An elaborately cuffed hand is drawn on the floor of The National Library of Scotland, pointing the way to Game of Crowns, an exhibition commemorating the 300-year anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite uprising. Follow it, and you step over contradictory words laid back to back so they appear to mirror one another ‘pretender/sovereign,’ ‘usurper/king,’ ‘traitor/leader.’
These terms preview those in the documents in the exhibition, where one person’s king is another’s pretender, documents which tell a story of betrayal, certainty of the rightness of one’s own position and a jealous struggle for power.
We are introduced to our antagonists, William of Orange, James VII and his baby son, and Anne and Mary, Protestant daughters of the catholic king who believe their infant brother to be illegitmate, through boards and telephones which you can place to your ear to ‘hear them’ tell their own stories.
Each have left behind declarations of proclamations for austerity, accounts of why their side, rather than their rival has greater claim to the throne which sit in glass cases like exposition, part of the slow build to the battles of the Jacobite Uprising, when the infant son will return.
The title of the exhibition leads to comparisons between the power play in 17th & 18th Century Scotland and that in the fictional Westeros in George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones. I therefore wondered if I would find it contrived; the battles of a real life conflict shoehorned into the mould of popular fantasy. Happily this was not the case.
Looking around the exhibition I was reminded that Game of Thrones is based on historical truths, and the undeniable similarities are a result of art taking inspiration from history rather than the reverse. This story is the real deal.
Game of Crowns: the 1715 Jacobite Rising, is on at The National Library of Scotland until May 10th 2015. Entrance is free.Reuse content