Sobieski Kilt

In this blog tartan historian, Peter Eslea MacDonald, focuses on a 19th century kilt in our collection said to have belonged to the Sobieski brothers.

This hard-tartan box pleated kilt in the Duke of Rothesay tartan c.1830-35 and said to have belonged to the Sobieski brothers. It has been claimed that the kilt belonged to one of the Sobieski Stuarts and whilst the evidence of them owning it is unproven, it is certainly contemporary with them and their connection with the design makes it likely.  The tartan was one of their designs which was possibly intended for their personal use to reinforce their claimed descent from Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The kilt is made from approximately 4 yards of hard tartan, that was naturally dyed with cochineal (red), indigo (blue) combined with an unknown yellow for the green.  It was almost certainly hand-woven by the famous tartan weavers Wilsons of Bannockburn. The sett or pattern is huge, the cloth is 21 inches wide and includes one half repeat of the sett across the width; the single white pivot stripe on one selvedge, the triple white (second pivot) on the other. A broad waistband was added to make the cloth wide enough for the kilt which is box-pleated to one of three alternating stripes, unlined and includes an unusually narrow front apron.


What the tartan was called at the time the kilt was made is unknown. The Sobieski Brothers included it in their Vestiarium Scoticum, published in 1842, as The Prince of Rothesay. Shortly after this, Queen Victoria directed that the heir to the throne should use the title Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland. Her eldest son, Albert Edward (Prince of Wales and later, Edward VII) was often painted wearing the Lord of the Isles tartan in reference to one of this Scottish title and it was probably from then that it became officially known as the Duke of Rothesay tartan.  In an entry in Queen’s Diary for 9th November 1844 she wrote ‘….Bertie, who was in his Highland dress, wearing the Rothsay (sic) Tartan..’ 

The tartan from this kilt was recently recreated by the Scottish Tartans Authority for their Royal Patron, HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay.

This history of the Duke of Rothesay tartans is discussed in detail this paper.

Peter Eslea MacDonald