This targe, or shield, was presented to Prince Charles before Culloden, but abandoned when the Prince fled the field after the Jacobites were defeated.
Wooden boards covered with pigskin, with silver mounts
The targe and basket-hilted backsword of Prince Charles Edward Stuart are on display at Perth Museum and Art Gallery from 25 October 2016– 25 February 2017 and will be on display at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery from 7 March–21 May 2017, in the Gifts for a Jacobite Prince tour here. They will then be included in Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, a major exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland from 23 June 2017.
Did you know?
The figure in the centre of the targe is the gorgon Medusa, the mythological monster whose gaze turned people to stone.
This targe was part of a full set of Highland clothes presented to Prince Charles by James, 3rd Duke of Perth. A backsword with an elaborately decorated silver basket hilt was also included. Both are magnificent examples of craftsmanship, gifts fit for a Prince.
Both targe and sword were abandoned in the baggage train after the Prince’s defeat at Culloden. The sword turned up in the Royal Collection, presumably captured by the Duke of Cumberland, whilst the targe was rescued by Macpherson of Cluny.
James Drummond, the 6th Earl and 3rd Duke of Perth, joined Prince Charles in September 1745 after escaping arrest for his Jacobite sympathies. Described as ‘bold as a lion in the field of battle’, he led the successful siege of Carlisle and commanded the left wing of the Jacobite army at the Battle of Culloden. After the rout, he escaped by ship to France, but died on board before reaching safety.
When Prince Charles escaped from the battlefield at Culloden, he left almost all his personal possessions behind. During the months that followed he was hunted by government forces throughout the western Highlands and Isles. He was helped by many loyal followers, and this period gave rise to some of the most enduring myths of the rising.
He was sheltered, smuggled from hiding place to hiding place, and given clothes and other items, by Gaels who risked their own safety to help him.
Charles eventually escaped to France and then Rome. Many of his followers were captured and some executed. Others were forced into exile and had their lands forfeited. The government was determined to eliminate the Jacobite challenge once and for all.
The Highlands were disarmed and even highland dress was banned for a time. The breakdown of the clan system accelerated, while improved roads and forts led to more effective government control of remoter areas.
Prince Charles did not return, and by his death in 1788 the threat of an armed Jacobite insurrection was unthinkable. The cause soon became the subject of romantic nostalgia, expressed through poetry and song as well as objects and relics. Several mementoes of the Prince came into the museum collection before his death.
As it continues to fuel the imagination through film and television, the Jacobite cause may have been lost, but it has not been forgotten.