The unique Collection of The Royal Company comprises pictures (many of which are portraits), sculpture, silver and artefacts pertaining to The Royal Company and archery more generally. Please seeArchers’ Hall for information about the Chandelier.
The best known portraits are of: Dr Nathaniel Spens of Craigsanquhar by Sir Henry Raeburn; Sir James Pringle, 4th Bart by David Martin; James, 5th Earl of Wemyss attributed to Allan Ramsay; William St Clair of Roslin by Sir George Chalmers Bart; Unidentified Officer of The Royal Company of Archers by John de Ryck and; HM Queen Elizabeth II by Nicky Phillips.
Dr Nathaniel Spens of Craigsanquhar by Sir Henry Raeburn
Commissioned by the Royal Company in 1791, this famous portrait of Dr Nathaniel Spens in late 18th century shooting uniform is considered by many to be Sir Henry Raeburn’s masterpiece.
Although the portrait has seldom left Archers’ Hall, it is more widely known, having been reproduced by the Edinburgh engraver and printmaker John Beugo, himself an Archer, in 1796. The print, for example, may be seen in both the Royal Collection and the National Galleries of Scotland.
Dr Spens (1728-1815) of Craigsanquhar, Fife was elected to the Royal Company in 1750 at the age of 22. He was to be an Archer for 65 years. By the 1770s he was firmly established as one of the Royal Company’s most outstanding archers. He won the Silver Bowl four times, the Edinburgh Arrow three times, the Musselburgh Arrow in 1777 and the King’s Prize in 1793. He won the Goose Prize ten times, the last at the age of nearly 80 in 1807. He was made President of the Council in 1809 and in 1810 a dinner was held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his membership. The Royal Company still compete for the Spens Medal, instituted in 1833 in his memory. Dr Spens was also a distinguished member of the medical profession, being President of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh from 1794-1796. He was a man of fashion too: Dr Spens is said to have been the first person to carry an umbrella in Edinburgh.
Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), a native of Edinburgh, was one of the greatest of all Scottish portrait painters, capturing many of the leading lights of the Scottish Enlightenment. In 1784 he moved to London where he met the important portrait painter Joshua Reynolds. He spent some time in Italy but returned to Edinburgh in 1787 where he began painting portraits of the rich, famous and important people of the day. Perhaps best known for his portraits of ‘The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch’ and of Sir Walter Scott, his distinctive portraits record around 1,000 eminent individuals. He was elected to the Royal Company in 1791 and was knighted, the year before he died, by King George IV during his visit to Edinburgh in 1822.
Sir James Pringle by David Martin
Painted for The Royal Company and presented by the artist in 1795 and hung the following year. Sir James Pringle, here in the Field shooting uniform of 1789, served many years in the Army, and commanded the 59th Regiment. He commanded the Roxburghshire Yeomanry Cavalry when they were raised in 1797 and was MP for Berwickshire from 1761 to 1779.
David Martin was born in Anstruther, Fife, the son of a schoolmaster. He trained under Allan Ramsay at his London studio, joined him in Rome in 1755 and became his assistant on their return to London in 1757. He settled in Edinburgh around 1785 where he established a successful portrait practice. He had been a member of The Royal Company since 1780. Like Sir Henry Raeburn, he painted many of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment such as the philosopher David Hume. He painted over 300 portraits of which that of Benjamin Franklin (1767) is probably the most famous as it hangs in the Green Room of The White House in Washington DC.
James, 5th Earl of Wemyss attributed to Allan Ramsay
Presented by Sir Henry Cook in January 1896. Its previous history not known. Until 1948, it was believed to be of David, 4th Earl of Wemyss (1678-1720, Captain General 1715-1720). However, the then Curator of the National Galleries of Scotland, Stanley Cursiter CBE, pointed out that the sitter is wearing a wig which did not come into fashion until 1730 at the earliest and that Allan Ramsay would have been only 7 years of age if he had painted the 4th Earl before his death in 1720. The Council accepted that the portrait was more likely that of the 5th Earl.
Ian Hay considered that, ‘As regards the attribution to Allan Ramsay, it is hard to find relationship in conception, design, or technique to any known work of that artist. It might almost be suggested that it is a fancy portrait by David Martin of some sitter dressed in the Earl of Wemyss’s Archer uniform. Although the date of dress and hair-dressing is that of 1740, the handling suggests a later date and has certain characteristics of David Martin’s work.’
