104-metre tapestry reveals Bonnie Prince Charlie's odyssey
The biggest piece of community art ever created in Scotland is 104 metres long and consists of more than 100 embroidered panels - stitched together in painstaking fashion over an estimated 25,000 hours by hundreds of volunteers.
The completed tapestry - believed to be the longest in the world - will be unveiled in Prestonpans today before going on a tour which follows the Prince's road to victory at Prestonpans, East Lothian, in September 1745.
Dr Gordon Prestoungrange, Baron of Prestoungrange, the brainchild behind the enormous artwork, was inspired after visiting the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy. The Baron wanted to put the focus on the Prince's amazing successes rather than the traditional focus on his crushing loss at Culloden - and the end of the Jacobite cause - seven months later.
Guests at the gala unveiling today will be welcomed by the Charles Edward Stuart himself - or at least a modern-day impersonator dressed as the Prince.
The unveiling of the tapestry is the highlight of a nine-hour celebration, with all of the stitchers who worked on it invited along - to see the entire tapestry together for the first time. The "lead" stitcher of each panel will also receive a free personalised cloth-bound copy of the tapestry book, while there is also music, poetry and a regimental supper.
The supper will be attended by Professor Martin Margulies, an expert based in the United States who verified the historical accuracy of the tapestry panels, which were drawn after six months of meticulous research by East Lothian-based artist Andrew Crummy - and passed on to the embroiderers to work on.
The panels were designed in the manner of a cartoon from 1745 in which Johnnie Cope, the Commander of the government forces, confirmed his own defeat to his superiors at Berwick.
"This has been really exciting, and all the panels are amazing," said Mr Crummy. "For me the really exciting part is the story of the stitchers, why they got involved and how they have all put something of themselves into each panel. Everyone has a story to tell and some of these stories are amazing. It has been a real privilege to be a part of it.
"Some stitchers worked as individuals and others in groups. Many chose panels of significance to their communities or families. One was stitched by an 86-year-old, partially blind woman and her daughter. Another was finished by two men, whose wives were doing panels and they thought they would do their own."
The story depicted in the tapestry begins in Rome with the Prince bidding farewell to his father, the deposed James VIII and III, in Rome before his glorious return to Scotland and ends as he contemplates marching south after victory in the Battle of Prestonpans.
The project was co-ordinated by the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust. Most stitchers were based in Scotland, but some were from France, the United States and Australia. A New Zealander, living in Australia, became involved in the project when she was visiting her daughter in Musselburgh. "My great-great grandfather left Edinburgh in 1853 to go to New Zealand," said Rosemary Farmer from Sydney. "Now my daughter and three grandsons live in Musselburgh and we have come full circle. This is a celebration of that."
Senior stitcher Dorie Wilkie said: "When we had five panels in sequence we machine-sewed them together very carefully. They will be taken on tour in groups of five and stuck to boards to be displayed. We will not sew all the panels together until we have a permanent home to display them in."
The tapestry will be taken to Eriksay in the Western Isles on Saturday, where the Prince landed after sailing from France. It will then follow his route through Scotland. Wherever possible, it will be displayed in places where the Prince stayed. It is hoped that it will be displayed in Edinburgh in October and will then be available for exhibitions at home and abroad before finding a permanent home in Prestonpans.