one given to Prince Charles by the

Duke of Perth. For these reasons we have had to conclude that none of the weapons commission­ed in Scotland for the Stuart prince in Rome has survived.

A significan­t discovery

Therefore the discovery in Italy in 1974 of a Scottish sword with a solid silver basket hilt by James Brown, a silversmit­h working in Perth between the 1720s and the 1740s, is very significan­t, because we know that the sword presented to Prince Charles was made in Scotland. It was sent to London at the beginning of 1739, then taken by an agent employed by the Duke of Perth to France and kept there until some of the other weapons (the targe, dirk and pistols) had also been completed and sent via London across the Channel. Finally it was taken by the Duke of Perth’s brother to Rome where it was presented to the prince with the other weapons, and noted as admired by visitors to the Jacobite court.When the tartan clothes arrived early the following year the sword was then proudly worn by the prince in Roman society, and an Englishman living there noted on one such occasion that the prince ‘was dressed in a Scottish Highlander’s habit with a bonnet, target, and broadsword’.

The tartan clothes with French gold embroidery and the bonnet can be seen in a well-known portrait of the prince by William Mosman, but the sword is not visible because the portrait is a bust.

However the baldrick which supported the sword is clearly shown, worn over his right shoulder and crossing under the blue sash of the Jacobite Order of the Garter. In another portrait, painted by Louis-Gabriel Blanchet in 1739 (pg. 30), the year in which Charles received the armour, the prince is shown with a particular­ly fine cuirass and holding a helmet.

We cannot be sure that they are the ones sent by the Duke of Perth, because the sword in that portrait is a small-sword and therefore, being smaller and lighter in form, would not have been described as a broadsword. Neverthele­ss the coincidenc­e of date, and the fact that the picture was commission­ed by a Scottish Jacobite who was a friend of the Duke of Perth’s brother, suggests that they might be.

Prince Charles did not return to Rome until 1766, shortly after the death of his father King James. He then re-took possession of his sword and his other highland weapons which had been kept for him in the Palazzo del Rè and which he had not seen for 22 years. After that the sword disappears from the record. We might speculate that it was inherited by his brother, Prince Henry, Cardinal Duke of York, when Prince Charles died in 1788, but in all the upheavals caused by the Revolution­ary and Napoleonic Wars of 1792-1815 we cannot even guess what might have happened to it. The fact that

in the 20th century it was part of an Italian noble’s collection of weapons suggests strongly that it probably never left Italy.

The sword and its maker

The remarkably fine Scottish basket-hilted backsword at the centre of this study had been unknown to arms and armour scholars until it appeared in a Christie’s auction in Rome in 1974. It had formed part of an armoury built up, apparently mostly during the early years of the 20th century, by the counts Bruzzo at the Castello di Brignano, in Piedmont, north-west Italy, the contents of which were to be sold at this auction.

The sword’s solid silver hilt of great quality and form stimulated interest among major internatio­nal collectors of arms and armour and the successful purchaser was Arnold Rothschild. It remained in his collection in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, for a number of years, until entering the private collection of which it now forms an important part.

Some readers of History Scotland will know well the pioneering studies published in the 1930s by Charles Whitelaw, and indeed those of a number of later scholars, regarding the form and developmen­t of Scottish weapons, but a significan­t recent study by Tony Willis helped affirm that the hilt of this sword is one of ‘Glasgow’ style. The sword was first published in 1983, in an article on Scottish silver-hilted swords by James Forman, an American scholar of arms and armour.The Christie’s auction catalogue entry had mentioned that it bore a maker’s mark, the initials IB within a circle, but did not offer a possible identifica­tion of it. Mr Forman stated it was that of John Baillie, a silversmit­h recorded working in Inverness between about 1727 and 1753.

Through more recent extensive research and from informatio­n provided by several significan­t authoritie­s on Scottish silver, however, it became clear that the silversmit­h who had made the hilt, whose mark was the initials IB within a border formed of four lobes, was James Brown, who was working in Perth from the 1720s to the 1740s. This identifica­tion would prove significan­t as study progressed of the weapons sent to Prince Charles Edward Stuart in Rome early in 1739.

While there are still a number of recorded examples of highland Scottish swords whose basket hilts are made of silver and which date from the first half of the 18th century, few are of a form approachin­g the fully-developed Glasgow style, and of those the majority are notable for being unusual, having been made for presentati­on or for some other specific purpose.The hilt by James Brown is, by contrast, of classic Glasgow form and of remarkably robust constructi­on, and would have been perfectly capable of being carried for use in military service.