The 5th Earl of Wemyss was the first winner of the Silver Bowl (instituted 1720) and played an active part in the early ceremonial marches of the Royal Company to Leith Links for the shooting of the Edinburgh Arrow. He was Captain-General at the time of the ’45 Rising, and as he and many other Archers were strong Jacobites, the Royal Company was looked on with considerable suspicion by the Government for some years.
William St Clair of Roslin by Sir George Chalmers
William St Clair of Roslin appears in the ‘uniform’ of the Captain of the ‘Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’. It was painted for the golfers’ Club House and hung there until 1833, when it was sold when they fell on hard times. How it came into the possession of the Royal Company is not known.
Admitted in 1721, William St Clair soon proved to be a brilliant archer. In his day there were only four annual prizes to be shot for, but between 1723 and 1773 he won the Musselburgh Arrow and the Silver Bowl six times each, the Goose five times, and the Edinburgh Arrow thrice. He took an immense pride in the Royal Company and must have greatly enjoyed presiding over the Council during the time when Archers’ Hall was built. In his latter years the Royal Company annually celebrated his birthday by a Special Dinner.
Sir George Chalmers, Bart, a native of Edinburgh, was a pupil of Allan Ramsay. His family were Jacobites and so lost their estates as a result of which Sir George spent time in Florence and Minorca. He became a successful portrait painter and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1776 to 1790. Sir George returned to Edinburgh around 1760 and became a member of The Royal Company in 1764. He moved to London in 1784 where he spent the last years of his life.
Unidentified Officer of The Royal Company of Archers by John de Ryck
Presented to the Royal Company by Sir Henry Cook in 1926, this fine portrait in oil by a little-known artist of an unidentified officer is thought to date from around 1700. It is one of the most important and interesting pictures in the Collection for it is the earliest contemporary image of an Archer. The portrait is clearly signed ‘John de Ryck/fecit.’
‘A Checklist of Painters c 1200-1994, Represented in The Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art’ (1995) confirms a 17th century Dutch painter by the name of John de Ryck. Little appears to be known of him. However, throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the leading painters to the British elite were generally a succession of incomers, especially from the Netherlands.
The detail of dress and equipment is unusually competent and sophisticated. If the artist’s dates are correct (1640-1702), then the existence of this uniform is earlier than that generally believed – 1713.
The sitter is unknown but appears to have been of high rank. John, 2nd Earl and 1st Marquess of Atholl (1631-1703) was the Royal Company’s first Captain General from 1677 until his death in 1703. There is a striking resemblance between the 1st Marquess’s son, the 1st Duke of Atholl (1660-1724), in a portrait by Thomas Murray which hangs at Blair Castle, and the sitter in de Ryck’s portrait. If the de Ryck portrait does date to 1700, then this could well be the 1st Duke of Atholl when still 1st Earl of Tullibardine, at around the age of 40. Research continues.
HM The Queen by Nicky Philipps
The Royal Company commissioned a portrait of Her Majesty The Queen to mark The Queen’s 90th Birthday in 2016. The Queen is wearing the robes of The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle and is depicted at the top of the staircase in Archers’ Hall. On the left is the marble bust of Sir Walter Scott, by Sir Francis Chantrey RA, whose energy and determination helped to establish a ceremonial role for The Royal Company for the visit to Scotland by King George IV in 1822. Behind the bust are The Colours of The Royal Company which were presented by The Queen in 1966. The portrait is full length and hangs in the dining room.
The portrait was painted by Nicky Philipps following a sitting with Her Majesty at Windsor Castle on 18 March 2016. The artist’s other work includes her portrait of Their Royal Highnesses Princes William and Harry, commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery in London and her portrait of Her Majesty The Queen for the Diamond Jubilee commemorative first class stamp. Nicky was delighted to discover a portrait of her great, great grandfather, the 10th Earl of Stair (1819-1903), President of the Council 1884-1903, on permanent display in Archers’ Hall.
The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Princess Royal attended a short reception at Archers’ Hall in the evening of 7 July 2016 in order to view the new portrait.
The Queen’s Prize Badge.
