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The White Cockade

The White Cockade


Burnet Rose (Rosa spinosissima)

Legend has it the white cockade which worn on the blue bonnets of the Jacobites was selected after Bonnie Prince Charlie picked a white wild rose and pinned it to his hat. It is assumed to have been a Burnet rose, AKA Scotch rose which is native throughout Britain, Europe and Asia it is found on coastal. Since the Jacobite army had no formal uniforms the white cockade helped identify friend from foe on the battlefield during the Jacobite rebellion.

I happened upon an interesting little tale from the time regarding the white cockade. On November 13, 1745 the Jacobites surrounded the city of Carlisle and accepted the surrender of the castle a day later. They then proceeded to plunder the surrounding countryside for supplies and loot. Upon coming to Rose Castle just a few miles south on the 15th of November a company of Highlanders under a Captain Macdonald approached with the plan to take the plate and other valuables rumored to be inside. An old and grey haired servant is said to have stopped them at the door and pleaded with them not to go inside. Catherine D’Acre, the lady of the house had just given birth to a daughter named Rosemary and the servant feared the disturbance would upset the mother and newborn babe. Captain MacDonald asked when had she delivered and the servant replied “within the hour” and that “They are just going to christen the infant.”

A rushed christening so close to the actual birth may have implied that the newborn was sickly and at risk, and may have given the servant extra reason to try to keep the soldiers out. In a gallant gesture Captain MacDonald tool off his bonnet and gave the servant his white cockade saying “Let her be christened with this cockade in her cap; it will be her protection now, and after, if any of our stragglers should come this way: we will await the ceremony in silence”. The Highlanders then withdrew to the coach-yard where the servants brought them beef, cheese and ale.  They ended up leaving with their stomachs full and without further disturbing the mother and daughter. The baby Rosemary survived to live a long life and in 1817 recounted the tale of her birth the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine.

My white cockade was safely preserved, and shewn to me from time to time, always reminding me to respect the Scotch, and the Highlanders in particular. I think I have obeyed the injunction, by spending my life in Scotland, and also by hoping at last to die there.

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