Scotlands History

Tartanry

Sir Walter Scott was the main stage manager of King George IV’s royal visit to Scotland in 1822. The Highland Society turned it into a tartan extravaganza which fostered and encouraged the culture. Much of the resulting popularity of tartan resulted from Scott’s influence; his theme in the novel Waverley (subtitle ‘Tis Sixty Years Since) had been the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6 and the accommodation of two cultures in one country. After the unsuccessful Rebellion, the multi-coloured chequered cloth traditionally worn by Highlanders was banned between 1747 and 1782.

In 1822 Walter Scott persuaded the King to appear in Edinburgh wearing a kilt – with pink tights underneath. Thus tartan became re-established and the kilt evolved into the national costume, gaining huge popularity through the Royal Family, later including Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

Clan designs are no longer exclusive. Computer-generated designs are now made for every occasion and organisation. Tartan appears on thousands of Scottish products from shortbread tins, tartan scarves and bonnets to kitsch plastic dolls to Scottie dog coats. There is no regulatory authority, apart from a register; and the pink tights are optional.

  • Satirical print of men in highland dress
  • photograph of John Sobieski Stolberg-Stuart

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