By contrast the hilt of the Brodie sword and that by Charles Frederick Kandler, while different from one another in form and decoration, are both relatively fragile and must surely have been made for dress and ceremonial use rather than as practical weapons. It was mentioned earlier that recent research has confirmed that the hilt by C.F. Kandler bears the London date letter for 1740-41, establishi­ng that this therefore cannot have been the sword which arrived in Rome early in 1739, while the lack of a reliable provenance of the Brodie sword and the similarity of elements in its decoration to silver mounts on a targe almost certainly made for James Drummond, 3rd duke of Perth, means that it too now has to be seen as an unlikely candidate for a sword sent as a gift to Prince Charles.

The hilt by James Brown is of solid silver and formed of stout bars of flattened rectangula­r section, between which are five panels, or shields, each one of which has an engraved border and is pierced with groups of five heartshape­d holes arranged around a central circular hole, and another group forming a fleur-de-lis.

Each of the hilt’s side-guards, extending downward toward the blade, ends in a heart-shaped terminal pierced with three hearts and flanked by a pair of C-shaped rings. It is at the base of the terminal that each sideguard is struck once with the mark now identified as that of James Brown. Side knuckle-guards, rear-guards and additional rearguards are formed of vertical bars of rectangula­r section with beveled edges augmented by cusped detail at top and bottom. The upper ends of these bars engage in a groove around the circumfere­nce of another unusual feature of this hilt, an octagonal conical pommel.

Forward guards are formed by the continuati­on downward of the side knuckle-guards, and curve upwards and back to join the base of the main knuckle-guard. The short rear quillon ends in a flared scroll forming the wrist guard.The original ray-skin grip has lost much of its binding of a single strand of thick D-section silver wire, but at each end retains a sheet silver ferrule.The remains of a buff leather liner survive in the lower part of the hilt, while between the pommel and the upper part of the grip are the remnants of a red wool tassel. The singleedge­d blade has a long false edge and a narrow fuller which runs close to the centre-line of the blade for most of its length. Each fuller is stamped XX ANDRIA X FARARA XX . This is one of the many spellings encountere­d of the name Andrea Ferrara (actually Andrea dei Ferrari), a noted Italian sword maker of the second half of the 16th century, which was often used, although almost always spuriously, on the blades of Scottish swords as an indication of quality. Adjacent to its back edge each side of the blade has a decorative border formed of a series of curved lines created with a punch.

Identifyin­g the sword’s maker

The identifica­tion of James Brown as the maker of the hilt was not an immediate or straightfo­rward one. No mark resembling that found on the hilt was recorded in the standard works on British silversmit­hs, so a search was made in the lists of names of Scottish silversmit­hs working in each of the areas of Scotland. The only one with the initials IB (or JB), whose recorded working dates were within the second quarter of the 18th century was James Brown of Perth.That the mark on the hilt was indeed his was supported through advice received from George Dalgleish, since at the time of writing to him the National Museum of Scotland had a spoon on loan which had the same mark. Further confirmati­on came from staff at Perth Art Gallery and Museum, which has in its collection­s another spoon by the same maker. A third example was a spoon sold by auctioneer­s Thomson, Roddick and Medcalf, in Edinburgh in 2003 (see below). Details of James Brown’s birth in Edinburgh are not recorded but he is known to have trained there as a silversmit­h and in 1724 registered his mark in Perth. His son, Francis, had been baptised in the same city in 1719 and by about 1740 had evidently followed his father’s profession, since pieces bearing both James and Francis Brown’s marks appear from about that time, often augmented by a fleur-de-lis mark and sometimes also stamped PERTH.The fact that only James Brown’s mark appears on the silver hilt suggests of course that it was made sometime before 1740. Pieces made by James Brown, both alone and in associatio­n with his son, are more usually smaller items of domestic silver such as the spoons mentioned above. The sword in question is the only one

We have had to conclude that none of the weapons commission­ed in Scotland for the Stuart prince in Rome have survived

known which has a hilt made by this clearly very skilled silversmit­h.


Earlier in this article it was stated that when Prince Charles left Italy and travelled via France to Scotland, arriving in 1745, he did so in a manner which would not attract attention and thus would not have taken with him weapons which were overtly Scottish in style. It is clear from descriptio­ns which were written of him by several people who saw him during his time in Scotland, however, that on those occasions, both in highland dress and in less traditiona­lly Scottish garb, he was wearing what was consistent­ly described as a ‘silverhilt­ed broadsword’. It has to be assumed that a sword, or swords, of that descriptio­n had been provided for him after his arrival.

It is equally clear, however, that once his bid to recover the throne for his father had failed and Prince Charles eventually made his escape to France he travelled disguised as a woman, so it is highly unlikely that he would have carried a sword with him during that journey. Any baskethilt­ed sword that he carried during his time in Britain during the ’45 campaign must have been obtained here during that period and then left in Scotland.

