Blue Bonnets and White Cockades – Why They’re More Than Just Costumes…by Cynthia Gentit

I pose a trivia question on the Sassenach Sisterhood Facebook site weekly.  This weeks concerned the white cockade worn by Bonnie Prince Charlie on the Highland campaign aka the ’45 Jacobite rising.  But, as usual with Outlander, there’s so much more to Charlie’s attire than just a hat decoration that I wanted to explore it a bit in this blog post.

Cockades are rosettes or a knot of ribbons worn on a hat.  Originally they may have been decorative but developed into a badge of office, party, or as part of a uniform/livery.  This photo which was recently shared on Sam Heughans Instagram seems to show a black ribbon cockade which probably represents Jamie’s role as Militia leader in The Fiery Cross.

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This is not the first time we have seen a cockade on Outlander.  In season 2 we saw Bonnie Prince Charlie wearing this prominent white cockade on a blue bonnet.  This was based on a number of paintings of BPC from the time period.  The portrait above also shows the cockade on a blue bonnet and was painted by William Mossman in 1750, only 4 years after Culloden.

Several other paintings show him in the same outfit and it is well documented in musical history as well in this Jacobite song –The White Cockade:

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As an aside, this picture, which was done by Henrietta Marshall and published in 1907, supposedly shows Charlie drawing his sword and telling his troops that he had “thrown away his scabbard” meaning he intended to fight until they had won or he was killed.

Notice that all the men are wearing blue bonnets and Charlie appears to have a white cockade in his as well.  So why the white cockade and why the blue bonnet?

The white cockade is thought to represent what is known as the Stuart white rose which was adopted by the Jacobite’s as a symbol of their cause and support.  The white rose was used throughout the Jacobite period (1680s – 1745) in many forms during this time period:

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The white rose is often depicted with one or two buds showing the offspring of the original “King over the water.”

So why the blue bonnets?  This may be later romanticism or it may be legend based on fact, I prefer the later because it makes sense to me.  Blue bonnets were made in Dundee, Scotland.  The bonnet makers there were famous for them.  In 1688 – 1689 John Graham, recently made Viscount Dundee (and known as Bonnie Dundee), led a Jacobite rising during which he lost his life.  As a result of their gallant fighting the blue bonnets of Bonnie Dundee became another Jacobite symbol in future risings and as well, when combined with the white cockade, represented the national colors of the Scottish Saltire.

Dundee’s actions were immortalized in song at the time of his death, one version of which is below:

The original song has many more verses.

Thus, Charlie wearing his blue bonnet and white cockade were strong symbols of the Jacobite movement, symbols the fighting clansmen would have known well.  So, as we so often see on Outlander, a costume is so much more than a costume!


CYNTHIA GENTIT – Cynthia is a guest Sassenach Sisterhood blogger whose love of Outlander began with the show and quickly spread to all things Outlander.  When she’s not an Obsassenach she’s tracing her own Highland roots, enjoying the beauty of north Georgia and finding/selling unique antique and vintage items.  Find her on FB @AToBVintage, on Etsy under A Thing of Beauty Vintage or at


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