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Getting a closer look at an engraved sword at the exhibition. Pic: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Jacobite sword
Update by news editor   28-10-2010

Rebels with a cause take over Parliament

Songbooks, letters and an ostrich egg carved with secret symbols tell the story of Scottish rebels in new exhibition

An exciting new exhibition has opened at the Scottish Parliament - Rebels with a cause: The Jacobites and the Global Imagination.

It is all about the Jacobites and their influence around the world.

The Jacobites were supporters of King James VII of Scotland, who was also known as King James II of England.

James was deposed, or overthrown, in 1688 by his enemies, led by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. They didn't like James's ideas about religious tolerance and they didn't want his Catholic son to take over as king.

The exhibition tells the story of how the Jacobites fled Scotland and settled all around the world, from European cities like Paris and Rome, to countries as far away as India and North America.

Highlights include portraits, letters and songbooks. There is even an ostrich egg carved with secret Jacobite symbols!

"I hope that people will come and visit this exhibition to learn more about the Jacobites and the hugely significant role they played in Scots history," said Alex Fergusson, a member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP).

There will be a chance for families to visit the exhibition for free over the St Andrew's weekend, Friday 26 to Monday 29 November. Events and activities will include quizzes, tours, storytelling sessions, dressing up and games.

The exhibition will run until 8 January 2011 at the Parliament in Holyrood. You will also be able to see it at the University of Aberdeen from next September.

Lesson ideas and suggestions

Rebels with a cause take over Parliament

It's 104 metres long, took 25,000 man hours to finish, involved 200 volunteers from Scotland, France, Australia and the United States - the world's biggest tapestry tells the story of the Battle of Prestonpans

Commissioned by the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust in East Lothian last year and designed by local artist Andrew Crummy, the tapestry tells the story of the battle on September 21, 1745 in which Jacobite rebels recorded a resounding victory against the Hanovarian Redcoats.

Originally the tapestry was to be made up of 79 metre-long panels showing the journey of Bonnie Prince Charlie from France to Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides and through the Highlands as he gathered supporters.

Crummy said it was supposed to be one metre longer than the Bayeux tapestry  but when he was drawing the panels, the complexity of the story meant it grew to 104 metres!

"Meeting the communities did [affect it] as well because Dunblane wanted to do a panel and Blair Atholl wanted to do one, so it kept growing," the artist continued.

The tapestry - 34m larger than the Bayeux - was unveiled in Prestonpans in June before touring the country following the route the ­Jacobites took in 1745.

Having designed the tapestry, Crummy then had the challenge of finding people to sew it to complete the project.

Andrew said: "We went up and stayed in Arisaig for a week and just went knocking on people's doors. We went up to someone's house and knocked on the door and said, 'We want to have this building in the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry, would you like to stitch it?' We just asked people."

Dr Grant Prestoungrange, chairman of the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust, added: "We simply said we were going to do it. They came one by one and then in a flood; we had so many volunteers we had reserves in the end. The project has captured the imagination just as Bonnie Prince Charlie did in 1745.

"We went to France because that was where it began and we got some people there to do some of the early panels and then people from America and Australia who had heard about it through ­relatives got in touch."

Volunteer Shona McManus, from East Lothian, stitched one of the metre-long panels that shows Bonnie Prince Charlie arriving in Edinburgh.

She said: "I got involved because of my husband's interest in history and the Jacobite cause. I was more or less coerced into taking part but I'm so glad I did because it has been such a rewarding experience."

Many of the stitchers involved had never embroidered before and found the experience a steep learning curve.

Marietta Di Ciacca, also from East Lothian, said: "At the beginning it was relatively easy because we were just doing black outlines but when it came to colouring in I found it challenging."

Prestoungrange said: "We did the tapestry to use the arts to help tell the story of the Battle of Prestonpans which is one of the major parts of Prestonpans heritage."

Lesson ideas and suggestions


Experiences & Outcomes

  • I can investigate a Scottish historical theme to discover how past events or the actions of individuals or groups have shaped Scottish society. SOC 2-03a
  • I can explain why a group of people from beyond Scotland settled here in the past and discuss the impact they have had on the life and culture of Scotland. SOC 3-03a
  • I have investigated a meeting of cultures in the past and can analyse the impact on the societies involved. SOC 4-05c
  • I can discuss why people and events from a particular time in the past were important, placing them within a historical sequence. SOC 2-06a
  • Through researching, I can identify possible causes of a past conflict and report on the impact it has had on the lives of people at that time. SOC 3-06b
  • I can assess the impact for those involved in a specific instance of the expansion of power and influence in the past. SOC 4-06d
  • I can analyse art and design techniques, processes and concepts, make informed judgements and express considered opinions on my own and others’ work. EXA 4-07a