Documentar­y evidence has recently been discovered which confirms that the unusually fine Scottish weapons with which Prince Charles had been presented by the duke of Perth in 1739 were stored for him in Rome during his long absence between his departure in 1744 and his return in 1766. From portraits made after that date, when on his return he assumed the title of ‘Charles III’, it seems clear that while he looked forlornly on the failure of his attempt to recover the Stuart crown he still sought to maintain and project an image of his earlier military ambitions and achievemen­ts.What happened to the weapons which had been sent to him in 1739 is still uncertain but it seems possible that they remained in the hands first of his daughter Charlotte, who sadly died soon after him, and then of his brother, Prince Henry, CardinalYo­rk.Their fate after the death of the cardinal in 1807, which of course marked the end of the Stuart dynasty, is the subject of continuing research.

Of the sword with the hilt by James Brown, however, we can say with certainty that it was made in Perth by a talented silversmit­h known to have been working in the right location and at the right time for it to have been commission­ed by James Drummond, 3rd duke of Perth.That it lacks any Jacobite symbols or inscriptio­ns may be significan­t since it would have been most unwise to indicate an adherence to the Stuart cause on a weapon being transporte­d to Rome. From its 20th century history we know that the sword was acquired, probably no later than the 1920s, by a member of an Italian noble family, one of the counts Bruzzo, who in building up the armoury at Castello di Brignano collected only pieces obtained in Italy.

Its exceptiona­l quality but still eminent practicali­ty would have made the sword not only a fine candidate as a good fighting weapon but also a handsome ornament to be worn with full highland costume at the lavish evening functions which became such a feature of social life in Rome at the height of the preeminenc­e there of the Stuart court. From the contempora­ry descriptio­n of the lavishness of the gift which the duke of Perth sent to Prince Charles it must surely be the case that the duke will have taken a close personal interest in the costly items he commission­ed for this key political purpose, and a weapon with the hilt of the quality produced by James Brown would certainly have upheld the duke’s expectatio­ns to send the best of Scottish swords.

Edward Corp was Professor of British History at the University of Toulouse but is now retired. His books include a history of the Stuart court in exile in three volumes: A Court in Exile: The Stuarts in France, 1689-1718 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), The Jacobite at Urbino (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), and The Stuarts in Italy, 1719-1766 (Cambridge University Press, 2011). He has curated two major exhibition­s on the Stuarts in exile, at the Château de

Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Correspond­ence to Edward Corp: corp.edward@yahoo.fr

Graeme Rimer joined the Royal Armouries curatorial staff in 1975 and held a series of senior positions until he retired as Academic Director in 2012. He has written a number of articles and larger works on aspects of arms and armour, and his contributi­ons to the study of the subject were recognised when in 2008 he was appointed a Visiting Professor to the University of Huddersfie­ld. He edited the Royal Armouries’ journal, Arms & Armour, from its launch in 2004 until his retirement but, as a Curator Emeritus, took up its editorship once again in 2015. Correspond­ence to Graeme Rimer: graeme.rimer@btinternet.com

 ??  ?? Louis-Gabriel Blanchet, Prince Charles (1739), oil on canvas, 96.5 x 72.4 cm., Royal Collection, Holyroodho­use, RCIN 401208. This portrait of the prince was painted during the same year that he received his highland armour and weapons. It was commission­ed by William Hay, a senior member of the Jacobite court and friend of the Duke of Perth’s brother (Lord John Drummond).
Louis-Gabriel Blanchet, Prince Charles (1739), oil on canvas, 96.5 x 72.4 cm., Royal Collection, Holyroodho­use, RCIN 401208. This portrait of the prince was painted during the same year that he received his highland armour and weapons. It was commission­ed by William Hay, a senior member of the Jacobite court and friend of the Duke of Perth’s brother (Lord John Drummond).
 ??  ?? The sword with a silver basket hilt by James Brown, Perth. Author’s photograph; the outer face of the hilt. Author’s photograph
The sword with a silver basket hilt by James Brown, Perth. Author’s photograph; the outer face of the hilt. Author’s photograph
 ??  ?? The main knuckle-guard flanked by the shields of the hilt. Author’s photograph
The underside of the hilt, showing the terminals of the side-guards. Author’s photograph
The main knuckle-guard flanked by the shields of the hilt. Author’s photograph The underside of the hilt, showing the terminals of the side-guards. Author’s photograph
 ??  ?? The silversmit­h’s mark, IB, on the hilt. Author’s photograph
The silversmit­h’s mark, IB, on the hilt. Author’s photograph
 ??  ?? The marks of James and Francis Brown on a spoon sold by Thomson, Roddick & Medcalf, Edinburgh, 2003
The marks of James and Francis Brown on a spoon sold by Thomson, Roddick & Medcalf, Edinburgh, 2003

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