Shot for annually at Holyrood, at 180 yards. It was first formally instituted and shot for in 1788. On this occasion, the forty-five competitors were escorted to the shooting-ground by the regimental band and sixty men of the 7th Royal Fusiliers, and were headed by the Captain-General in person. He was accompanied on this occasion by the Earl of Aylesford, Lord Warden of the Woodmen of Arden. The winner receives a piece of silver presented personally by the Sovereign. The silver elements are really the choice and property of individual Archers, even if a few are now owned by the Company. The prize is accompanied by a gold badge. This badge was presented to the Royal Company in 1866 by the Earl of Dalhousie KT in order to ‘mark the winner of the Queen’s Prize.’
The Musselburgh Arrow
Shot for annually at Musselburgh, at 180 yards. Pre-dating the formation of the Royal Company, the Musselburgh Arrow has been competed for since at least 1603 and is regarded as the oldest sporting trophy in the world which has been continuously competed for and for which records have been kept. Not very much is known regarding its origin – the records of the Burgh of Musselburgh do not go back beyond 1635 – but from the medals attached to its stand we know that it was being shot for as early as 1603, possibly earlier for four earlier winners are recorded, among them an Earl of Haddington. Traditionally the winner became burgess of Musselburgh and had the right to graze a goose on Musselburgh Links for a year.
The Silver Bowl.
Shot for annually at Holyrood, at 180 yards. As the winner has to win three consecutive ends, this prize is rarely won early in the season, and continues each Monday during the summer season. In 1720, the Council instructed ‘the Thesaurer to order a Punch Bowll to be made to the value of twenty pounds sterling or thereby as ane annuall pryze to be shot for by the Royall Company at rovers only, upon such a day and manner as the Councill shall determine; which pryze is to be returned by the gainer to the Thesaurer within ten months, with his badge affixed thereto, not exceeding the value of two guineas, either of gold or silver, in the option of the gainer.’ This, the first Silver Bowl, was made by William Ged (1699-1749) of Edinburgh and bears the date mark of 1719-20. There are now three Silver Bowls all of a similar design. The badges on the first Bowl cover the years 1720-1780 while the badges on the plinth cover 1781-1886. The second Bowl’s badges cover the years 1887-1977 while the third Bowl’s badges cover the years of 1978 to date. The first winner of the Silver Bowl was James, Earl of Wemyss, the son of the Captain-General who had died shortly before. The Earl’s portrait is featured above in Principal Artwork. In November 1720, Sir John Areskine (Erskine) of Alva who ‘made offer to the Company of as much silver taken out of his mines of Alva as would make a spoon for the Punch-Bowl.’ The silver was duly extracted from Sir John’s silver mines in the Ochil Hills and the spoon (more accurately a ladle) was made. It is inscribed: ‘Regiae Sagittariorum Cohorti ex fodonis suis argenteis donavit Joannes Erskinius ab Alva, Eq. auratus: die Decem. 20, 1720.’
The Hopetoun Royal Commemoration Prize.
Shot for annually at Hopetoun House, at 180 yards. It was presented by the Earl of Hopetoun, Captain General of the Royal Company, in 1823 to commemorate the visit of King George IV to Hopetoun House on his historic visit to Scotland in 1822. It consists of a handsome silver vase and a gold medal. The vase is engraved with the names of the winners and the medal remains in the keeping of the winner during the succeeding year. The makers’ mark is that of JW Howden & Co, the date mark of 1822-23 and the vase bears the inscription ‘Engraved by Hector Gavin.’
The Challenge Cup
Shot for triennially since 1887 between teams of the Royal Company and the Woodmen of Arden, alternately either in the Forest of Arden or at Holyrood, at 180 yards. The thistle on the cover denotes that it is held by the Royal Company, an acorn when it is won by the Woodmen.
The Silver Cock.
Presented to the Royal Company by an enthusiastic archer, the then Lord Pentland, Secretary for Scotland, to commemorate the Coronation Visit to Edinburgh of Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. It was designated by the Council in November 1957 as a Novice’s Prize to be shot for at 180 yards range, open to Archers who have not previously won any prize at that range. The Silver Cock has encouraged new shooting Archers, giving them an annual opportunity to become a prize winner without heavy competition from experienced shots.
The Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
The Royal Company’s newest prize, The Queen Elizabeth II Cup was instituted as a prize by the Council of the Royal Company in 2016. It is shot for in the south at 180 yards to the same format as the main prizes shot for in Scotland. As its inception was the year of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, it was decided to honour that occasion in the name of the new prize. Her Majesty graciously approved the use of her name and decreed that it should be called The Queen Elizabeth II Cup.