Fort museum to launch rare Stuart dynasty exhibition this month

The portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie painted when an older man in exile in Rome. NO F47 BPC Rome
One of the paintings of Bonnie Prince Charlie which is included in the new exhibition. Photograph: West Highland Museum. NO F31 BPC 01

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A long-awaited exhibition featuring a series of 18th century paintings of the exiled royal Stuart dynasty, including rare depictions of Bonnie Prince Charlie, will open to the public in Fort William on August 18.

The West Highland Museum in Fort William is celebrating its 100th anniversary this
year and is bringing the prestigious collection of paintings of the Royal House of Stuart
from Europe to Scotland.

The Return of the Stuarts exhibition will run until October 29 after the museum
was offered exclusive access to this private collection of royal portraiture owned
by the Pininski Foundation in Liechtenstein.

Other paintings on display have been loaned by art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor and John Nicholls MBE and include a painting by Allan Ramsay from the museum’s own collection.

The exhibition will include 16 paintings of four generations of the Royal House of
Stuart, including James VIII – the Old Pretender – and his wife Princess Clementina
Sobieska, through to Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince
Charlie, and his daughter Charlotte the Duchess of Albany. The series of paintings ends with Charlotte’s daughter Princess Marie Victorie de Rohan.

These paintings illustrate the actual family which inspired Jacobites to risk so much to pursue this ‘affair of the heart’.

To finance the exhibition, the West Highland Museum team embarked on an ambitious, but successful crowdfunding campaign, using the Art Happens platform, in October 2021.

Museum director Dr Chris Robinson told the Lochaber Times: ‘We needed to raise £25,000 to cover the cost of delivering this exciting exhibition. We were overwhelmed by the support we received nationally and internationally to our appeal to bring this iconic collection of portraits together and we comfortably exceeded our target, which has helped us cover unforeseen price increases.

‘It is exciting to bring this series of portraits together as it will likely be the last time most of these iconic portraits will be displayed in the United Kingdom as they will soon be on permanent display at a Polish museum.’

The paintings have never before been displayed together in the UK and some have never before been exhibited here. Others, such as a portrait of an elderly Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, painted in Rome in 1786, were last displayed in Scotland in Glasgow in 1910.

The planned exhibition will also include the recently rediscovered portrait of a 16-year-old Bonnie Prince Charlie, by renowned Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. It is believed to be the only portrait of the prince which pre-dates the 1745 Jacobite Rising.

Museum curator manager Vanessa Martin added: ‘The museum is world famous for its Jacobite material culture and has built up an important collection since the museum’s inception in 1922.

‘In 1925 the museum held its first major public exhibition dedicated to the Jacobites and established itself as a Jacobite Museum. The Jacobite Rising started here in Lochaber with Prince Charles Edward Stuart raising his father’s standard at Glenfinnan on August 19 1745 to instigate the beginning of the last Jacobite Rising.

‘For our centenary we have been offered this wonderful opportunity by the Pininski Foundation and other lenders to present a public exhibition of rarely displayed royal portraiture.’

Chairman of the museum’s directors Ian Peter MacDonald explained: ‘An exhibition of this calibre and local relevance will bring pride to our community and inspire enthusiasts from all over to come and visit our town.’

Chairman of the museum board of directors, Ian Peter MacDonald. NO F47 West Highland Museum
Chairman of the museum board of directors Ian Peter MacDonald.
NO F47 West Highland Museum

The exhibition launches on Thursday August 18 with a grand opening event
at the Highland Cinema, in Fort William.

A presentation by art historian Professor Edward Corp and art historian and author Count Peter Pininski will be followed by a buffet lunch and a chance to tour the Return of the Stuarts exhibition in the museum.

A few tickets are still available for this centenary event and can be bought from the museum for £20. Contact the museum to book tickets at either,uk or by telephone on 01397 702169.



The portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie painted when an older man in exile in Rome will be among the paintings on view at the special exhibition on the Stuarts later this year.

NO F47 BPC Rome


Extra pics:

Chairman of the museum board of directors Ian Peter MacDonald. NO F47 West Highland Museum