William Robb

Highlander Brooch

1904

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Price: POA

Medium: Silver

The commission by Edward VII in 1903 of twenty five complete uniforms for the newly expanded Balmoral Highlanders was a turning point in William Robb of Ballater’s career. Working in and around Ballater from the early 1880s, William Robb had been closely linked with the booming tourist trade as a result of the purchase of nearby Balmoral Castle by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Ballater was the centre of the tourism industry in Royal Deeside and this, along with William Robb’s skill and quality of work, proved a great combination for success. The commission for the new uniforms was to increase the company of men (workers and inhabitants of the Balmoral estate) available for ceremonial duties, mainly consisting of parading at the local Highland gatherings at Ballater and Braemar and at official functions at Balmoral. The accessories supplied by Robb were designed with the finest skill and show to a high degree the quality of which this maker was capable. It does seem that, like many provincial silversmiths, his work was often stunted by the commissions he received. The design process for all the items appears to have been a fluid one between King Edward VII and William Robb. Each piece had at least two designs presented to the monarch and discussion on style and detail created the final product, often a combination of features from each proposed pattern. This said each piece shows a truly handmade appeal with no two pieces designs being identical but with a unique aspect. The inspiration for the design came from classic styles and patterns from earlier Scottish forms. The plaid brooch shows this in the most detail, with obvious comparison to earlier niello decorated plaid brooches popular throughout Scotland from 1730-1760. William Robb’s place within the Celtic revival has never been in doubt and is expertly shown through this commission. The Balmoral Highlanders continued virtually unchanged until 1936 when they were disbanded by the then King Edward VIII. On the disbandment each member of the Highlanders was presented with the full uniform as a memento of their service and with no restriction placed upon wearing it.

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