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Newsletter Blast from the Past: Early Kilt Satire

Originally published February 2008:

Anyone who has worn a kilt for a while probably knows the standard replies to the question of what is worn underneath. Obviously such naughty speculation is nothing new. So this month I thought I would share some of the early satires on kilts and kilt wearing I have found. Several of them are from the French who seemed to develop a fascination with kilted soldiers following the defeat of Napoleon. A few of these images are a little naughty but should be mostly “work safe.”

From the British Museum
Right: A broadside on mercenaries from Ireland in the army of Gustavus Adolphus; with a woodcut showing five soldiers, wearing flat caps, tartan trousers and kilts, arrows and bows, guns, and swords; with letterpress title, and verses in two columns, and one vertical segment of type ornaments.

“The Scotch made happy by a late act of Parliament” Sixteen men in various positions taking off breeches and putting on kilts following the end of the Proscription Act banning the wearing of Highland dress.

Right: A handsome Highlander buys chestnuts from a pretty, coquettishly dressed peasant girl seated behind a brazier over which her chestnuts are roasting. He holds out his kilt in both hands for the chestnuts, staring at the girl who looks at him alluringly. Behind her (right) is a fruit-stall with pyramids of yellow fruit. A fashionably dressed Parisienne who has just passed, walking rapidly, looks back at the Highlander over her shoulder. c.1815

Left: Le Pretexte” Two Highlanders in their kilts lean forward to inspect some eggs being offered for sale, while two well-dressed ladies playing with their child lean forward in order to peer under their kilts one of the pretending to tie a shoe lace. October 1815.

Right: “Le repas du chat, ou Honi soit qui mal y pense” A Highland soldier holds up his kilt to hold the chestnuts that he is buying from a French street vendor while a cat jumps up under his kilt. September 1815.

Left: “La graduation de la famille Ecossaise” A handsome young Highland officer walks arm-in-arm with a slightly taller young woman. Her hair under her flat feathered hat is in a small bag or net of tartan. Behind these walk in single file the family descending in height. First, a youth in Highland uniform, next three girls, the second without a hat, her hair curling on her shoulders. Last a small boy, in Highland uniform, carrying a stick across his shoulder, musket-wise, and holding a dog on a lead. February 1816

Right: “La nouvelle mode” (The New Fashion) a Scottish soldier in a kilt looks at a French girl wearing a tartan patterned overdress. September

Below: “Geordie and Willie “keeping it up” – Johnny Bull pays the piper!!” A satire of George VI’s visit to Scotland, 1822 by George Cruikshank. The pair, both very bulky in Highland costume, are back to back. The King (right), wearing a feathered bonnet, a huge sporran, and a sword, stoops to kiss a lady (see No. 14384), hands clasped behind her neck; he says: “The Sweetest hours that ‘ere I spent, it was among The Lasses O! Other ladies eagerly wait their turn. One, behind the King, covers her face with her fan. Curtis, grotesquely obese, and directed to the left, capers, snapping his fingers. He wears a turtle in place of sporran, and in his belt are knife, fork, and ladle. Round his neck is a double chain of sausages. He sings:

“Georgie loves good ale & wine
And Geordie loves good Brandy
And Geordie loves to Kiss all the Girls
As sweet as Sugar Candy”—
God save the King Huzza my Boys!!
I’m the Boy for a bit of a Jollification! play up Piper!!

A piper (left) with bare, thin, and misshapen legs plays and dances. A stout Highlander watches with a grin.

A fight between Sir Cecil Wray (left) and Charles Fox (right who face each other with clenched fists. Fox is dressed in tartan kilt, coat, and stockings, to indicate that he is M.P. for the Orkney boroughs. He says, “I’ll beat you until you Pi–ss Small Beer”. Wray, in shirt, breeches, and top-boots, says, “I’ll hit you such thump that will bid your Scotch crowdy Good morrow”.

The National Museum of Scotland

Right: Hand coloured French engraving entitled ‘Marons Rotia’ (Roast Chestnuts) showing a Highland soldier in Paris in 1816. The productivity of French print sellers underwent rapid expansion during the encampment of the Highland Regiments in the Bois de Boulogne while Paris was occupied after the Battle of Waterloo. The kilt held a great fascination for the French print sellers, who frequently used puns within their work about the wearers’ anatomy and what its effects could be on the female inhabitants of Paris.

Other websites
Highland soldiers on parade on a windy day.



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