Scotland Forever!

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Lady Butler, Scotland Forever! (1881; Leeds Art Gallery).

Scotland Forever! is an 1881 oil painting by Lady Butler depicting the start of the charge of the Royal Scots Greys, a British cavalry regiment that charged alongside the British heavy cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The painting has been reproduced many times and is considered an iconic representation of the battle itself, and of heroism more generally.[1][2]

Butler was inspired to paint the charge as a response to the aesthetic paintings that she saw - and intensely disliked - on a visit to the Grosvenor Gallery. She had developed a reputation for her military pictures after the favourable reception of her earlier painting The Roll Call of 1874, on a subject from the Crimean War, and her 1879 painting Remnants of an Army, on the 1842 retreat from Kabul.[1]

Although Butler had never observed a battle, she was permitted to watch her husband's regiment during training manoeuvres, positioning herself in front of charging horses in order to observe their movement.[1] In reality however, it appears that the Scots Greys did not start the charge at a gallop, due to the broken ground, and instead advanced at a quick walk. The horses which dominate the picture are the heavy grey mounts used by the regiment throughout its history until mechanisation.[3] The title comes from the battle cry of the soldiers - the Greys called "Now, my boys, Scotland forever!" as they charged.[4]

The painting was exhibited at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly in 1881. Tzar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany both received copies and later during the First World War both the British and the Germans used the image in their propaganda material, with the Scots Greys transformed into Prussian cavalry by the Germans.[1]

In 1888 Colonel Thomas Walter Harding donated the painting to the Leeds Art Gallery, where it is still held.[5] It was used as an inspiration for the depiction of the same charge in the film Waterloo.[6]

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