Sobieski Stuarts

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John Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart were names used by John Carter Allen and Charles Manning Allen, two 19th-century English brothers who are best known for their role in Scottish cultural history.

As authors of a dubious book on Scottish tartans and clan dress, the Vestiarium Scoticum, they are the source of some current tartan traditions. Published in 1842, this was a catalouge of 75 'traditional' clan tartans, which the brothers claimed was based on historic manuscripts. <ref>http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/s/johnsobieskistuart.html (accessed 16th July 2014)</ref>


Biography

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John and Charles were born in Wales in the last decade of the 18th century. Later they would claim to have discovered in 1811 that they were descended from the Stuart kings, and on their 1871 census entry they gave Versailles as their birthplace. They moved to live in Scotland and changed their Allen surname to the more Scottish spelling Allan, then to Hay Allan, and Hay. Their father John Carter Allen had Hay ancestry, and was said to have been related to the Earl of Erroll.

The date of their arrival in Scotland is unclear, but they are known to have been there in 1822. This is the year John published The Bridal of Caölchairn and other poems under the name John Hay Allan. Another edition was published, also in 1822, giving the author's name as Walter Scott. This is now in the British Library's category of "doubtful and supposititious works".

In 1829 they failed to persuade Sir Walter Scott of the authenticity of a document they said was a copy of a "15th century" manuscript about clan tartans. The brothers liked to wear Highland dress themselves, apparently "in all the extravagance of which the Highland costume is capable". <ref>Trevor-Roper, Hugh (1983), "The Highland Tradition of Scotland", in Hobsbawm; Ranger, The Invention of Tradition</ref>

In the 1830s they moved to Eilean Aigas on the River Beauly in Inverness-shire, to a hunting lodge granted them by the Lord Lovat. <ref>http://www.electricscotland.com/canada/fraser/stuarts.htm (accessed 16th July 2014)</ref>

Here they "held court" and surrounded themselves with royal paraphernalia: pennants, seals, even thrones. During their time here, they adopted the final version of their names, using the surname 'Stuart', and became practising Catholics (the Stuarts and their supporters, the Jacobites, were Roman Catholic.) <ref>http://www.electricscotland.com/canada/fraser/stuarts.htm (accessed 16th June 2014</ref>

They published the Vestiarium Scoticum in 1842. This was followed, in 1844, with a broader "study" of medieval highland Scotland which included the ideas from 1842: 'The Costume of the Clans'. With observations upon the literature, arts, manufactures and commerce of the Highlands and Western Isles during the Middle Ages; and the influence of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries upon their present condition. This involved "immense scholarship", but the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper was just one of many who consider it full of "fantasy" and "forgery".<ref>Trevor-Roper, Hugh (1983), "The Highland Tradition of Scotland", in Hobsbawm; Ranger, The Invention of Tradition</ref>

In 1847 their claims to royal blood were set out by implication in a work of historical fiction: Tales of the Century: or Sketches of the Romance of History between the years 1746 and 1846. After this, a strong attack on them published in the Quarterly Review in 1847 caused severe damage to their reputation.

John responded in 1848 but the brothers soon were forced to move away from Scotland, to live with relations in Prague and Pressburg. In the latter 1860's they lived together in reduced circumstances after the death of Charles's wife and continued to occupy themselves with research, being famous figures in the British Library, using pens embellished with gold coronets, and wearing Highland dress or military tunics. Only after death did they return to Scotland, to be buried in Eskadale.<ref>http://www.electricscotland.com/canada/fraser/stuarts.htm (accessed 16th June 2014</ref>

References

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