Face of Bonnie Prince Charlie recreated using death masks

Researchers at the University of Dundee have depicted the prince aged 24, at the time of the Jacobite rising.

The face of Bonnie Prince Charlie has been recreated using death masks, depicting him as he would have looked during the Jacobite rising.

The prince was renowned for his good looks and has captivated a new generation of audiences through TV show Outlander.

A team at the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification have now produced what is said to be the most lifelike replica of the prince’s face to be made so far.

It shows him with blond ringlets, wearing a white shirt, and with blotchy patches on his skin, as he would have looked at the time of the Jacobite rising – his unsuccessful attempt to restore his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, to the British throne.

Death masks of the prince were painstakingly photographed and mapped by researchers, so 3D models could be produced with state-of-the-art software allowing experts to “de-age” the prince.

Barbora Vesela, a masters student who initiated the project, said: “I have looked at previous reconstructions of historical figures and was interested as to how these could be done differently.

“I wanted to create an image of what he would have looked like during the Jacobite rising.

“There are death masks of Bonnie Prince Charlie that are accessible, while some are in private collections.

“We also know that he suffered a stroke before he died, so that made the process of age regression even more interesting to me.”

In 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart sought to regain the Great British throne for his father, exiled Stuart King James III of England and Ireland and VIII of Scotland, during the Jacobite rising, when he was aged just 24.

The prince unsuccessfully attempted to restore his father to the throne, leading to one of the most romanticised periods of Scottish history.

Despite some initial successes on the battlefield, his army was defeated by government forces at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, in April 1746.

Bonnie Prince Charlie spent the next five months as a fugitive before fleeing to France and living on the continent for the rest of his life.

He died in Palazzo Muti, Rome, at the age of 67, after suffering a stroke.

After his death, a cast of the prince’s face was taken, which was common for notable figures at the time.

Painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie
A 1737 portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie by Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera (Jane Barlow/PA)

Researchers examined copies of the masks, at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, creating a composite over several months.

Ms Vesela took photographs from all around the masks and used photogrammetry software to establish a 3D model using almost 500 images.

She said: “It has been a pleasure to work with these artefacts.

“The access I have been given has been incredible.

“There are moments, when you are working with the masks, that it suddenly strikes you that this was once a living person.

“We don’t tend to think about the age of people when we study history, but Prince Charlie was just 24 years old when he landed in Scotland and to visualise how young he was at this pivotal moment in history is fascinating.

“He has some interesting features.

“Beauty is a very subjective thing, but Bonnie Prince Charlie does have distinctive features, such as his nose and his eyes, that encourage you to study him.

“Hopefully this recreation encourages people to think about him as a person, instead of just a legend.

“At the same time, it is important not to romanticise him or the era of history.

“There are many accounts of him but having a face to look at helps us to view him as a human and not just a name from history.”

The work will feature as part of the University of Dundee’s annual Masters Show, which opens to the public on Saturday.

Tobias Houlton, who specialises in craniofacial identification and forensic imaging, said: “This has been a hugely exciting project.

“Through many hours of hard work, Barbora has given us an exciting new insight into European history.

“This recreation will undoubtedly fascinate the public and the added dynamic of using artificial age regression to bring him back to the Jacobite era, when he was most famous, showcases the range of expertise we have here at the University of Dundee.”

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