Royal Tartans – Tartan Fit for a Queen (Or King!)

The British Royal family have had long ties with the traditional cloth of Scotland and a great affinity towards tartan. This link didn’t just start with the current monarch, but can be traced back hundreds of years!

The Dress Act of 1746 under George II brought a ban on kilts and all aspects of highland wear except for uses in the military. Any individual in breach of this act would imprisoned for 6 months for their first offence, and on their second they would be sent to overseas work camps. When the act was repealed it proved to kick-start the popularity in tartan – both with the general public and royalty.

The Royal Stewart and Royal Balmoral Tartans

George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 propelled the kilt into the forefront of everyone’s minds. Whilst his would have been far dressier than the traditional highlander kilt, the concept became sensationalised and romanticised. This started the real love affair with the royals and tartan.

King George IV in a Kilt Outfit on his visit to Scotland

Queen Victoria continued the link with tartan during her reign, often dressing her children in Kilts. Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband, was a keen tartan designer and attributed as the creator of the (Royal) Balmoral tartan – a tartan to be worn exclusively by the royals and specially selected parties. (The Queen’s personal piper is one of the selected few allowed to be dressed in the tartan.)

The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles are all keen wearers of Tartan

Queen Elizabeth is also a keen supporter of tartan, often seen wearing the cloth at Highland games or on visits to Scotland. Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales is also often spotted in a Highland outift on public occasions.

The British Royal family and Tartan have always gone hand in hand. As Queen Elizabeth II breaks the record for longest serving monarch, we hope the link continues for many years to come!


Ken’s Creations – Glasgow’s Miles Better Tartan

An Aerial Shot of the Glasgow Garden Festival

Houston Kiltmakers owner Ken MacDonald is a well renowned Tartan Designer. As well as offering a personal tartan design service for customers, Ken has also produced prestigious tartan designs for Kilt outfits for royalty and dignitaries. Over this series of posts we will pick out some of Ken’s design and take a closer look into the story behind them. We have already looked at his Bute Heather range, this week we will put the spotlight on the ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ tartan, which was designed for the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival.

Glasgow's Miles Better Tartan, Image Courtesy of Scottish Tartan Authority

1988 marked the year of the Glasgow Garden Festival, the 3rd of its kind to be held in the

UK. These National Garden Festivals were an opportunity for redevelopment of industrial areas in cities that were no longer being used. After successful Festivals in Liverpool and

Stoke, Glasgow took its turn at staging the next event.

When asked to design a tartan for the event to be used for the staff’s uniforms Ken jumped at the opportunity. The resultant tartan is the ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better‘ tartan, named after the slogan used to promote Glasgow around the time of the Festival. The tartan designed can be view below:

Ken’s reasoning behind the colour choice was to keep with the colour scheme that was already being used for the Glasgow Garden Festival and other branding around the ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ Campaign.

When HRH Prince Charles came to visit the festival he was presented with two Kilts by Ken in the ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ tartan for his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

Ken MacDonald and Prince Charles
Ken MacDonald presenting 'Glasgow's Miles Better' Tartan Kilts to HRH Prince Charles

The festival was a great success, with 4.3 million visitors in the 152 days it ran. The festival helped to restore Glasgow’s status as both a national and international City of Culture, a title which was placed on the city in 1990. Its legacy has seen a regeneration of the Riverside – the Glasgow Science Centre, SSE Hydro, the Glasgow Tower, Riverside Museum, BBC and STV’s new headquarters, among other buildings have all been constructed on and near the site of the Garden Festival.

Glasgow Garden Festival
An Aerial View of the Glasgow Garden Festival, 1988