As I am busy painting my first Highlanders for the Royalist Army, I thought I would add a short post on the Stettin Print of 1631. The print, made from a woodcut, is important because it is one of the few contemporary illustrations of highland soldiers dressed in highland fashion of the time. It is also one of the earliest depictions of recognizable highland attire in Scotland, such as kilts and tartan.
The print shows four scottish mercenaries in the service of the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years War. The fortified town in the distance is thought to be the Baltic town of Stettin (Szczecin) mentioned in the header, and from where the print gets it's name. Stettin is located in Northern Poland near the modern German border.
The Stettin Print, 1631 (Public Domain)
The heading above the print reads in German "Irish Soldiers In solchem Habit Gehen die 800 In Stettin angekommen Irrlander oder Irren" which translates "The 800 Irish, or fools, that have arrived in Stettin are marching in this habit (clothing style)". Although the author called these soldiers Irish, they appear to be scottish highlanders. It may be that the highlanders use of the gaelic (Irish) language led many germans to believe they were Irish. Their clearly different appearance to contemporary lowland scots, also serving in Germany in lage numbers, may have added to the confusion. Note the pun in the headline, where the word "irren", meaning fools or those who are in error, is used as an alternate word for the Irish. "Irrlander oder Irren" = Irish or numpties. Thanks to Anonymous for pointing this out in the comments section below.
From left to right a description of each figure:
- A bearded highlander clad in what appears to be a sleeveless tartan long coat which closes at the front. This is worn over shirt and possibly trews, although the figure may also be bare-legged. Scots bonnet (presumably blue). Armed with long bow and quiver. The long coat is quite controversial and many believe that this is a badly drawn belted plaid (the more traditional highland attire). However the right-most two figures (3 and 4) are clearly wearing belted plaids so it seems like the artist knows what a belted plaid looks like and is drawing what he saw.
- Clean-shaven highlander wearing knee-length tartan breeches and tartan hose. Sleeveless round-necked doublet (must fasten to rear or shoulders?) over a shirt. Scots bonnet. This is the only figure armed with a musket, and he also wears a short sword, which is most likely a scots dirk.
- Bearded highlander wearing a belted plaid. The plaid is pulled over both shoulders like a blanket or cloak against the weather. Again, a scots bonnet is worn on the head. This figure is armed with a longbow and quiver, and dirk. Interestingly, this figure is barefoot.
- The final bearded figure on the right is wearing a belted plaid wrapped in a more familiar fashion, and worn over a shirt. The ubiquitous scots bonnet on the head. He is armed with a dirk or sword and a deadly walking stick!
In the near distance is a regiment of highland soldiers wearing plaid. This is also contentious as it is believed most scots mercenaries would have been (re-) clothed and (re-) equipped in a more conventional manner for the german wars, although there are references to units of "red-shanks" (bare-legged) highlanders in Germany. Regardless of how they dressed once established on the continent, or how quickly highland attire was abandoned, these prints give a rare insight into the highland dress of the time.
The original print can had some accompanying written description.
The original Stettin Print with German text, 1631 (Public Domain)
The german text immediately below the illustration reads: “They are a strong, hardy race, contenting themselves with little food, if they have no bread they eat roots and carrots; in case of necessity they are able to walk twenty German miles in a day; they have besides muskets, their bows and quivers and long knives. 1631”
The same woodcut also features on a contemporary broadside (a one-sided, single sheet newspaper).
Stettin Print featured in German broadside, 1631 (Public Domain)
In addition to its value to the historian, the text on this broadside contains a few nuggets for both the war-gamer and the modeller/painter, on the fighting prowess and hardiness of the highlanders, as well as their appearance. But reading it, you can't help but feel a little sorry for the poor burghers of Stettin, who on top of the hardship of war, are descended upon by a horde of bare-arsed, whisky swilling cheuchters...
"In these latter wicked days among other calamities - God has inflicted this upon us - that foreign nations interfere with us, increase from day to day, desolate our fields, lay waste our land, and commit great and shameful sins. More especially they impose this retribution upon our a-la-modish people, many a-la-modish folk, quite unknown before, now invade our country to avenge our a-a-modish sins. Great numbers arrive from distant Ireland, called Hibernians from that Island. This people are hardy and strong, dark-coloured like Gipsies, short in stature, eager to fight, furnished with muskets and quivers, skilful in the use of bows and arrows ready, to cut their way with long knives, they run fast so that they can make sixteen miles a day. Their clothes and caps have a barbarous appearance almost all black, all their sheep being as is well known, of a dark colour; their shoes are chiefly made of and tied on with bark of trees. They make shift with little food; if they have no bread and are hungry they dig roots out of the earth, with which they are easily appeased. Because, then, God has sent such people into our land on account of our great sin and shame, let us cease from sin, that he may again take pleasure in us, and restore peace to the land, and every one may follow his honest calling."
There is another surviving German broadside, also from 1631, with a very interesting woodcut which shows "Der Irlander" (an Irishman - but most probably a highlander), "der lappe" (a Laplander), and "der Finlander" (a Finn). This is basically a small sample of the terrifying, strangely clad northmen that descended on Germany for the wars.
German broadside featuring highland soldier, 1631 (Public Domain)
However, what is most interesting about this woodcut, is the way the highlander is clothed. A close-up of the scot shows he is wearing a sleeveless tartan long coat. A garment that is clearly not a belted plaid. Now it is always possible that the artist copied figure (1) in the Stettin Print and propagated what could be an error, but with the detail in this print, and the seemingly large numbers of highlanders that were around, I reckon the artist was drawing exactly what he saw.
These prints were the principle reference I used to request the range of 28mm English Civil War Highlanders that were produced through the Eureka 100 Club back in May of 2007. The figures can be seen on the photos of articles on highlanders (see labels) on the blog. They have also inspired a couple of Osprey artists including Angus McBride (Highland Clansmen, Warrior 21) and Graham Turner (Scots Armies of the English Civil Wars, MAA 331), both of whom include a highlander wearing sleeveless long coat in their illustrated plates.
I would love to see a photograph of a re-enactor wearing one of these sleeveless tartan coats. If you come across one, please let me know via the comments below.