Before 1745, any form of Jacobite allegiance was immediately suppressed, or worse, so Jacobites had to do all their meetings
and planning in secret. Since you could not talk about Jacobite affairs publicly, Jacobites would wear or display certain
symbols on their clothing and in their homes.
1.The White Cockade:
The White Cockade was by far the main symbol of the Jacobites, consisting of a white “Scotch” rose pinned on the shoulder,
hat or hair. Many women would make Cockades out of white ribbon twisted or sewed into a similar shape, as shown above.
Used on its own, the white rose was a symbol of the exiled King James, and if displayed in bud form, was the symbol of his
sons, Prince Charles Edward Stuart “Bonnie Prince Charlie” (one bud) and Henry Benedict Stuart (two buds) for both.
No one really knows where the White Cockade tradition comes from, although there is a Jacobite tale that states that during
the 1745 Jacobite Rising, Prince Charlie plucked a white rose growing wild in the Highlands and pinned it to his hat as a
symbol of rebellion.
Sunflowers always follow the sun, so in Jacobite symbolism, the sun represents King James/Prince Charlie and the sunflowers
representing loyal Jacobites.
Butterflies begin as “ugly” caterpillars, then enter a hibernation period where they secretly transform and emerge from the
chrysalis as a beautiful butterfly, akin to the hope of Scotland and Great Britain emerging from an era of Hanoverian
oppression back to the Stuart sovereignty.
4. Bundle of Sticks
Represented strength in numbers.
As gruesome as it sounds, the name Medusa in Greek means “Guardian” or “Protector”, symbolising that the Stuart monarchs
would always protect their country and their people.
6. The Thistle.
The Thistle represents the Stuart claim to the Scottish throne. It is interesting to note that in any case the Stuarts always had
the claim to the Throne of Scotland because the Stuarts (originally called Stewart pre-Mary Queen of Scots) were a
dynasty beginning with Robert the Bruce’s grandson Robert II. The reason the Stuarts became rulers of England, Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland (now called Great Britain) was actually because when Elizabeth I died, the throne passed to
Mary Queen of Scot’s son James VI of Scotland ( aka James I of England) by default.
7. Oak leaf and acorns:
The oak was an ancient Stuart badge. Charles II hid in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House during the English Civil
war, and in his return from exile in France, he wore oak leaves, and since then the oak and acorns have been used as a symbol
of the Stuart Restoration. In a withered or Wintering form, along with the motto “Revirescit” (meaning “it grows green again”
in referral to the Springtime growth of leaves) the oak is a symbol of regeneration and restoration. Also, the oak is a tall,
sturdy and majestic tree that can live for hundreds of years, an obvious referral to the preferred visualisation of the Stuart
Medals made in 1689 to celebrate the coronation of William III and Mary II after they (and the government) deposed James II
(and VII of Scotland) show a dead oak or stump together with a flourishing orange tree, an obvious reference to the ancestral
title of William of Orange and his new position.
8. Amen Glasses
Often when Jacobites would get together for a drink, they would place a bowl filled with water at the centre of the table, raise
their glasses and toast “To the King over the water!”, i.e. the exiled King James. This is where the Jacobite glasses come in,
often called “Amen Glasses”. These beautiful glasses are carefully engraved with a crown, representing the Stuart kingship,
and one or more verses of the Jacobite Royal Anthem – sung to the tune of ‘God Save the Queen/King’ – all of the verses
concluding with the word Amen, which means ‘Let it be Thus’.
The anthem likely dates back to the time of James II, because of its reference to the ‘true-born Prince of Wales.’, being a rebuff
of the rumours surrounding the legitimacy of James III’s birth. The analysis of the engraving on genuine Amen glasses suggest
that they are all the work of the same hand, and all made between 1743-1749. Some suggest that the artist was ardent Jacobite
Scottish Line-Engraver Sir Robert Strange, who later became a very successful artist.
After the Battle of Culloden, so many Amen glasses were destroyed by the Duke of Cumberland’s army, and then some were of
course lost to history. Now less than 40 known Jacobite glasses survive.
I hope this post has dissolved some of the mysteries surrounding Jacobite symbolism, and as always, happy researching!