Help West Highland Museum bring Bonnie Prince Charlie home

picture of west highland museum from the outside

The West Highland Museum in Fort William is calling on the public to help bring a prestigious collection of paintings of the Royal House of Stuart from Europe to Scotland. 

The West Highland Museum in Fort William celebrates its centenary in 2022.  The museum hopes to stage a three-month exhibition of royal portraiture and has been offered exclusive access to a private collection of paintings owned by the Pininski Foundation, Liechtenstein.  The proposed exhibition will include thirteen 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 painting 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’.

In order to finance this important exhibition, the West Highland Museum team has embarked on an ambitious crowdfunding campaign. The campaign launches on Wednesday 13 October at midday on Art Fund’s Art Happens crowdfunding platform and runs until Monday 15 November.

Museum Director, Chris Robinson said “We need to raise £25,000 to cover the cost of delivering this exciting exhibition to the public in 2022.  We need your help in raising funds to make this happen and bring Bonnie Prince Charlie and the exiled Stuarts back to Scotland.  It will likely be the last time these iconic portraits will be displayed in the United Kingdom as they may soon be on permanent display at a European museum.”

Broadcaster and Historian Paul Murton, from the BBC Scotland’s Grand Tours of Scotland series, is backing the campaign and hosts the campaign video. You can help support the West Highland Museum by visiting their campaign page and donating.  There are fantastic rewards on offer for those who contribute, including tours of the exhibition with Professor Edward Corp and Art Historian Peter Pininski, and jewellery designed especially for campaign that has been inspired by the unique Lochaber landscape.   Other unique incentives on offer include hand-made coasters crafted from wood sourced from Achnacarry estate from the beech trees abandoned by the Gentle Lochiel, head of Clan Cameron, on the eve of the Jacobite Rising.  Lochiel went off to join the Rising, but never returned. The beech trees grew where they had temporarily been planted.  

The paintings have never before been displayed together in the United Kingdom 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 that pre-dates the 1745 Jacobite Rising.  The painting was first publicly displayed for a month at the National Museum of Scotland in 2019.  This will be a rare opportunity to see these paintings and to hear the story of the exiled Jacobites.  

The West Highland Museum plans to bring Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Stuarts back home to celebrate its 100th birthday.  Curator Vanessa Martin said “The museum is world famous for its Jacobite exhibitions 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 19 August to signal the start of the last Jacobite Rising. For our centenary we have been offered this wonderful opportunity by the Pininski Foundation to present a public exhibition of rarely displayed royal portraiture.”  As Chair of Directors, Ian Peter MacDonald explains; ‘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.’

To find out more about the crowdfunding campaign and how to donate visit:  


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