LISTEN: Keren Guthrie explains just what the significance of this letter is
“When I came into Scotland, I knew well enough what I was to expect from my enemies, but I little foresaw what I met with from my friends.”
- Bonnie Prince Charlie, January 1746
A previously hidden piece of Scottish history has been put on show for the first time as Blair Castle once again re-opens its doors to visitors.
Letters from Bonnie Prince Charlie to Lord George Murray – brother to the Duke of Atholl – are being displayed as part of the castles Jacobite exhibition ‘A Family Divided – The Atholls and the Jacobite Risings’ which reveal an intense family drama putting father against son and brother against brother.
Castle Archivist, Keren Guthrie said:
“When I discovered the letter from Bonnie Prince Charlie, I just went ‘wow’! Here is a letter of the 1740s that could have been written now. It gives that sense of a disagreement between real people, which we can all understand.
“So much is romanticised about Bonnie Prince Charles, but this letter catches him in a moment of utter frustration – and perhaps misguided in the belief in his own abilities. George was very loyal to the Jacobite cause and his brother William was a close confidant of the Young Pretender, so the tone is all the more remarkable.
“An amazing story unfolds through the letters.
The letters dated January 1746 are just two of hundreds held in the castle archives sent to and from the Murray family during the early 18th century.
The contents provide a narrative of events covering 60 years of the Jacobite uprisings.
“The first Duke of Atholl was involved in drawing up the Act of Union and his wife Katherine Hamilton Murray wrote passionately about the matter to her friends. Yet, while the second Duke remained loyal to the King, as his father, the three rather wilder brothers, George, William and Charles who clearly wanted to make a name for themselves in the world, believed fervently in the Stuart line. Keeping these family disputes in check and holding the family together would have been an exceptional feat.
The exhibition also displays a compass said to have been used by Bonnie Prince Charlie and a cannon ball, kept after the Siege of Carlisle as well as a pardon obtained by the Duke for his son George after the first Jacobite Rebellion of 1715.
“The letters form part of the story of the castle, of the family and even really the story of Scotland so the idea is to combine these artefacts and documents and then ask our visitors to come to the exhibition, take a step back in time and imagine how it would have been to be part of a family that was so divided, politically and geographically.”
Built in 1269, Blair Castle has been the ancestral home of the Dukes of Atholl for over seven centuries and is set amongst 145,000 acres of farmland and the wild open hills of Perthshire.
As well as the exhibition, Blair castle is holding several events for guests to enjoy such as the Craft & Food Fair taking place this weekend.
For more information or to book tickets, please visit: https://blair-castle.co.uk/